If You’re Truly My Ally, This Is What You Can Do, Part 3: Words Matter

This piece is likely to serve as a bellwether for those who imagine themselves to be my friend and ally, yet who also continue to use the language that attempts to neutralize and dissipate the pain of this moment for Black women & men!

I’ll reiterate a point made in Part 2. If your only acknowledgement of the unrest happening in our country is focused solely on the looting rather than cold-blooded killing of a Black man by 4 policemen, then you’ve completely missed the point of why Blacks are so angry…and exhausted… and frustrated…and done.

I’m not interested in educating anyone on empathy. We already deal with that shit from the asshole in the White House. I’m certainly not going to accept that behavior from anyone who claims to be my friend.

With that out of the way, let’s begin the discussion on ‘words’: particularly the ones that have been used erroneously to describe the events surrounding this moment of civil unrest. Rather than get into a lengthy discussion/diatribe over all of them, I’ll focus on the handful that raise my ire the most.

Murder: George Floyd didn’t die in police custody. He was murdered. That is the correct term for someone who’s life was taken by a deliberate actions of another. I haven’t watched the video, nor do I intend to do so. It’s a police snuff film. It’s a video of man with his knee on the neck and throat of his victim for almost ten minutes. It’s a video of a man who is asked twice by his accomplices if they should turn him on his side, and he says, “No”.
The. Word. Is. Murder.

Black, as in Black Lives Matter: Black lives matter. No additional ‘but’, ‘and’, or ‘also’ is necessary. Please don’t say ‘all lives matter’. Please don’t say ‘blue lives matter’. They do, but not in this piece of writing, and not within the bounds of this societal moment. George Floyd was a Black man. Ahmaud Arbery was a Black man. Breonna Taylor was a Black woman. Eric Garner was a Black man. Stephon Clark was a Black man. Sandra Bland was a Black woman. Tamir Rice was a Black child. Ad infinitum.

All of these people, and thousands more dating back to (and beyond) Emmet Till, died at the hands of law enforcement because of the color of their Black skin. We’re sick and tired of it. The only lives that matter to me in this context, and at this moment in time, are Black.

As for the Black Lives Matter movement, I’m heartened to see a critical mass of our allies finally understand the injustices we’ve endured. They’ve seen enough, listened enough, and stopped trying to negate the obvious. They saw George Floyd, a Black man, plead for his life under the knee of an indifferent white police officer, and it was finally ‘enough’.

Bottom line: if you can’t say Black lives matter without saying anything else, then say nothing.

Protest: I’ve heard the word ‘riot’ used in the past week to describe the various protest marches that were called in response to George Floyd’s murder (and systemic racial discrimination by the police with respect to Black people). If you can’t tell the difference between the armed protests that were called to open up states (so Karen could get her hair and nails done) and the protests called to stop the police from killing us, then stop reading and leave now.

Don’t forget to unfriend me from Facebook, and un-follow me on Twitter.

I know many who have decried these BLM protests and referred to them as riots. These same folks justified the ‘patriotic’ armed protests to open up states – with unmasked protesters pushing and yelling in the face of law enforcement – by saying that people felt desperate. They justified these white supremacist riots as if these folks had no other choice.

You know what? Blacks have felt desperate for decades. My parents felt desperate when they gave my brother and I ‘the talk’. I was desperate when law enforcement patted Trayvon Martin’s murderer on the back before releasing him that night. We were desperate when parishioners were slaughtered in their place of worship, and law enforcement took the murderer to Burger King for food because he was hungry.

Please find another argument to support your assertions that these were riots; preferably one with fewer racist undertones.

Murder, Black, Black Lives Matter & Protests. I could go on but am pretty well spent at this point. I hope that the point has been made about the language that needs to be used going forward regarding the relationship of Blacks to law enforcement. Fair warning: I can guarantee you that it will be the only language that I’ll accept as I going forward.

I’m not interested in tangential arguments about how hard it is for the police, what about the actions of the looters, what about those who just want to start a violent confrontation (cough cough, white nationalists), et al. Those are subjects for another discussion. If you feel so inclined, go write your own op-ed piece. But they aren’t going to be discussed here, and they aren’t going to be discussed now.

The only thing I care about is that I, as a Black man, will no longer tolerate feeling like I could die at any given moment simply because I exist.

The actions outlined in each of these posts (regarding your desire to be my friend and ally) are actions that I’ve hopefully laid out clearly. Forget about being color blind. Forget that we all bleed red. Forget all of the easy cliches that have been used to neutralize the specifics of Black pain. I need you to walk with me, be unafraid, and when the moment comes to take action, take it with me.


  1. Robb

    Your writing has always been powerful and you are always an inspiration. I’m proud to call you a friend. Much love.

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