To The Man Who Accosted Me For Wearing A Black Lives Matter Shirt

There are a lot of things I expect to happen when I walk through an airport: hearing babies cry, having my toe run over by a rolling suitcase, paying $7 for a bottle of water…

One thing I do not expect is to be harassed.

While heading to my gate yesterday in the St. Louis airport, I was accosted by an old white man who was staring at my Black Lives Matter shirt. He stopped me and asked me in a condescending fashion if I had heard about the horrific shooting of three police officers in Baton Rouge earlier that day, and I responded solemnly that I indeed had heard.

The man then pointed at my chest and said firmly, “I don’t like your shirt.”

I wanted to very much respond by telling him I didn’t like his shirt either (it was a hideous, Hawaiian-print bowling shirt), but instead I simply stated, “That is your opinion.”

As I walked away, I couldn’t help feeling enraged.

I was particularly upset because I had just spent three beautiful days with a swarm of beautiful activists in beautiful St. Louis, where around 1,000 progressive organizers and communicators gathered to brainstorm, to inspire, and to educate at a conference called Netroots Nation.

Many of those who attended the three-day event were members of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Their presence was humbling and enlightening. During their panel sessions and workshops, the message was clear: The killing of innocent people is unacceptable and it is criminal.

I’ve heard from far too many of my (unfortunately) fellow white people say that they believe BLM is a racist movement. I usually cannot respond with anything other than laughter.

You’re telling me that by demanding equality of the races and by promoting accountability within law enforcement and by condemning the killing of innocent people, including unarmed black men as well as police officers, BLM activists are committing and endorsing racism?

(And last time I checked, we’ve got a racist movement here in the United States called the KKK. You can Google it if you’re unfamiliar.)

Perhaps this issue cuts a little too close to the bone for me because although I am not a person of color, I am queer. My community was told for years that by us demanding marriage equality, we were asking for “special rights” as if we, in all of our infinite queerness, were attempting to overrun or erase their straightness.

I can be proud to be gay and recognize the discrimination that comes along with that while also respecting straight people around me and realizing that far-right homophobic “Christians” do not represent the whole of Christianity.

I never go up to a person wearing a cross necklace and tell them I don’t like it and assume they are bigoted and want me to go to hell. I never go up to a priest wearing his clerical collar and tell him I don’t like it and assume he is a child molester.

Just like anti-BLM folks say not all cops are bad and we shouldn’t paint all of them with a murderous brush (I totally agree), these people, like the man accosting me at the airport, need to realize the same truth applies to cop killers like Gavin Long.

They do not in any way represent the cause of Black Lives Matter. They speak for no one.

The murder of a police officer is a disgusting criminal offense. End of story. No questions asked.

The murder of a black man with his empty hands in the air is also a disgusting criminal offense. End of story. No questions asked.

You see what I did there? You see how I can recognize two travesties at the same time?

So when I wear a t-shirt announcing my support of a community that has been marginalized for decades, how dare you jump to the false conclusion that I and my fellow BLM activists are disrespectful of police? How dare you actually think that a group of people who have to fight to live every day would seriously condone the killing of cops?

The truth is, the little bit of discomfort and anger I experienced during this airport encounter is absolutely nothing compared to what people of color go through every single day.

This issue is bigger than a t-shirt. So educate yourself. Have real conversations with people who look different from you.

Hug a cop. Hug a person of color. Do something.

But do not criticize my fashion choices. And do not criticize a movement you know nothing about.

Source: Huffington Post

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