Black Lives Matter. Muslim Lives Matter. Gay Lives Matter. Women's Lives Matter. The rallying cry of “Black Lives Matter,” has brought attention to inequalities in our society, it has, however, in my opinion, done more harm than good. When broad generalizations are bandied about as judgements, it leads to confrontations with innocent people.
When it becomes unsafe for anyone, including police officers, to pump their own gas, then something has gone wrong. When it is unsafe for a black man to walk home at night, then something has gone wrong. When a gay teenager commits suicide for being who they are, then something has gone wrong. When a Muslim is judged as a terrorist because of their religion, then something has gone wrong. I understand the need for a statement that brings awareness to a cause, but when a statement within itself is a broad generalization, then we have missed the mark.
It is unfair for all police officers to be judged by the actions of a few. Just as it is unfair for black men to judged by the actions of a few. I do believe, however, that people should be judged by their actions. Michael Brown to some has become a symbol of inequality. The federal investigation concluded that he attacked the officer, started to leave, and turned around and came back for more. Were these his actions? We really don't know. If we judge him on the actions we know he took, we have to look a little further back, about fifteen minutes back. The store surveillance video shows him stealing merchandise. When he was confronted he assaulted the clerk began to leave and then turned back and became more aggressive. The video supports the police story because it showed the same behavioral pattern. Does that mean that I believe all black men are bad? NO! We should not be surprised when someone who has no respect for societal laws comes to a bad end. It was a path he was on, but he chose that path.
There are other black men who have been treated unfairly by bad cops. That does not mean that a broad generalization of all Police officers is appropriate, nor is judging black men for Michael Brown's shop lifting or assault.
I recently had the priviledge of working with a group of 14-18 year olds on an amazing project. The show was called “WE MATTER.” The Center for Arts Inspired Learning, hired me as a Master Teaching Artist in Theater to work with these apprentices in their summer “Artworks” program. Combining with the Performance Poetry Co-op, we created the show. On the first day I asked the group what social issues did they think we should try to tackle. We had a wonderful and lively discussion. They decided that Equality was what they wanted to take on. I asked them to come up with ideas to develop. They came back with four areas of inequality: Racial, Gender, LGBT, and Religion.
The apprentices along with my Assistant Teaching artist Zoe Davidson developed the script with my supervision and the Performance Poetry co-op wrote their pieces under the supervision of the Master Teaching Artist Ray McNiece. As they wrote the script, a couple things became apparent. First they had real experience with inequality. Second they actually saw a bright future. These future leaders will determine the direction we head in the future. After working with them this summer I have a very bright vision of what the future holds for humanity.
I am a firm believer in equality, but real equality. I do not believe in equality with caveats. I believe in real equality. On that day one of the Artworks program, I told the apprentices my name was John. That I did not want them to call me Mr Davis. A couple of them had a real problem with the idea. They were raised to respect their elders. I wanted them to experience someone who thought of them as equals. I knew full well I would learn as much from them as they did from me. To drive the point home I asked them this question, “If two people were going on a trip, to the same destination, but one left two hours before the other, is the person who is further down the road, BETTER than the one who hasn't left yet?” They were adamant that they weren't. I followed it up with,”The person who is further down the road has more responsibility to convey to those coming behind about the pitfalls and challenges they will encounter on the way.” Did I mention that of the nineteen apprentices I worked with this summer, seventeen were black?
Real equality starts with the individual. Equality can not be the norm without each person changing. Swinging one way or the other aggressively only creates a more bipolar society. These young leaders of tomorrow taught me so much this summer. I am so grateful for the opportunity to learn from them. We had real deep conversations and the show they produced should be seen by the world. Here is the link for you to view what our future really can be. Listen to these voices their actions are inspiring share this video with the world! Equality has to become viral for it to work. Thanks to these amazing kids, I know we can make it work. All it takes is for each of us to treat each other with love and respect.
I believe WE ALL MATTER, YOU, ME, EVERYONE.
You can see “WE MATTER” here: