Friday, December 19, 2014

#BlackLivesMatter, My German Shepherd and YES... I Believe in Birmingham! -#Summit and #Galleria Protests

pick your soundtrack for this post

Today marks the day we've been waiting for. This week social media and the news outlets have been abuzz with it. There is to be a protest at the Summit, and later, a "die-in" at the Galleria, against nationwide police targeting of my dark skinned brothers and sisters. 

The theme currently: Black Lives Matter! 

Let me start by stating that I am of Northern European descent, about as "white" as they come, a skin cancer commercial wrapped up in an aging viking, hippie. Not only that, I own a large, I'm told, frightening looking, German Shepherd Dog. If I had a hair cut, a police uniform and my dog on a leash, I could very easily be photoshopped into some of the old civil rights photographs of Bull Conner and the fire hoses.

As with my sweet, sweet dog, Maya, this image completely belies our true personalities. She would lick you to death maybe, unless you happen to be a squirrel, then I suggest you run (this can be a later argument for my animal rights friends). I believe dividing people based on the false concept of race is one of the saddest, most hurtful human social mistakes ever. But... that doesn't mean I don't realize some people still do that out of ignorance, and that it is a hurtful, current situation.

One thing, and this is my own failure, is I have judged people at times based on what ignorance I expect them to hold... as opposed to their probable strengths of mind and their character. Upon approaching my dark skinned fellow human family members, I've always put on a slight shield of concern, worrying that they will see me as the Bull Conner, old ignorant "white" man walking my big, mean German Shepherd Dog, wanting to hunt them down and string them up for all the old evil reasons of slavery, hatred, ignorance and greed. The responses I expected from them varied, upon my false interpretation of whether his/her misconception of me, that I had planted in my imaginary interpretation of them, would, based on my prejudgement of their being, cause them to feel aggressive or make them scared.

HA! I love it when I'm stupid, to catch myself in these things. It's funny!

Invariably, ninety nine percent of "black" people I encounter, while walking my dog, guess what...tell me how absolutely beautiful she is and how they used to have one, or their uncle had one just like her. In fact, the only people who have ever given me trouble, were a few older "white" folks who got scared as we passed (there's some message in there about how we create our own fear much of the time. But that one is an artistic diversion).

Oh, sorry, old man rambling going on...back to the point. Recently I observed a woman attempting to engage in some thoughtful dialogue about Birmingham. She wanted to know if people were living in Birmingham, working, shopping in and truly "Believing" thus loving Birmingham. She created a sort of test if you will, for "Believing in Birmingham." I looked at the list and realized, though I was born and raised in Birmingham, I was no longer a resident, therefore could not shop on a regular basis, could not work there...blah, blah, get the point. I failed the test. 

So, for a brief second I began to think, as she seems to think, that I really don't "Believe in Birmingham" and should refrain from engaging others on the subject, having lost my credibility. 

Ah, and this is not meant as an affront to her. I get what she meant, and I understand actual support for your community as opposed to lip service. But here's the thing. She might have needed to refine that test a bit. Because I will ALWAYS Believe in Birmingham, will always care, will always invest time, thought and sweat when needed for my home city. Also, I think people all over the world Believe in Birmingham. Birmingham is a focal point, not only in the state of Alabama, but for much of the nation and world for civil rights reform. This is why we need to be so aware of what is going on today. It isn't just an inconvenience to holiday shoppers. It isn't just a squabble over memes, or catch phrases... It's a message to the world. 

Bottom line, when a group of Birminghamians speak up on racial issues, on civil rights, the world will listen. The world will see. The world will judge. There will be an effect. This is a moment when our city has authority. What will we do?

Birmingham might very well be the center of many cultural elements of Alabama. But it is certainly and absolutely the biggest, most well known player in this country's civil rights history.

It has grown. The borders have shifted. The neighborhoods have changed. But it is all about Birmingham. The Summit, where today's first event is supposed to take place, is actually a perfect place for this kind of thing, as is the later "die in" at the Galleria. It is indicative of flight from Birmingham's urban center. So, although it might be a major inconvenience to traffic, and there might be problems, I applaud the selection of locations. 

Do I want to see it happen? Not really. But did I want the surgeon to cut off the cyst from my back a few hours ago? (it still hurts by the way.) No I did not. But I would rather we cut the cyst out and get on with things. Healing cannot begin until this happens.

I thanked the surgeon upon completion of his task. And I'm thankful we live in an age where things can be done, and where infections can be removed. If you are hateful, want to run over protesters, are blind to their needs, their justice. Then you have an infection. And sometimes that hurts before it gets better. 

This is just old Sunvarmint's opinion. But you all mean a lot to me. And I hope these protests actually happen, I hope everyone is safe, and I hope the spirit of caring and love shines out as a message from Birmingham on Christmas....I Believe.       




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