White Lives Matter and the Lost Art of Shutting the F Up

By Michael Harriot, The Root

I consider myself a practitioner of a dying art form that is slowly disappearing from society. Long before it was an internet acronym or a text message abbreviation, this unique skill was passed down to me as a man who was raised by a single mother in a house with three other sisters.

I honestly believe I have an better understanding of women than most men. And when I see other men inject themselves into arguments about feminism, women’s issues and how we live in a sexist society, I cringe, because as a man I know I have no place in the discussion. I know this because I am an avid student of the lost art of shutting the f—k up.

My studies began under the tutelage of my grandmother, who taught me the first lesson of the ancient art when I was just a toddler learning to speak. In a room filled with elders who knew and understood much more than I did, she passed down the pearl of wisdom that instructed me to “be quiet when grown folks is talking.” It was only a scant few years later when my uncle Junior, putting his hand on my shoulder as I interrupted while he showed me how to prime and crank a lawn mower, suggested that if I “be quiet, I might actually learn something.”

Thus began my STFU education.

A few days ago, in Houston’s 3rd Ward, a group of protesters decided to picket the local NAACP headquarters. To be fair, when I refer to them as a “group of protesters,” I am using the term very loosely, because describing them as a motley crew of gun-toting, Confederate-flag-waving racists lacking both IQ points and (and this is just an educated guess) teeth—while accurate—could be misconstrued as an insult.

There are some people who will immediately take issue with me calling them toothless, racist dummies. Yet the fact that this collection of rabble-rousers brought semi-automatic weapons to the premises of an organization founded on nonviolence to protest an entirely different organization that has no connection to it except that both are advocates of African-American issues speaks to their ignorance.

They chose to bring along an offensive symbol and paramilitary weapons to the NAACP to protest Black Lives Matter because—you know … black people. Picketing the Houston NAACP in response to a perceived Black Lives Matter offense in Dallas only exists in the mind of a racist who thinks all black people, and things, are alike. It’s like going to a Mexican restaurant to protest illegal immigration.

I will admit that I didn’t do an official tooth count, but I have seen the pictures, and from my long history of protest experience, a large percentage of people who fly the rebel flag in public places seem to be lackadaisical when it comes to dentistry.

“We came out here to protest against the NAACP and their failure in speaking out against the atrocities that organizations like Black Lives Matter and other pro-black organizations have caused the attack and killing of white police officers, the burning down of cities and things of that nature. … If they’re going to be a civil rights organization and defend their people, they also need to hold their people accountable.”

They call themselves, “White Lives Matter.”

This group of white activists is indicative of a large slice of Donald Trump-supporting, Stars and Bars flag-wavers who believe Black Lives Matter to be racist. They think that the movement to address state violence against people of color is inherently anti-white. Even though Black Lives Matter protested against the black officers who killed Freddie Gray. Even though the movement began during the turmoil around a Hispanic man’s lynching of Trayvon Martin. Black Lives Matter is not anti-white. It isn’t even anti-cop. It is anti-people-who-shoot-black-people-and-use-the-protection-of-the-state-to-get-away-with-it.

And yet the affirmation that black lives have value is always shouted down by people who want to remind you that white lives matter. They love to retort that blue lives matter.

As if—since Emmett Till—America hasn’t reminded black people that white lives matter with boots to the face and nooses around necks.

As if the white fright that believes Muslims are streaming over the border to eradicate Christmas and radicalize people into erasing the precious white lives hasn’t fueled a carrot-colored wannabe dictator to within inches of the presidency.

As if this country isn’t so concerned with white lives that it is more willing to pay for a mythical wall between Mexico and the U.S. than body cameras on the chests of cops.

As if the evil people who kill innocent police officers get away with back pay, desk jobs and pension plans.

As if bomb-carrying robot drones and SWAT teams don’t immediately hunt down the snuffers-out of “blue lives.”

As if the existence of the Confederate flag isn’t a staunch enough reminder that the bloodiest war in American history was because the policy of this country was “F—k black lives,” and the bottom half of this country was willing to “burn down cities and things of that nature … ” to keep it that way.

White Lives Matter doesn’t matter.

Ultimately, White Lives Matter is like me injecting myself into the feminist argument. Their privilege has led them to believe they have a right to an opinion, when in truth, they are too stupid to even insert themselves into a discussion. Having a nuanced discussion about the politics, policy and history of race in America with someone waving the flag whose only current-day context is “Damn, I wish you were still slaves” is useless.

Almost as useless as me, with my then-700-day-old grasp of the English language, trying to interrupt an adult conversation. Unlike the white people who feel the need to throw the caveat-filled grenades of “What about black-on-black crime?” and “Why do they resist?” I learned the valuable lesson early in life that not every opinion is a legitimate one. I eventually grasped the notion that there are some situations and some conversations where my voice is not only unneeded but is invalid.

 Unlike White Lives Matter, I know when to shut the f—k up.

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