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Saturday, January 23, 2021

These three words create visceral reaction for some

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That didn’t take long.

I’m referring to the defacing of the Black Lives Matter mural on Indiana Avenue. The mural was painted Aug. 1, and by Aug. 9 someone took time out of their day (or night) to pour paint on it.

Is anyone really surprised by this act of cowardice? Probably not.

No one knows who the perpetrators are at this point. Hopefully, one day the person or persons will be found, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

I don’t care about the race, ethnicity or age of the perpetrators. Whoever did this knew it was wrong. They didn’t care. 

What the vandal(s) don’t understand is this speaks volumes about the individual(s) who did this. Having a Black Lives Matter mural in your city bothers you so much that you would go buy paint, drive to a location late at night or in the wee hours of the morning so as not to be seen and try to destroy the artwork of Black artists and a symbol of the importance of Black lives in Indianapolis. 

What I find interesting, though, is the anger those three words produce. Since the Black Lives Matter movement began, I’ve heard the same tired trite phrases. As a matter of fact, whenever Black people discuss white supremacy, white privilege, racism, bigotry, systemic oppression or inequities, these same clichés come out of people’s mouths so effortlessly. “Go back to Africa if you don’t like it here,” “All lives matter,” “Blue lives matter,” “I didn’t own slaves,” “My parents came from (insert country) and they worked hard,” “I’ve had to struggle,” etc.

I know what’s going to be said before it’s even said. I read comments on the internet, waiting for one of the comments to appear. I enjoy how everyone thinks he or she is the first to say it. It literally makes me laugh out loud.

If you’re one of these people, you have to ask yourself what is it that makes you so upset at the phrase “Black Lives Matter”?

I recently watched a video of a white man holding a Black Lives Matter sign in a predominately white city. The insults hurled at him and the anger of passersby weren’t shocking. So, when people tell me racism doesn’t exist, I think about the visceral reaction to the phrase Black Lives Matter, and I know it is indeed real.

It’s so real, in fact, that a mural on a street in our city couldn’t be left alone for 10 days. 

In some ways this reminds me of another mural creation in another city. A mural dedicated to unity was painted on a bridge in Muncie. Appropriately named the Unity Bridge, it depicted two hands of differing colors reaching for each other to symbolize unity between all racial and ethnic groups. I worked at the local newspaper then and the reaction was swift and angry. People didn’t hesitate to call and express their displeasure at the mural. I vividly remember one man saying he wasn’t angry at the message but the mural isn’t realistic because your hand and fingers are the same color. It’s called artistic expression and the mural is the vision of teenagers, I told him. It wasn’t about race, but yet, he couldn’t get past the color of the fingers.

While I’ve never heard of the mural on the Unity Bridge being defaced, the emotions that came to the fore are the same: fear and anger. If the movement or the phrase “Black Lives Matter” makes you angry or fearful, then you’re probably racist. Own it, and if you don’t like it, work to fix it. If you’re OK with it, in the words of Ludacris, “move, get out the way” because you will get run over. We’re not stopping.

By the way, today would be a good day to arrest those responsible for killing Breonna Taylor.

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