For every photo that I see, posted in solidarity, there is a comment below it: “But is this post enough?”
For every hashtag that I read, typed out in the name of humanhood, there is a response below it: “But is this hashtag enough?”
For every sign, walk or rally held in memory of an atrocity, I see those who weave in and out of the protesting bodies as they dash to their day jobs and mutter to themselves, “Is this enough?”
Enough is a subjective metric measured in opinion. Enough is vague. And often, enough is not enough. It might be “good enough,” but that’s the bare minimum. And if an action is acted upon in the name of a trend as opposed to the real, gut-wrangling need to seek and make change, then no. It’s not enough.
Except that enough can also be so much. Enough is filling rooms and ears and memories with the names of the deceased. Michael Brown. Trayvon Martin. Eric Garner. Sandra Bland. These are four too many even still, just there, I did not list enough.
Enough is saying their names, repeating them and disallowing them to get lost in the digital ether. It’s why strangers paint, post and share images of their faces. It’s why writers rely on the solace of scribing the ever-ominous op-ed. It’s why we read the thousandth one on the matter that offers no different point of view and yet we comment and share, over and over. We appraise our priorities, push everything down on our to-do lists to focus our attention on the news. Or an Instagram. A tweet. Any cry, really, that sings in despair that #blacklivesmatter. Isn’t it enough if it successfully reminds us of a fact that keeps confusing others?
Because people still ask, “But don’t all lives matter?”
Remove the hashtag and yes, All. Lives. Matter. The whole world, for too many terrible reasons, is in pain over brutalized circumstances of our reality. But with the hashtag preceding that important distinction — Black — arms link up. Limbs form a sturdy cross-hatch weave that allows for humans of all colors who don’t know one another to connect and spread out at the same time — to stretch the fabric between us wide so that we can catch those who need to be caught, block those who must be blocked and to create a giant banner that can stream overhead.
When we say that Black Lives Matter we do not mean that other lives don’t; what we mean is that there is a specific, pointed and rampant violence that has surfaced over the racial divide we once naively thought was going away. Either that or we got really good at not seeing. But here it is. The hashtag is its spotlight. And that’s a lot.
There’s a quote — you probably know it: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
Social rights activist Desmond Tutu, the famous apartheid fighter, freedom defender and social activist said it. I’ve seen that quote posted over and over since Tuesday when Sterling was killed in Baton Rouge. Up until this went live I hadn’t posted anything. I don’t believe that not posting “Black Lives Matter” to Instagram is neutrality so long as one chooses another way to fight. So long as we stand up to racism — blatant or casual. So long as we use our minds to understand why we must fight, our freedom to vote for leaders who ensure a change, our fearlessness to develop strength in our voices — no matter how small or soft. We have to use our voices to explain why Black Lives, specifically, matter.
Enough is enough.
It’s impossible to escape feelings of hopelessness and helplessness after tragedies of this magnitude, but there are ways to take action beyond the hashtag. All donations from these GoFundMe pages will go to Alton and Philando’s families: please click here & here.
Feature image by Emily Zirimis.