Not long after my diagnosis fifteen years ago, I watched a documentary called The Boys of Baraka. At the time I was feeling sorry myself–a forty five year old never smoker with lung cancer.
That documentary humbled me. As bad as cancer was, I was all too aware of my extraordinary privilege. I had a whole medical team trying to save me and frankly, my chances of survival were likely greater than a young black boy from Baltimore.
Life is not fair. I have had cancer for one quarter of my life—a long, long time. However, if you have dark skin, you will face a special set of circumstances from the moment you are born until you die.
Whatever you want to call it—racism, inequality, injustice—this shit is real.
Sadly, when it comes to caring, humans practice a psychological nimbyism. If it’s not in their backyard, well, not their problem.
As someone with lung cancer, I am only too aware of this sort of bias. Because my cancer has historically been associated with smoking, there is a misguided perception that A. we brought this upon ourselves and B. that if you don’t smoke, lung cancer is preventable.
Well we all know that’s not true. If you have lungs, you can get lung cancer. Logically speaking, everyone should be concerned.
So back to racism. Again, it impacts everyone. And if you are not anti-racist, well, then you are pro. There is no gray area here.
People are people. It is absolutely unacceptable that some have to live in fear because they have more melanin in their skin. Black Lives Matter is such an unassuming statement (of course they matter!). And that is the point. No one should have to justify their existence.
I hate filling out the race section on forms. In part, because I believe race itself is a human construct but also because I feel categorizing people promulgates so much of what is problematic. However, even my viewpoint is borne of privilege–my race has defined my experience in a very different way than it has for my sister who is black.
The reason I dislike categories? They are divisive. What we need now is unity. All of us, as human beings, need to stand together. We need to care about each other and to truly believe that what is bad for one, is bad for all.
There will be no onlookers. We are all participants, either actively or through our complacency.
Care. Vote. Protest. Love.