Wednesday, January 24th, 2018

A white man’s role in the Black Lives Matter movement

Zach Searles

Posted on February 15, 2016 in News, Perspectives
By Zachary Searles

This is a perspectives new piece written by Zachary Searles, News Editor

Last week Eddie Moore Jr. was at USM, giving guest lecture and a workshop about diversity. Moore has published books, gotten his PhD and now travels around the country giving these lectures and workshops.

Moore grew up in Florida where he claims he wasn’t taught diversity skills, but, rather, was taught segregation skills, only ever interacting with black people and even claimed that if there was ever a time when he didn’t want to interact with white people, then he just didn’t half to, they were easy to avoid.

Some of Moore’s older brothers got into trouble with the law and in order to prevent him from getting in the same kind of trouble, his mother sent him off to Iowa, which was and still remains one of the whitest states in the nation. Moore joked that when he got to Iowa he had seen more white people than he ever thought existed, and now there would be no escaping them.

Moore opened his workshop by saying that he wasn’t here to preach to or convert anyone to his style of beliefs and view of the world, he also wasn’t here to “bash on white folks,” which was probably a good thing since he was talking to a crowd that was mostly white.

Moore’s ways of presenting diversity are much different than others that I had been exposed to, and I was personally touched by them, more so than just sitting at a rally and being preached to, praying on the crowd’s anger and frustration.

One of his claims that I found to be the most truthful was that no one is “color blind,” according to Moore, everyone has their own set of prejudices, that are likely caused by the environment that you grow up in, and it’s important to recognize those prejudices so you can work on them.

I have never really done a hard look at the problems of race in this country, and I feel that saying I’m from Maine is a bit of cop out because while, yes, 97 percent of the state is white, I still find myself interacting with non white people just about every day.

I am not a racist, I recognize that blacks and other minority groups are discriminated against on a daily basis. I am not an Islamophobe, I do not think that everyone who practices Islam is a terrorist, I don’t even think that one percent of those who practice Islam are terrorists, but I understand that most people are weary of them because of their own deep rooted and ungrounded fears.

Even as I write this I am skeptical of whether or not I should open my mouth, I am a white male and the least likely to be a victim of racist acts or discrimination, so what could I possibly know about racism in the world around us? I thought this way for a very long time, but I think that is starting to change.

I now see that by thinking like this, by having this frame of mind, I am only contributing to the problem and I think that is part of what Moore is try to say when he says recognize your own prejudices and work on them.

Part of me is still questioning what I have to contribute, surely I’m not ready to throw on a cape and be a civil liberties warrior, so how much is enough to contribute? Commenting back on blatantly offensive Facebook posts? Speaking up if I see something in the halls of dorm building? And the nihilist in me still questions if that one small action would really make a difference in the day-to-day fight to end racism.

So what is my role? I don’t know, but standing back in the shadows isn’t helping anyone. I used think who am I to stand up the rights of black people? I will never truly understand what they are going through and I will never pretend to. Some feelings still summoned themselves deep in me when a white person stands up and tries to point out all the problems with white people and points out all the suffering that they will ever experience, but I’m slowly starting to realize that maybe this is what is needed.

Minority groups have been speaking out for themselves for decades but no one is listening, so maybe now it is my turn to speak up and say “Hey, the way things are going, that’s not right. That needs to change.” And it says a lot about our society that we oppress a group of people to the point where we only listen to their problems through the mouth of someone else.

Eddie Moore taught me to look through my own prejudices and I think I’m starting to do that. A week ago I would have told you that I was white, what do I possibly know about racism? And I’m still not claiming to be an expert, but I do believe now that that line of thinking, is only adding to the problem.