Black Lives Matter: Be the Change
by Jamie Spannhake
June 14, 2020
I've been grappling with how to respond to and reflect upon the current climate of protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd. And then I saw this post by Rachel Ehlers on LinkedIn, and I knew exactly what to do. Her post read:
"In August, 1968, the country was still reeling from the MLK assassination and the race riots.
A brand new children’s show took a different approach. Fred Rogers asked François Clemmons to join the show. Officer Clemmons, a black police officer who was a kindly, responsible authority figure, kept his neighborhood safe, and was Mr. Rogers' equal, colleague, and neighbor.
A year later in 1969 when black Americans were still prevented from swimming alongside whites, Mr. Rogers invited Officer Clemmons to join him and cool his feet in a wading pool. Most young kids were probably unaware of the real weight the episode carried, but the image of a white man tending to the needs of a black man was seared in their minds nonetheless.
25 years later, when François Clemmons retired, his last scene on the show revisited that same wading pool, this time reminiscing. Officer Clemmons asked Mr. Rogers what he’d been thinking a quarter century before. Fred Rogers’ answer was that he’d been thinking of the many ways people say “I love you.”
In a world screaming out for tolerance, acceptance, kindness, and love - choose to be a Fred Rogers - because if more people could find a way to love others the way he did, without barriers, this world would be a much better place...."
That is it exactly. It is appropriate to be angry right now. It is brave to demand change of others. It is also important to remember that the basis for all the change needed in our world is kindness, empathy, and love. Kind, empathetic people who love one another don't cause their death by asphyxiation on a public road with others watching and shouting to stop. The driving force must be love.
I've also felt hopeless in light of the death of George Floyd. I've felt that this has happened so many times before, and continues to happen, no matter the protests and the Black Lives Matter movement. I've felt that things won't change. But then I remembered two things:
One, the civil rights movement did result in change. It created leaps and bounds of change.
Two, there is still work to be done, and even seemingly small and quiet acts - just like those of Mr. Rogers - did and will make a difference.
Now I know that I can make a difference. I can make a difference by believing that change is possible, by living that change everyday, by engaging in even small and quiet acts to make the world a better place, especially to make Black Lives Matter in a world that doesn't always give black lives the importance they deserve.
As Mahatma Gandhi said: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
What will you do to be the change?