I was searching for a song to help me explore my feelings about the current surge in Black Lives Matter protests, and I unwittingly stumbled over this pivotal song by Bob Dylan. At once iconic and underrated, this is a calmly daring song. It asks questions that are critical for us to reckon with, as individuals and as a society. It does not claim to have answers, other than to find them in the wind.
Right now, people are asking when will my life matter?
I have spent this week in somber reflection. I was born into my white privilege and was given many other kinds of associated privileges. None of my personal struggles came about because of the color of my skin.
I lived in a black neighborhood for many years, have been invited into black homes, taught in black schools. I have been the minority amongst black co-workers, have loved my black friends. I have celebrated their birthdays, enjoyed summer evenings on our porches, baked pies together out of the berries we picked off our playground’s mulberry tree. I have often been ignorant, blind to my privilege, and made assumptions that my education allowed me to do. I am grateful for the times they were willing to help me unlearn.
I held them when they lost sons and cousins. I listened to their fears when a new young man in our neighborhood drifted into a gang. I felt their rage at the system that had failed them, trapped them, and left them behind. The police came when it was already too late, or only made matters worse. No one ever called the police.
I personally know an ungodly amount of young men and women whose fathers were murdered or imprisoned by a system rigged against black men. One father lost in this way would be one too many. There are so many more than that.
I used to write more about this. One song, from a beautiful summer day in 2007, was called “six shots.” I was eating burgers on my porch with two young black boys in the neighborhood when we heard gunshots a few streets away. I remember the devastating change in their posture and faces. In my naivety, I said, “it’s probably just fireworks.” They relaxed, only slightly, and quietly picked at the rest of their meal. They knew better. Neither was over 10 years old. I still cannot wrap my head around that.
There was an incredible camaraderie in this community, an effervescence that was bright despite the terror that occasionally graced our street. I knew my neighbors, I knew their children and their cousins, I knew what went on day-to-day in their lives and in the community. They made fun of me playfully, their token white girl friend, but I felt loved. They welcomed me in an unconditional way that I simply cannot imagine many white areas welcoming a lone black family, even today.
These communities do not need violent, armed, or racist police. They need access to and funding for community-led services that can begin to repair many generations’ worth of systemic oppression. This is the absolute least our country can do, and we can do this now.
Black lives matter. May our country do the work to turn these words into the lived reality.
In the rural area that I live in, the questions of systemic oppression and poverty and housing and education and agency and environmental destruction and community desecration might also be validly asked here. But that is best left for another day.
I wish you solace and safety and joy, now and always.
Post originally appeared on patreon.com/emaymusic
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