|Blue Ribbons in University Park on University Ave. About 1 in every 20 homes have ribbons or “Back the Blue” signs in front of their homes. Two blocks from this neighborhood there are no such signs.|
I am a white male who recently moved from a small town in Vermont to Dallas, Texas, just one week after the July 7, 2016 tragic shooting which killed five police officers. After I moved, my next-door African American neighbor introduced herself and explained that we moved into a “black neighborhood.” She continued to say that when she was young there were no whites that lived in the neighborhood. Since then the demographics have shifted, but not much. I live close to University Park which is known to locals as the “Beverly Hills” of Dallas. It is a very rich “white neighborhood” wherein is located Southern Methodist University a stone’s throw from my new “black neighborhood.”
The closest library to our home is the University Park Library, and so naturally that is where I took my kids a few days after moving here. I asked the attendant for a library card, and I gave her my identification. She looked up my address and explained to me, “You can’t get a library card, because you live outside our district.” I informed her that I only lived two blocks outside the district and that this was the most convenient library for our family. She gave me the option to pay a yearly fee of $200 for full access to the library. She explained that the reason why I had to pay the fee was because of “tax districting.” I wanted to explain to her that “tax districting” was not “why” our neighborhood was segregated out of that district, but “how.”
Hyer Elementary in University Park, TX is arguably the best elementary school in the state. We live minutes away from it. I asked a friend if there was a chance we could transfer our children there. She asked me exactly where we lived, and quickly responded, “No. Not in a million years. They will never admit your children in, because you live in the wrong neighborhood. You could not pay your way into that school. The only way to get in is to pay a million dollars to live in the district.” She further explained that like the University Park Library, there were no black people at that school.
Dallas is a glorious city and filled with charm, beauty, culture, diversity, and very important history, yet it is also a city that is weighed down by its own segregationist past. I feel the tension in the air when I see the disgruntled faces of black men sweeping streets while whites tie blue tarp-sized ribbons around the trunks of trees in the front lawns of their mansions. Civil Rights, which I was taught was an issue of the 1960s is still an ongoing way of life here in Dallas.
It saddens me to see such a brutal attack in such a beautiful city, but it is not surprising to me. I do not in any way endorse violence as a means of protest. The Black Lives Matter campaign has disavowed the Dallas shooters and anyone else who uses violence in the name of protest. The movement started in 2013 after the shooting of the unarmed youth Trayvon Martin. Since then the Blue Lives Matter (2014) and All Lives Matter (2014) movements emerged in reaction to the civil protest.
As a matter of principle, I do and will always agree with the All Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter movements. I recognize that cops have difficult jobs, and that they are severely underpaid. Generally speaking they serve for love of their country and community, and I respect and honor them for that. Although I truly believe the echo that “All Lives Matter,” I do not believe that these two movements are as benevolent as they suggest. I believe that the “All Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Matter” movements’ purpose is to squander and belittle the Black Lives Movement more than it is to promote the honor the lives of police and all people.
To explain this principle, remember the slogan repeated by many environmental groups starting in the 1970s. The words “Save the Whales” appeared on the t-shirts and bumper stickers of environmentalists and had become a popular gift item for decades. Any one of the movement’s critics could have asked, don’t whalers’ lives matter? Don’t all mammals’ lives matter? Don’t grey squirrel, jack rabbit, and harbor seal lives matter? I would respond that certainly all mammals’ lives matter, but grey squirrels’ lives were never in question. The “Save the Whales” movement was aimed to protect the lives of whales which were endangered, not to promote mammalian equality.
Similarly, the Black Lives Movement does not downplay the lives of police or anyone else. Its aim is to change patterns of racial prejudice that exists in criminal justice. Its message is clear, that blacks are more likely to be shot at and killed by police, and more likely to serve longer jail sentences than people of other races. Their empirically supported claim is that institutionalized racism still exists in America. I support police officers, and I support all lives, but I do not endorse the “Blue Lives Matter,” or the “All Lives Matter,” which as they institutionalized are problematic to society.
I’d love for racial prejudice to not exist. I’d love for the kids in my neighborhoods,to have the same educational opportunities as the kids two blocks down the road. I’d love for people to treat each other with the respect that they deserve as human beings. I also recognize that pretending that racial prejudice doesn’t exist often does great societal harm. I highly recommend to every American a constructive exercise, which is to look inside oneself for inner racism and prejudice. It is easy to deny that they exist, but believe me they do. Racism can manifest itself overtly in one’s actions and words, but more often it is buried deep in one’s subconcious, manifesting itself subtly in one’s choice to exclude. It is better to address one’s inner racism than to deny its existence, so that one can learn what to do with it. As we understand our own prejudice, empathy for others will undoubtedly come more naturally.