Friday, July 10, 2020

Guest TigerBlog - Sam Shweisky Talks About Racial Justice In Advance Of Tomorrow's Rally

TigerBlog has a standing invitation to anyone who has something to say. The floor is yours.

Today he turns the conversation over to men's volleyball coach Sam Shweisky, in advance of tomorrow's march and rally in Princeton for racial equality that Shweisky is helping organize.

Black lives matter. Can we start there?

Of course “all men are created equal”. But what happens when that premise is proven to be false? As America has come to recognize that sentiment should have read: “all humankind is created equal,” we recognize that we are still falling short.

Systemic racism exists in education, housing, healthcare, employment, wealth accumulation, surveillance, and in the criminal justice system. It’s not as obvious as a segregated drinking fountain or bathroom and for many people of privilege we can’t see it in our day-to-day lives. But it is there, even if we can’t see it.

If injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, then the systemic racism experienced by the Black community shows that all lives do not truly matter in the same way. Therein lies the call to affirm that Black Lives Matter. Not matter more, just matter. Matter enough to pursue life, liberty and happiness. Matter enough to not be knelt on the neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.

The killing of George Floyd was a national and global tipping point because the world saw with our own eyes that his life, in that moment, did not seem to matter. That moment was inescapable. It was so raw, so callous, so calculated, and so inexcusable. I was brought to tears watching it. It was so painful to watch. And then I wondered what it must feel like to watch that video if you’re Black.

I searched deep in my soul to find empathy. The closest parallel for me was the feeling I had in the summer of 2000 when I visited Auschwitz. I remember standing there, a 21 year old college kid, overcome with the ghastly realization that my grandmother’s family was murdered by Nazis simply because they were Jewish.

What would it feel like if I had to see images of that on the TV and social media daily? If I had to see Nazi flags at NASCAR races or monuments of Hitler in the state capitol? What would that do to my psyche and my soul? I couldn’t answer that question.

So I took to the streets. I spent the last several weeks attending local Black Lives Matter protests, assembling in support of the Black community who was hurting and in pain. I wanted to let them know I stood with them and supported them. I feel like that’s what being an ally is about. Seeing a friend in pain and saying, I am here for you, I will stand with you, and I will fight with you. Injustice to you is an injustice to me.

This Saturday we are hosting a Black Lives Matter equality march. We’ll have speakers and performers from the LGBTQIA+ community as well as local politicians. People of all backgrounds are encouraged to attend and support the simple statement that Black Lives Matter. But life is never simple, never cut and dry, never black and white.

Recently, a friend asked me if I was aware of the perceived anti-Semitic rhetoric within the ranks of the BLM movement. Completely unaware of this, I started reading up on how the BLM movement, in its inception had criticized Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

The first thing I realized is that the BLM movement is not a one size fits all monolithic umbrella encapsulating a unified viewpoint. Just because the domain has something written in their manifesto doesn’t mean that everyone fighting for Black lives will share every extrapolated viewpoint.

Second, did I really need to resolve my position on the Middle East to support the Black American community and how they were being treated by law enforcement?

And while we are heading into difficult territory lets talk about law enforcement. I love law enforcement. Every interaction I have ever had with local or federal law enforcement (albeit a very small sample size) has been incredibly courteous, kind and professional. Could this be due to my white privilege and my compulsion to drive under the speed limit? Certainly.

And while it does not excuse the poor behavior of many police and law enforcement it does shine a light onto the good cops and what they might be going through right now. I’ve spoken to several friends of mine in law enforcement and they are hurting in a different way.

They vehemently condemn what happened to George Floyd. They also feel personally attacked when they see communities painting all cops as violent and racist. Good cops and public safety officers who have spent their careers trying to protect and serve the community. Career law enforcement agents who are working to correct for implicit bias, add body cameras, focusing on de-escalation techniques, increasing inclusion and transparency, and working to help make policing better for every citizen in their community.

So…as it turns out I can’t fix the Middle East or even come up with an intellectually coherent argument for the Israeli-Palestine conflict. I don’t have an answer for what other statues or monuments should come down and which ones should not. I don’t know how to heal society, cure covid-19, fix systemic racism, or how to bring law enforcement and the community together on the same page.

I do know however, that nothing happens without conversation. Nothing happens without getting out into the community and talking to one another. So that is where I am going to start.

I will be at the Princeton YMCA at 59 Paul Robeson place tomorrow from 2pm-5pm, marching, singing, dancing, kneeling, and supporting the Black community. I want to be there to let them know I hear them, and I stand with them. They matter. Black Lives Matter. I think if we can all start there, at least we can start the conversation.

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