Black Lives Matter: A View from the Inside
In preparing to write about the present BLM here in the US, I thought that to produce an in-depth article, I either have to join the protesters or interview someone who is actively involved in the movement. So I asked my son if I could interview him for the article, since he has actually taken to the streets. He did me something better: he wrote this article. Allow me to present it to you, direct from the heart of a participant.
My Humble Opinion
By Jacob Dionisio Aureus
Be careful, Keep calm, Don’t be afraid, Do not lose heart.
These are the words written on my wall, paraphrased from Isaiah 7:4. We are living in interesting times.
The scene is Brooklyn, New York City. More than 2,000 protesters marching in solidarity about a week after the unjust lynching of a Black man in Minneapolis, Minnesota, by a Minneapolis police officer. As I began to march in protest over the racial injustices that are so prevalent in the United States of America, I found the words written on my wall to be very prophetic.
“Be Careful” – These words were often uttered by my father every time I’d leave the house. Growing up, those words would annoy me because I would take them as a sign of him being overbearing and overprotective. However, as I look back, I now see those words as wisdom spoken by a man who has lived long enough to know that there is much to “be careful” about in this world that we live in. My grandfather and his family all lived lives that required a lot of “taking care.” Whether leading troops of guerrilla soldiers through the jungles of the Philippines in WW II, or holding government offices, or fighting for Filipino veterans equity rights in the US, or managing employees, or raising a family in a new country, much “care” was needed to be taken. “Be careful” was not spoken from a place of overbearing, but from a place of sound wisdom and leadership.
“Keep Calm” - As a Filipino-American growing up in NYC, I understand that I have very different views and opinions from the generations before me. New York City is what many people know as the crossroads of the world, a melting pot of the nations, as some would say. Growing up here I have had the honor and privilege to experience and befriend so many different cultures and people. I have friends from as far south as South Africa and as far east as Japan. I have best friends from Nigeria and have shared in many feasts with friends from Bangladesh. I have experienced love and warmth from so many people who look totally different from me. So it is all too often that I find it hard to “keep calm” when I hear people make racist comments; some may speak from ignorance and some may speak from pure hate. Regardless, the compassion and love I have for my friends often makes it hard for me to “keep calm.”
That being said, every time a Black person in the USA is killed as a result of racism, my heart breaks. And yes, this recent lynching is a result of the systemic racism that is often swept under the rug of “diversity” in the United States. Just because we are a diverse nation does not mean we are a nation that stands in solidarity with one another. There are many racial inequities present, specifically placing African/Black-Americans at a disadvantage to whites. I could go on about this in more detail but in the interest of this article I will leave it at this – even throughout the world people have been socialized to believe that Blacks are inferior to/less than other races.
To make this point, I would like to ask you a simple question -- and please take an honest look and approach to answering these questions: What is the first word or description you think about when I say African/Black-American? What sort of emotion rises within you when I ask if you would let your son or daughter date or marry an African/Black-American? Why is it that you feel that way? I understand that “culturally” we are different, but have you actually had the time to get to know someone Black? We have all been socialized, one way or another, myself included. I also understand that as a colonized nation, the Philippines has a unique history.
Other questions we can ask ourselves: Why was I taught that whiter skin is more attractive than darker skin? How do I view the Igorot and Indigenous people of the Philippines? Why do I claim a higher regard for my “Spanish” roots over my indigenous/perhaps Malay roots? I’m not saying that it is bad to hold your roots to a higher regard, but to question “why” is a good way to self-examine and possibly uncover a colonial mindset. I love my Filipino culture – at our best we are the most fun-loving, compassionate nation in the world! But at our worst, we are the most hurtful, self-destructive people in the world.
All this said, please excuse me when “keeping calm” is hard for me to follow when someone responds with “All Lives Matter.” As a simple metaphor let me provide this example: If your friend broke his leg, would you stop a paramedic from helping him and tell the paramedic to look at your leg because in theory, “All legs matter?” It makes no sense. In the same way “Black Lives Matter” is not diminishing the fact that “All lives matter.” The cry of our Black brothers and sisters is a cry for help and solidarity against racism. Their legs are broken; there is a knee on their neck. Until Black lives matter, all lives can’t matter.
“Don’t Be Afraid” – Above all, my identity is anchored and rooted in my personal relationship with Jesus Christ. In times like this, with the COVID-19 pandemic still a problem and with racial tensions reaching a boiling point, we really need to turn to God more often. It is in Him that we can have the strength and the courage to stand up for what is right. In the example of Jesus we can know the difference between right and wrong. In Him we can have the courage and strength to even break generational/cultural biases and curses that have plagued our ways of thinking about our fellow humans. In Him we can also have the confidence to know that not everything is in our control and that God is ultimately the One who provides true justice, true healing, and true peace. We must not live in fear. We must ask the hard questions, make friendships with people who don’t look like us, self-examine why we feel the way we do about certain people. So: “Do not be afraid!”
“Do Not Lose Heart” – Finally, I am no scholar and I am no expert, but I do know wrong when I see it, I can feel it in my Spirit. As long as there is injustice, I will keep using my voice and my platform to speak up and take action. It’s in my blood. This is who I am and I cannot deny it. I heard in a sermon last week that we should continue to do what is right and not focus on the results, because sometimes when we just focus on the results, we will stop doing what is right. So even when you do not see results, keep doing the right thing. So: “Do not lose heart.”
As I marched down Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn New York City with my fellow brothers and sisters, I looked around and remembered that this particular protest was organized by over 80 churches in New York City. This is actually what the church looks like. It’s not a building. It’s the people, it’s the body of Christ. It is not complacent, it is not silent, but it is active, and it is moving. We march without violence, without rioting, without looting, and without fear. Like Christ, we protest in power, we protest in love, we protest in humility and in confidence knowing that God sides with those who are oppressed and with those who seek His justice.
I know you may not necessarily agree with my views, as these are just my humble opinions, but I thank you for reading this far. Please continue the discussion with your loved ones and those with whom you may not agree. This is how we grow in community and in wisdom. God bless us all!