As an author, my work is motivated by passion. I care deeply about every novel that I have written. I feel strongly that I have a gift that must not be wasted.
Consequently, while my work entertains, it also tackles some difficult subjects. This can, of course, be more easily seen in my literary and mystery novels, but it even occurs in my vampire trilogy and my YA novel, Black Wind.
What does that have to do with hashtags? Hashtags highlight an important point in a subject so that it is more searchable on the internet and, therefore, can be more easily located by readers. There is a hashtag that sums up the major motivation behind all of my work: #WomensLivesMatter
As I was thinking about that hashtag and how it relates to my writing, I began to realize that there is a second hashtag that is every bit as important: #LGBTQLivesMatter
It is only recently that I began considering what hashtags relate to my writing. It was the advent of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter–coupled with the insistence of writing coaches that hashtags are important to authors–that finally helped me realize how important hashtags really are in this web-connected world. I began considering what the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter meant to me. The longer I thought about this hashtag, the more similarities I discovered between the occurrences that birthed that particular hashtag and the events that motivated my work. Let me start at the beginning.
I write to entertain, but I also write to empower women. Why do women need to be empowered?
Women grow up knowing that we are never safe: not on the street, not on college campuses, not in high schools; and not even in their churches. We realize that we face potential violence toward us whenever we do those ordinary things such as riding the subway, walking down the street, having a drink in a bar; and even in our own homes in bed asleep.
We are at risk for being beaten, raped, and murdered simply because we are women. The least dangerous thing that happens to us is being verbally harassed, but even that can turn deadly in the blink of an eye.
We are not safe from teachers, preachers, strangers, friends, lovers, or even family members from the time we are small children. And, all too frequently, we are not safe from the very ones society has placed in power over us; and policemen are all too likely to be a part of the problem, right down to actually beating, raping and murdering us.
There is simply no telling when or from where the attacks might come.
This situation has gone on for so long and has been so prevalent in our society that it has become normalized. Girls are warned about what they must do to lessen the risk of being attacked: don’t provoke them, don’t talk back, go along with whatever they are asking of you, don’t complain, be careful of what you wear, watch out for how you present yourself including how you walk, don’t go to certain places, never be alone as there is some safety in numbers sometimes, and if you are attacked, don’t fight back because they might kill you.
Of course, none of those things really work because the woman is not the perpetrator of the crime against them. We are the victim.
In order to break this cycle of victimization, the situations need to be brought to light. We cannot overcome that which we cannot name.
Just as women have experienced this level of potential violence all of our lives–consciously or subconsciously–black Americans also experience this level of violence. Simply take out the word woman and insert the word black in the above descriptions. And, as it is with women, it is with black Americans: they are warned not to provoke their attackers, to be careful where they go and when they go, to watch what they wear, and so on. Yet, as it is with women, it is with black Americans—there is nothing they can do to prevent those attacks upon them because they are not the perpetrators; they are the victims.
Women must measure the potential threat from all males in all situations. For black Americans, law enforcement officers have become a large, and very visible, part of the problem of violence against them.
A problem that is named is a problem more likely to be fought and overcome. Because the violence against black Americans has been coming, increasingly, from law enforcement officers, it has become important to name the issue: the issue is the casual and deadly violence with which police officers are confronting black Americans. Hence the need for a hashtag that refutes the police officers’ casual use of deadly force: #BlackLivesMatter
The more I considered the violence against women, the more I realized how the violence against black Americans contains strong similarities.
- Both situations occur with such regularity that they have become “normalized” and therefore, a nearly invisible part of society.
- Victim blaming occurs in both situations.
- These situations are not going to improve until certain conditions are met.
The conditions needed to resolve both situations are very simple, yet quite difficult to put into place. Think of these conditions as an arc, or an arch, beneath which justice and safety lie for all citizens.
A. Accountability: the perpetrators must be held to strict standards of accountability to the victim and to society.
B. Responsibility: the perpetrators must be given the absolute personal responsibility for their own actions against the victim, regardless of such irrelevant issues as what the victim was wearing, how the victim spoke, and so on.
C. Consequences: the perpetrators must face serious consequences that truly fit the crime they committed. For example, murder should result in very long prison terms, at the least, and should most often result in life in prison since the victim’s life has been cut short. Rapists should not be free to rape again and again and again.
Currently, perpetrators are not held accountable for the damage to people’s lives, and for the deaths they cause. They are not forced to stand responsible for their own actions. Excuses are presented to explain their behavior which then mitigates their personal responsibility; things like what the victim wore, how the victim spoke to them, why was the victim walking alone on the street at that hour (because they have a right to be there?), why was the victim standing on that corner.
In the case of law enforcement officers, there is the additional responsibility they assume when they begin wearing a uniform: they assume the responsibility to de-escalate situations so that the least amount of violence occurs.
And the perpetrators all too often do not face consequences commiserate with their actions. Rapists are given hand slaps and set free even when found guilty (after all who would think of ‘ruining’ a young man’s life when he is such a great athlete, regardless of the fact that he negatively impacted a woman’s entire life?) Law enforcement officers walk away from killings with a few weeks administrative leave and a bogus investigation into their crimes.
Our country does not face the greatest threat from outside terrorists. The greatest, most grave threat to our nation is the threat of home grown terrorists be they maniacs hiding behind religion or murderers hiding behind badges.
A good friend of mine, who also happens to be a very intelligent woman, pointed out that many people seem to demand that every Muslim who is not a terrorist should apologize for and condemn every terrorist who murders in the name of the Muslim religion while at the same time we do not hold police officers to that standard of behavior. For some reason, we don’t demand that all police officers apologize for and condemn every terrorist who hides behind the blue line and a badge.
Muslim civilians are not responsible for what others who claim that religion do. It would be like saying that all white Christians be held responsible for the actions of the Ku Klux Klan and the Westboro Church! However, when police officers take the oath to serve and to protect, they are accepting the responsibility to protect civilians against all threats, even if that threat comes from one of their own. Even moreso if that threat originates from one of their own.
It is time to demand that our police officers live up to that responsibility, or find new vocations. If there is a bad cop out there who pulls a gun on a civilian in a situation that does not call for that measure of violence, then it is up to the good cops to stop that cop before he murders a civilian; before he rapes a woman; before he beats up a queer.
To those entrusted with great power, rests great responsibility.
Yes, all lives do matter and that includes the lives of police officers. There are police officers—wonderful people who uphold the law and whom I greatly admire; people I am honored to call my friends—and I fear for their safety out there on the mean streets; however, until certain groups are no longer targeted, we must keep bringing to the public awareness that these groups are being targeted: women, LGBTQ people, and black Americans.
#BlackLivesMatter #WomensLivesMatter #LGBTQLivesMatter
As grave as these matters are, I am an eternal optimist. In every novel I write, the good/the light within people always triumphs. I believe our country will overcome this dark night and the sun of a beautiful day will one day shine upon all of us.