“I can’t breathe, Momma!”

Photo taken at the Black Lives Matter protest in Ashland by Danny LeClaire.

Here is a list of black police victims, say their names:

Graphic from NPR

We’re living in a slaughterhouse but we only see a fraction of the slaughter. It’s enough to shake our cores for now, but will we let ourselves forget yet again?

Oregon is historically a white state. The U.S. bought the land from Russians in 1846, and it became a state in 1859. As a Native and Black person, it hurts to read the story of Markus Lopius, the first documented black person in Oregon, before he was killed by Natives (because they were well aware of their visitors and scared for their lives). Our state is like a microcosm for our country’s mentality “I don’t see color”. It’s funny, because generally in Oregon, you DON’T see a lot of people of color!

In 1844, before Oregon even became an official state, they created their first black-exclusionary law which mandated that blacks attempting to settle in Oregon would be publicly whipped—thirty-nine lashes, repeated every six months—until they departed. The state banned slavery, but also black residency entirely. The date for when this was removed is unclear, but this is just one of dozens of laws from state government that prohibited integration of any sort. Oregon was for white people. Period.

Now, here we are confused, “but I thought this was a liberal state?” True, it’s mostly liberal because of the educated upper-class whites in the state legislation, but there is still a KKK branch in Medford. Oregon is no saint, and racism is deeply entrenched in our culture, as it is in the rest of the country.

Black people don’t have a voice here because there isn’t enough support. You having black friends doesn’t guarantee that you let your black friends speak to you on your potential ignorance or their feelings. White liberals in Oregon aren’t sure how to be an ally, and that’s understandable if you haven’t been around black people and culture. Being multiracial and passing as white, I have given this a lot of thought, so much so that I’ve lost nights of sleep. But, with confidence, I can say that abiding by these actions will help us bridge a major divide and stop us from bandaid-ing our less desirable thoughts of others.

Here are things you can do to help:

  1. Listen to black people! Listen to podcasts and ask your friend(s) if they are willing to share and respect their answer. Do whatever you need to to genuinely listen to their experiences, and what it’s like to have to live life defined by their race. (see some of my favorite black artists below)
  2. Review Yourself: Meditate on your ignorance, accept that how you grew up helped shape you. Do not excuse or dismiss because you think you’re “harmless”. Do not be unkind to yourself, but hold yourself accountable as to how you treat black people. Work through it and don’t be afraid to sound stupid, everyone does at some point in their life.
  3. Absorb: Really think about what it is that is being communicated to you. Black people have been held down and treated as less than human for centuries, how does that make you feel? Imagine what it would be like to be black in this world. Really listen to these stories and ponder on the magnitude of stress and trauma it involves.
  4. Recognize: Not all black people are how you expect them to be, each person is an individual. Do not be threatened by what you do not yet understand, and truly just see them as humans with feelings, not a demographic. And stop saying that you “don’t see color” as it is invalidating and vague. Even if you are “colorblind” that does not mean you are culturally-blind.

This is going to take continuous work. Think of it as a societal-based mental illness, we have to therapeutically be honest and open with each other until we can stop having these anti-social, anxious relationships with those different from us. Humans are habit-based creatures that are easily scared, we cannot bandaid our bad habits. We must pull back that gross, oozy wound and heal it with education and connection.

ALSO, next time you want to call the police, make sure it is your last resort, because I’m sure you don’t want to feel the same guilt as those shopkeepers who called the cops on George Floyd.

Here is a small list of Black Artists to get you started on appreciating the culture:

  • Noname – Chicago Rapper and Poet.
  • Wannas World- @WannasWorld on Twitter, here’s my favorite blog post of theirs.
  • Shawn Cee- a verified and very funny youtube commentator.
  • Killer Mike- Rapper and TV personality, famous for his rap collective Run The Jewels and Netflix show Trigger Warning with Killer Mike.

I hope we can do better, I remain hopeful but cautious. Keep it real.
-Brianna Brady.

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