Black Lives Matter

Before I begin, if you are able, please donate to one of the many organizations out there that help fight systemic racism and oppression. There are so many amazing places to donate, but for the sake of promoting one that I believe in, check out: Campaign Zero. They focus on evidence based strategies to reduce police violence in America. Giving money is literally the least any of us can do to combat this problem.

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I have a lot of thoughts. Since the murder of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter movement has consumed my mind. To be clear, I’m a white man in America. I am 100% behind the BLM movement, but I also felt that the last thing anyone needs is another person struggling with their white guilt to type words on the internet. I opted for Tome of Nerd to go radio silent. Instead, I would listen and learn.

I’m not naive or arrogant enough to believe that this little website has any sway on public opinion. I’m writing something now because I don’t want the silence of this website to be interpreted as avoiding controversy. And for myself, I don’t want to look back on this time and regret not saying anything on the one platform I have at my disposal, as silly as this website is.

To get straight to the point: Black lives matter. It’s insane to me that this is a debatable point. I can understand not having all the complex issues of systemic racism ironed out, but how are we still debating whether or not racism is bad/real/relevant? It’s shocking, but maybe it shouldn’t be.

I’ve written about my privilege before. That I can even be shocked about racism in this country illustrates another aspect of that privilege. Racism and the oppression of black people in America is something I had the luxury of not always thinking about. I’ve always been aware of it. It always made me upset. I always thought something should be done. But at the end of the day, I could forget about it. If that isn’t privilege, I don’t know what is.

Since the murder of George Floyd, I can no longer forget.

As of this writing, there are still widespread protests, but most of the violent aspects (rioting/looting/police retaliation) have slowed down. At least, that is what the news is telling me. I have no doubt it’s still occurring, but perhaps with less frequency versus the very massive police/protester battles we saw at the beginning.

When the violence across the nation was at its height, a lot of people felt scared. I felt scared. Even my nondescript town had a large protest that devolved into all the hallmarks we’ve seen: police violence, protester violence, rioting, looting, tear gas, etc. I wasn’t necessarily worried for my immediate safety, but I worried about what was happening to my city and country. And I think that was the point.

There was a lot of push-back on the property damage and looting perpetrated by protesters. “This won’t solve anything,” they said. “This muddies the message,” they said. And it’s not like I enjoy watching my favorite restaurants get destroyed and looted, but everyone should really watch this:

I’m not endorsing property damage, looting, or violence, but I understand it. 400 years of slavery and racism, yeah, it’s bound to piss people off. As it should. And if all of a sudden you feel unsafe in your community or fear for your future, well, welcome to the life of a black person in America.

As much as I can say I understand where the anger is coming from, I think it’s very clear how much I don’t really understand. I like to think I am somewhat educated, but I’m also just some asshole who is like “Oh yeah, well, have you seen The Wire?”. I imagine there are a lot of people like me, who think of themselves as anti-racist and know something needs to be done but also have no fucking clue about what to do.

For example, I am in a position that hires people. It doesn’t happen a lot, but I’ve hired 4-5 people for my organization. Did I ever hire anyone who wasn’t white? Nope. Did I ever interview someone who wasn’t white? Yes, a few, but they didn’t get the job. Why? I like to think I pick the most qualified individual who will best fit the department. But undeniably what I think that means has some underlying biases. How could it not?

But it’s all too easy to pass the buck. If someone doesn’t have the proper experience, the failure isn’t on me for not hiring them, it’s on other institutions not giving them a chance. Or it’s on the educational system for not properly preparing them or recruiting them. Or on our government for not providing better safety nets. But that’s the cycle, isn’t it?

I think (hope) that is what everyone is realizing is wrong with our institutions. You don’t have to be racist to take part in a racist system. Just by going through the motions, you are continuing the racist traditions of our country. So how do we fix it?

Obviously, I don’t have the answers. “Defund the police” is a growing movement right now, which I think is an essential piece of the puzzle. But it is only one piece. How about better funding of our schools and neighborhoods? Incentives for organizations to hire black people and other non-white candidates? We need new and radical ways to create opportunity. We need modern leaders with modern ideas. We need to rebuild from the ground up. But these are pretty empty platitudes and a fancy way to say, “I don’t know.”

What can I do? It’s easy to point at the machine and say it needs to be fixed. But I think we all need to play a role. For this website, I can promote more diverse works. I’ve realized a lot of nerdy things, until very recently, were dominated by white men. I don’t want Tome of Nerd to be an homage to a bunch of white guys. This place was always meant to be a celebration of all things nerd and I could do a better job on the “all things”.

I also think that white people need to take a breath and just listen. Understand that everyone wants the same things out of life. And thankfully, I don’t think that what BLM is fighting for is a zero-sum game. White people don’t have to give anything up, except their ignorance and fear.

Right now, it feels like things might be changing for the better. But change is slow. 2020 has been a hell of a year and being optimistic has been hard. There will be setbacks. Nothing will change overnight. But I truly hope that we can look back on these times as the beginning of something special. For that to be true, we all have work to do.

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