Black Lives Matter

June 2020 – I was 10 years old when the civil rights marches were happening in Selma and other southern American cities. I saw the faces of white folks contorted in hate and rage in the pages of our newspaper and on our black and white TV. It gave me a chill. I already knew who I was and I knew what kind of world I was living in. Those faces of hate could just as easily have been directed at me. I was a white kid, but I knew whose side I was on.

Unfortunately, empathy among oppressed groups sometimes only extends so far, much to our collective detriment. There was an article on the BBC site about problems black trans people have encountered being accepted in the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. For some, black trans lives still don’t matter that much. The article concludes on a hopeful note, however, as it reports that BLM in the UK released a statement on social media saying: “All forms of oppression are interrelated, you cannot be for Black lives if you do not emphatically support the cause for Black queer lives, Black trans lives [and] the lives of Black women.”

There have been times when I have heard members from my community, people who have tasted the bitterness of oppression and people without privilege, make insensitive or ignorant comments about race. I haven’t called them out on it when I didn’t believe them to be racist people, but as Ibram X. Kendi notes in his book How to Be an Antiracist, this laissez faire approach is not acceptable. It’s not enough to say you’re not racist. That’s a neutral expression that will never effect real change. We need to be antiracists.

This feels like a watershed moment, and I hope it is. The protesting crowds have been noticeably multiracial and many recent polls indicate a stunning shift in public opinion. A Monmouth University poll suggests that 57% of Americans now believe that police are more likely to use excessive force against African Americans compared with just 33% in 2014.

It’s sad that it takes people so long to put themselves in someone else’s shoes, but exciting when it finally happens. The prospect of real change has rarely been so tantalizing. This fight has been led by those who have felt the cruelty of racism, but as trans folks we have a stake in it too. No peace without justice.