Sometimes as a straight white male I feel like Bruce Willis in “The Sixth Sense.” For the majority of the time, seeing the world through my own lens I think it’s one way but then all of a sudden it’s brought to my attention that I’ve been missing a whole other perspective, and when the kid says he sees dead people he’s literally talking about me.
In those times, I listen. When I walked over to check out the Black Lives Matter protest last Friday, I was appalled to not only see a crowd of opposing white people not listening, but doing so in such a despicable, hateful, and vile way. The young, diverse crowd of BLM supporters was enthusiastic but articulate and respectful while their older white opposition acted like babies who never opened a history book. Grown people, men and women, parents, most likely grandparents, spewing overt hatred and racial slurs. Disgusting.
Let’s put race to the side for a second. If you saw someone in distress, if someone said they felt unsafe, if someone said to you that they couldn’t breathe (and in some cases, as we all know, quite literally), wouldn’t you stop and ask are you okay? Do you need help? Is there something I can do? And now throw in the fact that they’re your neighbor, wouldn’t you be even more invested in their well-being?
I saw several of the people supposedly protecting the Christopher Columbus statue shouting to the BLM protesters to “go home” and to “go back where you came from” while on the other side I observed people from different races, ages, backgrounds, and orientations coming together in the name of equality. A thousand times over I want to be neighbors with those people, not the volatile man in his 60s who gave a double middle finger to a crowd that included teenagers or the elder white woman who appeared to give the Nazi salute.
As far as that Columbus statue, which was erected waaaay back in October 2000 (it was crazy, they had cell phones that flipped!), the organizers of the BLM rally Friday never posed a threat of ripping it down. While it was a concern of Italian Americans in town to the point they felt the need to head down there and defend it, it wasn’t going to happen.
You can be a proud Italian American (like I am) and still understand that people (like me) have a legitimate gripe with celebrating the legacy of Christopher Columbus. He did horrible things to women and people of color and was essentially a fraud — judging from the screams of “Trump 2020” I heard on Friday, maybe those folks are into that sort of thing.
To the young BLM rally organizers and participants — you’re brave, give me hope for the future, and this 41-year-old Italian American white dude stands with you.
And to the others — Stop. Don’t react. Listen. Maybe try to find some common ground. That flag some of you were waving around means nothing if we are divided and not equal. Do better.