Why I share difficult stories (& you don’t see my dogs pics anymore)

In talking with a group of amazing activists recently we collectively noted a phenomenon I have dubbed “Operation Isolation” (This topic is also discussed on the most recent Ferguson Response Podcast.)

Operation Isolation is defined as the severe & sudden lack of communication, contact & interaction between activists/organizers within the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and their “friends” in the real world. What used to be robust communication with invitations to lunch, movie nights & just “hey what’s going on” text messages have devolved into a deafening SILENCE on the part of those we all used to consider friends and family.

If you have a friend in the BLM movement who you have been distant with or felt uncomfortable around, THIS BLOG POST IS FOR YOU!

Please take a minute to think how they have been feeling. Iced out & isolated from people who just a few months ago were a robust part of their lives. Imagine the feeling of the silent phone, the empty email inbox. The thought that comes with those feelings is that these people you love, never really loved you at all. It is a horrible feeling and it has made us all feel the sacrifice of this work to the fullest.

BUT, I have faith in you, our non-movement active friends. I have faith that you can read this post and remember that person who loved dry martini’s, or who always talked you into getting the crazy blue nail polish at the salon, or the one who liked to sneak into the next movie so you could spend a little more time together laughing in the dark or the one whose name was the first one your daughter learned.

I have asked a few of my own friends why they seem so silent when I post things about my fight for justice, but the minute I post a selfie in front of the art museum or a cute photo of my dogs, here come the likes, the comments, the interaction? After some slightly awkward “ums” & “what do you means” a few similar responses were expressed:

  • “I don’t know what to say”
  • “It gets tiring to read all of that constantly”
  • “You seem like a different person now”
  • “It seems like that’s all you post now”

I’m pretty good at taking constructive criticism, and thought a lot of about those general answers – so let’s talk about them here:

I don’t know what to say.

Hey I TOTALLY get this one.  Sometimes I don’t know what to say either – which is why you will see just a link to an article with zero commentary from me. However, it goes a long way to simply say – “thanks for sharing” or “I’ll be sure to check this out”. ANYTHING to let us know that you as our friends are hearing us via cyberspace – like you used to when we were posting about the great new Chinese restaurant in town.

It gets tiring to read all of that constantly.

Another fair critique, I get tired of reading it too, unfortunately I don’t have a choice but to continue to stay informed and work to inform others. A great way to show us that you still CARE about us & the things we find important is that little “like” button. It goes a long way to acknowledging that you saw the post & while it might not be something you are willing to interact with right now – the “like” lets us know you saw it & by extension YOU STILL SEE US.

You seem like a different person now.

Well, I have to admit, this one has some truth to it. I was asleep as the wheel prior to August 9th, I had been lulled into thinking my existence was not tied to the suffering of others who look like me. I was really wrong & that kind of realization did change me. But IMO, all these changes have been for the better.  I can now be your friend that keeps you informed. I can be your friend you can call when something about these issues confuses you. I can be the friend who you can email that question you worry makes you seem insensitive. This “different person” is still the same one who loves to bake, paint her nails, watch silly reality TV & travel to see the world. I’m still ME. Imagine if you changing you job made your friends decide you weren’t worth their time anymore… it doesn’t feel very good.

And finally “It seems like that’s all you post now”

This is BY FAR the most common response/complaint I heard in my quest to get to the bottom of Operation Isolation so I will take the longest time to talk about it. The response below is at the heart of why I do all of the things that I do in this movement & what I am working with so many others to accomplish – so please take a few minutes to read and reflect on the rest of this post.

Today I will be  sharing 2 disturbing stories about police interaction with children in FL & LA. I post these things not because I like to – but because too often these cases are swept under the rug and the “average American” has no idea that they take place. Unless we are ALL informed, it is impossible for us to come together and truly know why we fight & who we are fighting.

We are fighting against a systemic racist justice system that uses police officers as it’s pawns to carry out unlawful acts of violence against people of color.

Please note my phrasing – individual police officers are being USED AS PAWNS by a racist justice system that was always set up to demonize black & brown bodies and convince those sworn to protect us that violence is the only way to ensure safety for all.

THIS IS A LIE.

We need to work towards a collaborative relationship between law enforcement & the communities they serve. The distrust between minority communities & the police put EVERYONE in harms way. Police are unable to do their jobs effectively because the community doesn’t trust them to do the right things. And the community is unable to feel safe around those who should be there for OUR collective benefit.

We must begin a TRUTHFUL and OPEN dialog about the real enemy – systemic racism – it is the ONLY way to move forward and create a NEW reality where the police aren’t brain washed by a biased system and communities are able to trust and count on the men & women in uniform who are here to serve & protect us all.

Police Benevolent Associations (PBA) spokespeople are PAID & SET UP to foster the animosity between communities & Law Enforcement Officers (LEO). They are working for the 1%, they are working for the corporations that want to see us all fighting each other instead of banding together. While we scramble for scraps they get richer & richer every day. If PBA leadership wasn’t fostering this animosity, they would be forced to ACTUALLY ANSWER to their officers about WHY they aren’t doing their jobs and working to create a safer, smarter more effective working environment for the brave people they are supposed to speak for.

So while PBA leaders spend time fanning racial tensions & serving up the “social justice warrior” as the enemy. Ask yourself what threat a bunch of people with protest signs, bullhorns & loud voices are to an armed police department? Ask yourself why the PBA leaders aren’t fighting for better pay, better health insurance, better equipment, better training, better quality of life for their officers?

Ask yourself why the idea of a movement centered around #BlackLivesMatter is met with such vitriol by these people? It is because the people who profit off the prison industrial system, the people who profit from gun sales, the people who profit from taking advantage of low income citizens are all too happy to set us up against each other. It only helps line their pockets while we – ALL OF US – are left to wonder why we can’t come to the table and work together for real change.

We need to be CLEAR, we need to define the TRUE enemy, it is racism & supremacy in ALL of it’s forms and it is VERY good at masking itself.

I ask that you read the stories & links I post – with an open mind. I post them because these issues are pervasive and nationwide. I post them because no matter what you may think right now, NO community is safe from feeling the ramifications of these problems. I post them because I want YOU as my friend to be informed when you are presented with information that doesn’t seem quite right to you.

Trust your gut, question authority, push back on the “mainstream media narrative”, gather information and form your own opinion. THAT is what makes America unique in all of the world – that we as citizens are empowered by our constitution to QUESTION authority & demand the truth no matter how difficult it might be to face.

So – If you made it this far (I know it was a long read) – I am going to assume a few things:

  1. You have a true desire to reconnect with your friend(s) who is/are active in the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
  2. That your recent silence towards that friend is not because you suddenly hate them or because you think the justice they fight for is misguided or dumb.
  3. That you miss your friend

If I’m right – open you phone or email RIGHT NOW, pull up that friends number/email address and send them the following message:

Hey – I know we haven’t spoken recently, but I wanted to let you know that I love you, that I see you and that I won’t allow this silence between us anymore. When can we go get a cup of coffee this week?

You can do it – I know you can. We are waiting & we need you. Your role in this movement can be a simple but important one, to keep us connected to the fun things in our lives while we do what can be some really difficult and gut wrenching work.

6 thoughts on “Why I share difficult stories (& you don’t see my dogs pics anymore)

  1. Thank you Leslie for writing this, your instincts and values, as always, are appropriate, accurate and timely. I hope these words are read by many people outside the distribution lists. This is significant.

  2. Thank you for this, Leslie. I have often been in a similar place. A few things help.
    First, building friendships and solidarity with people within the movement (not that I don’t remain connected with others) has helped tremendously. Many folks in it for the long haul take seriously how we treat each other within the movement, our willingness to work out disagreements and provide emotional support when one of our sisters or brothers is feeling defeated, and pay attention to the exhortation “we must love each other and protect each other.” They take time to be an example to younger people and also to learn from the example of young people. It hurts individuals and the movement to be solo; I hope you are getting emotional support from some of the movement folks you are working with (in addition to your extraordinary husband, of course).
    Second, some friends and family with privilege are just too scared or complacent to really hear this struggle. I don’t give up on them but I do detach from their opinions or indifference. Sometimes that has been painful, but less so over the years; I choose the long view and the struggle for justice. Most people who don’t consider themselves political are engaged in their own struggles, and our culture does not support vulnerability, so we often don’t know what people are going through. They will come to understand systemic injustice in their own time, or not. [And I say this as someone who has worked organizing former prisoners, many of whom want – and maybe need, at that point – to just move on with their lives and not think about it.] Sometimes people going through their own difficulties just are not online for awhile. [And there is no telling what FB algorithm does to this dynamic. It is bizarre what is missing from my feed that I hear about in person later.] Others simply will not take this path with you, and you get to decide whether to accept a different, limited kind of friendship with them, or a distant one, or to cut ties.
    Part of our congregation’s new member ceremony is “I promise never to close my heart against you” and I remind myself of that frequently when I’m pissed off at someone. At the same time, I hear in your essay James Baldwin’s words that if I love you, I have to show you what you do not see. Sometimes we get the gift of planting a seed that starts to grow years later.
    Thank you again for your moving, thoughtful, and thought-provoking essay.

  3. So clear and heartfelt. I have learned so much from you and am grateful. I am often saddened and or angered by what I read from you but that is not your fault; you are merely bringing things to mind.

  4. Great break down Leslie! This would help bring balance back to relationships that have been put on hold to support a movement such as #BlackLivesMatter. Thanks for posting this perspective, I’m sure a lot of relationships have been damaged for lacking the ability to put these thoughts together.

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