“Agitate! Agitate! Agitate!”
“Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground.”
“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”
I’m featuring three quotes today, and I could have featured a lot more. Douglass was prolific, wise, and arguably one of the greatest minds in America’s history. (Read up on him.) Over the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about Douglass’ words. I kept coming back to how poignant his speeches and writing remain over a century later. The work ain’t over. Racism, bigotry, and prejudice still plague our culture. The fight goes on. Lip service, phrases, quotes, and black squares on social media mean nothing without action. All lives won’t matter until Black Lives Matter, too.
I remember it happened twice. I was pulled over by the same Idaho State Patrol officer for speeding on the same quiet country road. I was 17/18 at the time; this was 1998/1999—I was easily doing twenty over the posted speed limit in both instances. My front bumper was sagging and broken in one car. (I later wrecked it.) The other was a rust bucket with a sour interior smell and only had one headlight. (I later sold it.) Both cars were a mess at the best of times. The first instance happened in the morning on the way to school. The latter late on a foggy night after a breakup. Same officer. Same infraction. Same road.
He let me go both times.
Why? Well, I could make a pretty solid guess. I’m white, and I’m male, and he was an occasional parishioner in my dad’s church. That’s privilege. I recognize this. Maybe not at the time but assuredly now as an adult. I never had a conversation with my parents like those in the video above. Sure I got the standard “respect cops” speech every kid receives, but nothing that compares. I never had the worry. I never had the fear. Never had the tears. I never faced that prejudice. That didn’t—it couldn’t—happen to me.
My skin color protects me. My gender protects me. My sexual orientation protects me. My status as a pastor’s kid protected me in both moments. That’s privilege. I didn’t have to worry about a broken headlight, reckless speeding, or a frumpy bumper being the sort of issue that could lead to my murder by the hands of police. I never worried about abuse. I never worried about spending the night in jail for doing next to nothing. Even now, the idea remains an alien concept. I’ve never had to fear police. I still don’t.
Growing up, it wasn’t a conversation topic in my home.
It shouldn’t be a conversation in anyone’s.
The fact it needs to is a travesty. If America is going to ever be great, it needs to start by being great for everyone.
Black. Lives. Matter.
FEATURED IMAGE CREDIT: © 2016 PACIFIC PRESS