From The Battleground, by Rich Paschall
When someone says “Black Lives Matter” (BLM), some are quick to respond “All Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter” or some other variant. Of course, they are all true, but they are not the right response at this moment in history. You would think the reason would be clear by now. Unfortunately, it is not.
This is similar to the Gay Pride arguments we discussed last year at this time. Some ask, “Why is there a Gay Pride parade?” or “Why is there a Gay Pride month? There is no Straight Pride parade and no Straight Pride Month.” Gay pride erupted when Gay people were tired of being pushed down and discriminated against. The breakout moment finally happened against the police in New York in the “Stonewall Uprising” in 1969.
In June of that year, the police showed up at Stonewall Inn for the usual round of harassing the patrons and arresting the drag queens and anyone else they wanted to bring along. They released some people but they waited outside. The crowd began to build and a riot erupted as the police tried to take some away in patrol wagons. The next night the rioting continued. Police responses included nightsticks and tear gas.
A year later parades were held to commemorate the battles that were held along Christopher Street in New York City. These were Pride Parades. It was a celebration of gay pride over discrimination. Parades will not be held this year. After 50 years of being in the streets to declare we will not accept mistreatment any longer, COVID-19 has put a halt to the parades. Why are there Gay Pride Parades? Stonewall is the answer.
Some ask “Why is there Black History Month?” Like Gay Pride Month (June), Black History Month (February) highlights the often forgotten parts of African-American History. When it was officially established in 1976, President Gerald Ford told Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history”.
Let face it, US history has been mostly White History month every month. It is important to say out loud the contributions of black Americans because they have been left out of our history books in the past. This is the time to bring them to the forefront of America’s collective knowledge. Yes, some object to a month to highlight Black history as it should be a regular part of history all the time. Think of February as the month we must hear ourselves proclaim this history.
Why is there Women’s History Month? The early history of the US was about explorers, warriors, settlers, entrepreneurs, in other words, all men. Few women found their way into history. Men were the “citizens” and women had to fight for their place. When the 14th amendment granted citizenship to all born or naturalized here, they really meant men. Women began fighting for the right to vote as early as before the Civil War. They finally won that with the 19th amendment in 1920, but that really just meant white women. Roadblocks were thrown up to prevent black women from voting until President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act in 1965.
After consistently pushing back on women’s rights and women’s contributions to society, it is necessary to have a month to highlight what has previously been left out of history. Women’s contributions to the nation are more than just Betsy Ross sewing a flag.
There are a variety of history and heritage months. We often hate to look back through the ages to learn exactly what our history has been, and has not been. The systematic suppression of some people has led us to a list of groups who have been marginalized and discriminated against in the past. Over time they have risen up and demanded to be seen, be heard, be appreciated, and to be treated equally. Sometimes the only way forward is through marches and protests. These protests are not against the country, but against the discrimination that keeps people from being seen as equals, for understanding that their lives matter too.
“Black Lives Matter” has to be said for all those who still do not understand that it is a part of “All Lives Matter.” It is the part that is not recognized by white nationalists, neo-nazis, KKK members, supporters of extreme right-wing broadcasters, and certain politicians, including the orange one. It needs to be said over and over until those who have been deaf to it until now, hear and understand.
See also: “Stonewall Uprising,” SERENDIPITY, July 1, 2019.