Updated: Jun 23
In 2007, according to a variety of sources, Chris Messina was credited with coming up with the first hashtag. It was created with the same purpose it is used today. To create groups and connect people by the simple act of clicking on what normally be perceived as a hyperlink. Clearly as we see today, it has taken the world by storm. With people spamming their posts with hashtags to get more and more people to see their french toast from brunch 2 hours ago or their throwback Thursday post with their best friends. Excuse me. #tbt. Nonetheless, the motivation behind it was to unite and infinitely connect all of us through this unique, unrestricted, and creative form of expression.
Lately, these hashtags connect us in a different light. A painful light. They connect us to anger and sorrow. What was once only a light, fun way to simply express that the picture we were posting was, in fact, a picture taken 3 years ago, has turned into screams. Cries. Shouting at the top of our lungs through the keyboards on our phones and laptops. In bold print on everyones' posters and banners.
Screaming their names.
Screaming their names in hopes that not only those ignoring the situation at hand can hear us, but are truly listening. Hashtags have become a badge of the oppressed. That they wear proudly behind the anger and pain that reside in their hearts. A way to speak their names to those who refuse to see who they are. Or in these unfortunate circumstances: who they were.
Over the past few weeks, we've tragically added two names to the symbol that has caused an uproar around the country.
Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd.
The list growing. And I have felt a lot of emotion. Not that I haven't in all previous instances, but with the addition of added time in result of quarantine and observing more people with the same time on their hands, I have been able to notice a lot more than usual. Life slowing down has allowed that.
It's an issue. Let's just keep it a buck. It's a problem. It isn't a city wide problem, a state wide problem, or a regional problem. This is a nation wide problem that has been deeply rooted in our country for decades and decades and decades. And amongst so many other conflicts that create this ongoing issue, finding an ear that will sit down and work to be part of the actions taking place to promote change is what I see over and over as being one of the toughest barriers to conquer.
Working to elect the right officials, protesting, educating our youth so that they may one day strive to become one of those exact officials needed in order to make change happen, and so much more makes all the difference in the world. But, in my opinion, what will continue to restrict any of us and the people working to see that change are the people that refuse to listen (not just "hear") to the ones telling them HOW IT FEELS for them. How it feels to be oppressed, looked down upon, and knelt on. How it feels to be held at gun point at their car window for something as minor as a turn signal. How it feels to have your mother, father, son, daughter, brother, or sister's name spread across Twitter through a #hashtag because an officer felt threatened. Not because they were armed with an actual weapon, but because the color of their skin has been defined as a weapon for generations. And to actually listen without figuring out where they can chime in on the conversation to argue something that
THEY. SIMPLY. CAN'T. WIN.
I know. That's tough. It's not normal to not be able to voice your opinion about something. But people need to start thinking about this issue with a whole lot less logic and a lot more sentiment. Logic is how I think too. I'll explain why it's an argument that can't be won.
Think about these riots from a point of logic. The easier thing to do. Conversations have sparked like wildfires over the looting and rioting going on in Minneapolis and around the country. "What can that help?" you may think. I get that. If you think about it logically, raiding Target, breaking glass at the innocent local business stores, and setting fire to cars probably won't do much. Targeting parts of the city that people consider the "privileged" parts. Violence to violence doesn't help. It only causes more violence. I think we can all agree in a perfect world that makes sense.
Here's the thing. We don't live in a perfect world. We don't reside in a perfect country. So as hard as it may be, many more people need to metaphorically put their feet in the shoes of those who are drowning in sorrow, agony, and frustration. Think about it from a perspective of no privilege. Think about it from a place where you live in a community where you have to work 5 times as hard to "make it out" because that said community is constantly struck by the systemic racism we see daily. A perspective where your skin incites fear based on the unimaginable stereotypes and categorizations that have been pinned for eras. A perspective where walking into your own apartment building may cause an unnecessary police interaction just because someone doesn't think you "look" like you live there. A perspective where your circumstances aren't always simply a result of your efforts, dedication, or namesakes. It's an argument they can't win because they haven't experienced what it is to be black. To be oppressed. Is it their fault? No. How can it be? We don't choose where we were born, who we were raised by, and what our physical make up looks like. But what we can do is choose how we want to live. Racism is as much of a choice as ignoring racism is a choice. Not speaking up is as much of a choice as kneeling is a choice. It has just about the same affect negatively as kneeling does positively. We get to choose what we say and do and it is all based on our character and values. Our morals we live by. Every fiber of our being. It's loud in cases like these. It's loud when you shout it and it's loud when you sit in silence. So when people join these conversations and it's isn't from experience, listening instead of arguing is vital. Joining the conversation instead of trying to steer the conversation in the direction that makes it more comfortable is vital.
When you belittle a group of people over and over, there will be a breaking point. It's inevitable. This is part of that breaking point. People are fed up. We are all fed up.
"What else can we do?"
"Why won't they listen to us?"
"Why can't they see us?"
The rhetoric is getting washed out. And it's time for the "few bad apples" excuse to step the hell out. Majority of us don't know the solutions, but we need to unite as people, as a country to acknowledge the fact that this issue is still an issue so that we can find the stepping stones needed to make solutions. We need to educate ourselves. We need to educate the uneducated and force feed the ones who continue to voluntarily starve themselves at the table of oppression. It's one situation where I don't particularly feel bad for shoving a conversation down a throat. Promoting conversation with those who are uncomfortable are a huge part of it.
Voices of black people. Voices of the oppressed go unheard.
It's when the voices of the privileged match that decibel level that I think even more strides can be made.
Be good. Promote change. Speak loudly. Speak proudly. Love and don't hate. But make sure those who sit in silence with their ears covered can hear us through the spaces between their fingers no matter how tightly they squeeze them.
For those who protest, be safe and be strong. Know that no matter what anyone says, your actions and words are righteous.
I write this on the morning of my wife's baby shower. Not the typical emotion mix one generally has to feel, but what I've been seeing through all forms of media urged me to write this. I invite this conversation to anyone that has the urge to listen and talk. I'm no expert and have a lot to learn. My word and opinion isn't and shouldn't be "Bible" and I don't expect everyone to accept my stance on this. I expect some back lash.
My uses of "you" and "they" are general terms only used in the form of: "If the shoe fits." And if it does, I would hope that a good look in the mirror could change things. I don't speak for anyone but me. These are my thoughts and emotions. My writing is pinned to my heart and only mine. Nor do I condone any of the violence. I want to clarify again that I am simply taking logic out of the situation and asking people to think about it from a different perspective. One of the toughest things to do. I accept all opposing views even those that refuse to acknowledge that there is an actual issue. Changing minds is a part of it all.