Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson. People assembled to mark their remembrance of the four and a half hours that Michael Brown was left lying on the street. There was gunfire again. A year has passed, and so little has changed. Church, we need a better theology.
And I need better candidates.
I don’t know who I’m voting for. I disagree with most of the candidates, and I actively dislike a few of them. The rest? I have strong meh feelings about. Sure, I have a soft spot for Jill Stein leftover from the last election when she got arrested for trying to join the debates and when she got arrested for passing out candy to protesters in Texas, but I have zero hope that she’ll be elected, so it’s hard to work up enthusiasm. I often nod to the things that Bernie Sanders says, but I am displeased with his response to the Black Lives Matter activists who interrupted his rally in Seattle.
No. “Displeased” is too tame.
My sister and brother-in-law have this signature deep, guttural sigh that they exude when they want to convey utter exasperation with the situation at hand. That. That is the response to that foolishness that I would like to insert here now, for mere words will not suffice.
To all Presidential hopefuls, especially Mr. Sanders, if you want my vote, here’s how to get it.
Stop telling me what you’ve done or what you plan to do, and show me what you’re doing. The new plan is step in the right direction, but if it’s not followed up by action, I don’t want to hear it. If you say you believe in racial justice, be just. Lead the way. Be a real ally, not just someone who plays one on TV.
When Black Lives Matter shows up at your rally, roll out the damn red carpet. It’s not hard. Share your stage. Listen to them. Because I don’t care half as much about your civil rights record as I do about your current civil rights activism. And when you put yourself at odds with the very people doing the work or demand that they only do the work on your terms and in your time frame, you reveal a gargantuan lack that I am not likely to forget.
People have a voice. They are certainly paying attention to what you’re saying and doing. Reciprocate. They have things to say, and they want to be heard. When you neglect to make room for them to do so, you leave them two choices – shut up or interrupt.
When you back Black Lives Matter into that corner, I hope they always, always interrupt you.
If you want my vote, you will welcome their input.
Don’t like to be interrupted? Then you need to be more intentional about listening. Instead of taking your toys and going home to pout, stay and pay attention. If you want my vote, you need to be the candidate that hands them the microphone, not the one who directs them to the back of the bus.
Added bonus – the inevitable money shot of you checking your ego and privilege enough to hand off the mic? Easiest. Campaign. Ever.
We don’t have to agree on everything, but I want a candidate who knows how to listen to the people. That’s my President.