Last week, as violence erupted across the country, bland, sorrowful press release after press release landed in my inbox. Almost all of them mentioned that we need to stand with Black people (a sentiment that I firmly believe in) and that what happens to Black people in the country shouldn’t happen (damn skippy, it shouldn’t). And that was pretty much it.
Except one – the statement from Sisters in Crime. Now, Sisters in Crime is an international organization, with hundreds of local chapters, that was founded in the 1980s to advance the cause of women crime writers, who were not getting the reviews or the shelf space or the notice in proportion to what men were (and still are) getting. The statement from the main organization not only denounced racism, it announced the action that the organization is taking to further advance the voices of people of color, by giving money to bookstores and libraries owned by and serving, and extending the deadline for a special scholarship for writers of color.
That one made me sit up and take notice. You see, I’m a member of Sisters in Crime, including the local Los Angeles chapter. And I’m proud that my organization not only said this is way bad, they are doing something.
The sad part, of course, is that there are members among us who are pushing back. One letter that I was privy to objected to the organization “Overstepping their bounds,” and claimed that the statement was moralizing, and not fair to others who have lost their lives. One other person not only agreed, but thought it was unfair in light of how generous law enforcement officials have with us in terms of providing information, etc.
Now, I firmly believe that these people have a right to their opinion. But they are completely missing the point, as so often happens in this culture. When people say, “Black lives matter,” they are NOT saying that ONLY Black lives matter. They are saying that too many people think that Black lives don’t matter. When people protest the use of excessive force by police officers – which happens more often against people of color than it does against White people – they are not saying ALL police officers are brutal. They are saying that we need to get the brutal ones off our streets.
If Sisters in Crime is moralizing when it supports Black Lives Matter then good. They should be moralizing. This is a moral issue. It does not diminish the lives of others who have been killed. It does not undermine the police. The organization’s action to provide more opportunities to people of color is completely in line with the mission of lifting up all women’s voices.
Admittedly, I have gotten tired. In the past when I have tried to point out that someone’s behavior is racist, even some folks who are loudly against racism protest my point and I don’t get through to them. Worse yet, because I do live a life of privilege, I don’t always get what people of color deal with and say some pretty stupid shit, myself.
I want to do my part. This has got to stop. We White people have got to get out of own heads and stop thinking that we’re right all the time and start embracing that which is different. It’s a sea change in our cultural way of thinking, but one that has to happen. Granted, you cannot change attitudes overnight that were, technically, formed hundreds of years ago. But we have to try.
I know enough history to know that we have made some progress, and at some point, we have to acknowledge that lest we completely lose heart. We can change. We already have, and in some ways, faster than that kind of deep cultural thinking has ever changed in the history of humankind. That doesn’t mean it’s enough or that we don’t have a long way to go yet. But it can happen. It will happen. And I want to be part of that.