“Honk if Black Lives Matter”
Driving home from the store yesterday, a car passed by with this phrase written in bubble letters on the back windshield. Each word was written in a different color, with designs and flowers surrounding the words. Inside the car were 3 young white girls, and they smiled and waved at me as I pulled up next to them. As I smiled and waved back, one girl eagerly pointed to the back windshield and the another honked the horn. I halfheartedly smiled and nodded, thankful that the light quickly turned green and I could drive away
After the murder of George Floyd, the nation finally erupted in anger towards the unfair treatment of Black people. Finally, White America began to see the systematic racism put in place to make sure Black Americans failed. My timeline began to overflow with pictures of people at protests, information on Black Lives Matter and posts about “making a change”. People I have watched steadily and consistently speak out for equality continued to fight. People I have watched consistently decide to be on the wrong side of history fell silent, or further exposed the hate in their heart. My Facebook friend list grew smaller and smaller as more hate was exposed; and in turn my feed filled more and more with the love and support of those around me. But as the Black Lives Matter Movement was finally allowed to stand up and speak, others came out of the shadows along with the genuine supporters. The ones who suddenly changed their profile pictures to black after seeing so many others change theirs; or whose only supportive post thus far has been a black square on their Instagram feed. Those who have conveniently forgotten about the casually racist memes they posted or the hate they spewed in the comment section of a post you didn’t know I was watching, just a few weeks ago. I may not be brilliant, but I am smart enough to tell the difference between the people who are sharing and speaking with genuine concern and empathy, and those who are jumping on a trend.
The “trend” of Black Lives Matter
After the death of Ahmaud Arbery, my phone began to flood with close friends and family messaging me, calling me and tagging me in things. This picked up even more after the death of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. All the messages were heartfelt, well meaning and checking to see if i was ok. But as the week progressed, I started getting messages from people I haven’t talked to in years, or barely even know. I found it sweet at first, but something wasn’t sitting right with me at the same time. While I have been delighted to engage in conversations and form new friendships with people I haven’t before; I have quickly been able to see who is here to learn and to grow, and who is here because they don’t know any other black people to latch onto right now.
I know what everyone posted about before the protests broke out. Months ago, I saw who was consistently speaking up for equality and equal rights. I also saw who was posting insensitive memes and making racist remarks. I remember who has been there with me since the beginning, or who recently has joined my team but proven themselves to be loyal and loving. I also remember who abandoned my team, and who didn’t give me more than a second glance. Those of you who didn’t care about me yesterday, but are all about me today; I say this to you in the kindest way possible:
I am not your “I’m not racist” get out of jail free card or your “I have a black friend” token to play. I am not a talking point for your timeline, or google for the black issues you have not taken the time to look up yourself. I am not here to give you my black stamp of approval on your forehead that says “ally”, or assure you that you’re not like those white people. I am not here to be a platform for you to stand on so your voice can be heard louder than mine. I am not here to coddle your white guilt for being shielded by the privilege your skin color has granted you. I am not here to be your teacher and guide through the ‘hard’ racial issues you have yet to research and learn about through your own efforts.
I see post after post of ‘I don’t know what to say’’s and ‘I was in shock to see’’s. My phone goes off every few minutes with messages from people asking me for more information on how to help or telling me they are sorry; the majority of these messages from people who didn’t care about me until it was “cool” to have a black friend. The amount of people trying to “prove” they’re not racist on my timeline is overwhelming. The amount of wishy-washy “I’m just jumping on the bandwagon” posts are insurmountable. I would honestly rather see your silence than have your halfhearted support; because
My life is not a trend. Equality for Black People is not a trend. It is not a fad that has come and will go just as quickly. These lives you are so quick to post about, are human beings who are being oppressed and mistreated. These protests and this unrest may just be a chapter in your book, but this is our entire life. We don’t get to close the book and put it on our nightstand when it gets to be too much. We don’t get to log off Facebook until “everything has blown over” Because everyday we wake up, we will still be black. And we will still be fighting
Soon enough, things will quiet down. People will start returning to their jobs, new stories will be broadcast on the news, the protests will begin to die down and people will stop gathering for justice. White America will go on with their lives and move on to the next thing. But will you? You who have joined the fight along with us; will your anger for injustice fizzle out? Will you lay down your sign and go home? Will your lips stop yelling “Black Lives Matter” when the crowd stops chanting? When my life stops trending, will you stop caring?
My life matters. It is not measured in how many black squares are posted on Instagram, or how many people gather at a protest. It’s not measured in how many BLM shirts are being worn or how many honks are received from a “Honk If Black Lives Matter” message, scribbled on the back of a van like it was a prom proposal. My life is not something that is important because it’s the cool thing to say right now. It’s not a trend that will fade out once people lose interest in the meaning. It’s not a cool “debate” topic to get you more views on tiktok. My life is not a trend. It mattered before you cared, and it will matter after you stop.
Black Lives Mattered before white people decided they did