Monday, Lisa and I went to the Black Lives Matter march in Syracuse, NY. I was going as a photographer/blogger and she was going as a participant. Lisa was coming straight from work and was going to walk the several blocks to the Clinton Square starting point. I had to drive in from Caughdenoy which is about 25 minutes.
So, I packed up the Excursion with a couple camera bodies, wide angle zoom and a telephoto. A few extra batteries and pocket journal with fountain pen. I figured that if there were some problem, I’d be able to use the Excursion to move anything short of a Bearcat out of the way.
I left the Beretta at home because I don’t have a permit and no use asking for trouble. No knife. Not even a multitool.
I parked about a block away from Clinton Square and climbed out of the Excursion. Paid for the parking with Whoosh! and put on my camera harness. As I walked up to the gathering point, I noticed a group of young Black folks. All wearing some variation of black. With black. Accented by black. It was like watching a bunch of kids playing at Black activist.
Mostly they were shuffling papers in a frantic search for the permit. That magical piece of paper that says the establishment recognizes your right to have rights. Hard looks were being given but it all worked out fine. I watched them through this and thought,
“I’m proud of these young people.”
They saw a problem. A problem that we’ve had since 1691. Some have occasionally tried to solve the problem but, for the most part, we all usually just live with it. They are trying to solve it.
Racist Police Officers?
Get Rid of ‘Em!
They gave impassioned speeches calling for the removal of racist police officers. I listened and cringed. I knew what they meant and what some heard were two completely different things. They are being specific in their use of the description “racist” and asking that “all police officers that are racist” be removed.
A goal that any human shares.
The Folks That Don’t Believe Black Lives Matter (FTDBBLM) claim that when BLM asks for the removal of racist police officers, they mean “ALL police officers who, by the way, are racists”. They want you to believe that the use of “racist” by BLM is as a modifier for the general group “police officers”.
As evidence, during the march I watched as BLM member after BLM member stopped to shake the hands of the police officers providing traffic control for the march. The same members that called for the removal of racist police officers. Logic only supports one of the above interpretations. Prejudice supports the other.
I started wandering through the crowd and taking pictures. Trying to get a feel for what was happening and save it in the image. As I was taking pictures and moving through the crowd, one thing became very apparent:
In Syracuse, Black Lives Matter mostly to White folks.
Well, not just White folks. There were a number of Black folks there. Many of which seemed to have just come from the various methadone clinics spread throughout the city. The others being the organizers and observers of the march. But your basic Dr. & Mrs. Huxtable? Missing. And the total number of Black folks was still less than White folks.
I was glad to see some retired gang members out and working to save the next generation. Doing the hard work of modeling behavior that keeps kids alive. Putting the lie to the belief that the Black community
is indifferent to its suffering. That it does nothing. Here were hard and dangerous men that had been groomed by our mass incarceration binge into even harder and more dangerous men. They put that all aside because they want to help others avoid what they had been through.
Lots of kids with weird haircuts and Honda tires stretching their earlobes. Work boots and Converse All-Stars as far as the eye can see. Aging liberals still following the dream etched in their mind by the Summer of Love. A few anarchists. More than a few LGBT focused folks. And, I’m happy to say, representatives from the Universalist Church in the town where we get our mail. (Hey, in Upstate New York we take progress where we find it)
All outraged enough to come to town and march. To say that Black Lives Matter. Unconditionally. And that there is a problem when our systems don’t recognize that fact. A problem that leads to pain and terror and blood and death. Just another lesson those aging liberals learned from the time of the Summer of Love.
White folks embracing the fact that before All Lives Matter, Black Lives (must) Matter. And working for that. Showing that in a highly segregated, small town in a rapidly conservative part of the state, we aren’t divided when it comes to basic humanity. There was one vocal counter-protestor AND one drive-by shouter. That was it. Everyone else was, if not supportive, at least not actively hostile.
What don’t you see? No overt hostile police presence. The only officers visible were those providing traffic control. No riot gear. No lines. No military vehicles or equipment. Not visible anywhere. They were there. Unseen but there. Down most side streets, a Blue Ford Econoline 15 Passenger van sat idling. The windows were all tinted and it was difficult to see in. As I walked by one of them on the way to my car, I saw the SWAT officers. All wearing body armor and armed with assault rifles. All prepared but unseen. Public protected. Order maintained. But without provocation or penis-measuring from either side.
And, so peace.
The next time someone tells you “we are divided” OR that “most White Americans are FTDBBLM that view BLM with fear or hate,” and they will, take a look through the photos from this march. Then get out your rainbow umbrella.
And know hope.