Category Archives: Black Lives Matter

March For Our Lives

“You can’t cast too many Blacks in one film. Nobody will watch.”

“It’s just how it is.” 

“It’s an absolute truth.”

As a child (born in 1958) growing up in a film industry family, I heard this “absolute truth” from the experts — writers, directors, producers, actors, costume designers. Although everyone I knew seemed to agree, I was puzzled. I remember asking what the difference was between an all-Caucasian cast and an all-any-other-racial-heritage cast. I didn’t understand why the industry, brimming with creativity, insisted on following the herd regarding this specific convention. Some expressed regret, so I asked why they didn’t do something to change it. Their answer was always a variation of “It’s-Just-How-It-Is.”

With its rocketing success, the film Black Panther has rewritten that “absolute truth” of my childhood. Of course, several other films have already shown this “truth” to be nowhere close to “absolute.” Black Panther is a strong and timely reminder that “absolute truths” should always be questioned. As a kid, I was also told that an all-female cast wouldn’t work, that if actors came out as gay their careers would grind to an abrupt halt, that females needed to be frighteningly skinny because everyone looks heavier on film and “nobody likes a girl with a fat ass” (a quote from an actor, at a dinner party, which drew raucous approval from men and women alike). I was told these “absolute truths” would “never change.”

Even the most decent adults can get bogged down in business analysis, lulled by the familiarity of convention, and lose track of the purity of an idea. Claudette Colvin was 15 years old in 1955, when she was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama, for refusing to give up her seat on a bus. Malala Yousafzai was in her teens when she was shot in the head, and lived to become a voice for females and education worldwide. Emma Gonzalez — a survivor of the February 14, 2018, high school shooting in Parkland, Florida — has catapulted the #NeverAgain movement to unprecedented levels. Naomi Wadler was 11 years old when she took the stage on March 24, 2018, and stunned the nation with her eloquence in support of Black lives. Samantha Fuentes, wounded at the Parkland shooting, showed us that vomiting onstage can be an act of inspirational courage.

It’s-Just-How-It-Is can’t stop the Claudettes or the Malalas or the Emmas or the Naomis or the Samanthas. Sometimes we need young voices to remind us of the power of decency — hearts and minds unburdened by cost-benefit analysis, less tied to socio-cultural infrastructures. Until February 13, 2018, school shootings were “just how it is.” After February 14, 2018, with several killed and wounded at Margery Stoneman Douglas High School, It’s-Just-How-It-Is transformed into Never-Again.

Young people are rewriting our absolutes. They’re today’s self-evident truths and tomorrow’s inalienable rights. They’re our nation’s We-The-People, leading us as we renew our vows to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They’re our future and our now.

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Amy Kaufman Burk is a therapist-turned-author. Her first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, was written in reaction to seeing gay students bullied in high school. The story follows Caroline Black through tenth grade, with her circle of friends, as her new high school opens her world. Tightwire, Amy’s second novel, continues to follow Caroline, this time as a rookie psych intern treating her first patient — a stormy, brilliant, troubled young man who ran away from the circus to find himself. Amy’s blog includes posts about a variety of subjects including the resistance, gender equality, LGBTIQ+ ally support and racial equality. Amy collaborates with educators who include her books and essays in their classrooms.

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

 

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Filed under Black Lives Matter, Black Panther, Claudette Colvin, Emma Gonzalez, Film Industry Values, Malala, March For Our Lives, Naomi Wadler, Parkland Shooting, Samantha Fuentes, Uncategorized

#BlackLivesMatter

Many years ago, around week 25 of my second pregnancy, I switched doctors. My new obstetrician was a man and in our first meeting, we talked for over an hour. Dr. H. told me that his primary job was to follow my guidance, to give me the birthing experience I wanted. He promised he wouldn’t rhapsodize about the wonders of childbirth when I felt like a fiery boulder was forcing its way through my loins. He’d be ready to address my pain at any point, but he wouldn’t presume I wanted a knight in shining armor to ride in on a white coat and zap me with narcotics. He’d step in if he assessed risk, but I’d be in charge of my own choices. He understood that as a man, there would be parts of childbirth he would never fully comprehend, and he’d always respect that my experience belonged to me.

But this post isn’t about childbirth; it’s about racism.

I’ve been trying to find a way to write about racial bigotry. Our culture is caught in a seemingly endless cycle, and I honestly don’t know how to make a difference. But I do know that silence isn’t the answer, so I’m stepping forward. I’m modeling my approach after Dr. H.

I’m starting by raising awareness — my own awareness. As a 58-year-old Caucasian woman, I’m approaching racism the same way Dr. H. approached my childbirth, knowing that my perspective is both valid and limited. Fair-skinned, green-eyed, 5’4”, gray hair — every thread weaves into my identity, shaping my relationship to the world, influencing how others perceive me.

For the past five years, I’ve lived in The South. I watched the furor when the Confederate Flag came down, no longer displayed in front of government buildings. I’ve stopped people from using the “n-word” for African-Americans, from telling “jokes” about white police officers beating confessions out of Black suspects. I saw how these words and “jokes” and Confederate flags were so much a part of their fabric that when I objected, some needed me to explain what had upset me. Even then, many were puzzled how “just a joke,” “just a word,” “just a flag” could bother me. My point: these folks were as taken aback by my mindset as I was by theirs.

We each have a point of view, partly conscious and partly unconscious, that influences our words, actions and belief systems. Following Dr. H.’s example, I need to be aware of my own assumptions. So I write this post as a student, not a teacher. And since mistakes are a part of learning, I’m writing about one of mine.

When I first heard the term “Black Lives Matter,” I was immediately drawn to the phrase. These three vibrant words pulsed with power, capturing a world of hurt and hope. I posted on social media about an example of racism, with the hashtag: #BlackLivesMatter. But then I made my mistake. I wanted to convey that Black lives matter because all lives matter equally, and that many treat Black lives as mattering less. So I wrote #BlackLivesMatter, and added #AllLivesMatter.

As I followed the Black Lives Matter Movement, I saw many people – none of them Black — post #BlackLivesMatter and add #AllLivesMatter. It became clear that this undermined the importance of Black lives. When I realized my mistake, I thought carefully. I needed to understand what happened, why it happened, how it happened. Then I thought of Dr. H. In our initial meeting, he made no assumptions. But this time, I did. Dr. H. asked questions. But this time, I didn’t. I made an assumption about using a new phrase, and I skipped a step: I didn’t ask.

I apologize for my mistake.

#BlackLivesMatter

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Amy Kaufman Burk is a novelist, blogger and mother of three grown children. Amy wrote her first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, in reaction to seeing gay students bullied in high school, as a voice against stereotypes. Her second novel, Tightwire, follows a rookie psych intern through her first year of training, working with her first patient. Amy blogs on a variety of subjects including parenting, LGBTQ+, gender equality and a Rolling Stones concert. She also collaborates with educators who include her books in their curriculum. 

Amy’s Author Page On Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4

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Filed under Black Lives Matter, Civil Rights, hate crimes, Racial Bigotry, Racial Equality, Stereotypes, Uncategorized