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Best of 2018 #1: What The Conservative White Guy Learned At The Black Lives Matter Meeting

December 31, 2018

The #1 post from 2018 was about a meeting I attended back in February. It’s strange because as a result of that meeting I lost a good friend (The Wrong Way To End A Friendship.) I didn’t know it at the time. I guess I’d already lost my friend by this time, but, that meeting exposed it.

I didn’t know it at the time. At the time I was trying to learn more about the Black Lives Matter organization. It wasn’t what I thought.

Originally posted 2/23/2018

You know the saying, “these are my people”? Well, these were not my people. Last night I attended a Black Lives Matter meeting in Ogden, UT. I don’t know what I expected. Whatever it was, the meeting failed to meet any of my expectations.

Let me explain how I ended up there in the basement of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden. My daughter recently moved to Ogden. She doesn’t know anyone. She’s getting out of a bad relationship and Ogden is the place that has the services she needs right now. She’s also black. I live in Pleasant Grove, UT. It’s about 70 miles South of Ogden, on the other side of Salt Lake City.

Through a friend, I noticed that the BLM chapter in Ogden was meeting in the Unitarian Church just three blocks from where my daughter is staying. I told her she should attend. She can meet people. She can volunteer. She can start to network.

She’s very shy. And she is very uncertain of herself right now.

I decided that I should go. I’m not shy. I’m not uncertain of myself and I’m not too bad at networking. The meeting started at 6:00. . .on a workday. The commute to get there took me through the heart of Salt Lake City rush hour. Oh, and we were in the middle of snowstorm. I left my house at 5:00. I eventually got to Ogden at 7:00.

What comes to mind when you hear Black Lives Matter? No doubt you have some ideas. So did I. But, I was here to support my daughter and help her meet people in her new city. I decided I could check my own feelings at the door. “I’m here to listen and learn,” is a phrase I practiced on my way there. I needn’t have bothered. No one cared.

The group was nothing like what I expected. I expected politics. There was none. I expected firey speeches. The meeting was about as agitated as a sunday school lesson.

The Ogden chapter of BLM was there for three purposes. First, they were planning the coming year’s events. They split up into committees: An events committee, an education committee, an LGBTQ outreach committee. Each committee worked on a plan and then presented it to the group.

They were also there to talk about protests. Okay, here we go. Here’s the militant side coming out. I steeled myself to be tolerant. I needn’t have. This week there was a case at a local high school where a black student was spit on, called a racial slur and attacked. He defended himself. The school interviewed the white kid he’d had the altercation with. The school then informed the black kid that he was suspended, couldn’t attend prom and might have charges brought against him.

The BLM and its sister group the United Front initiated a calling campaign to the high school. “Be polite. Don’t curse. Don’t threaten.” The school is refusing to reconsider the punishment, but is doing an internal investigation. BLM has decided they are going to hold a protest.

For how many of you will this be your first protest?

I, along with a dozen other people raised our hands.

Can someone please pass out the protest rules to the new folks?

Ever wondered what the rules of engagement are for a BLM protest? They are pretty simple:

Do not respond to racial taunts
Do not step on school property
Do not curse
Do not touch another person or any sign or flag they may be carrying
Record everything

It was about as mild as you could get.

The third activity for the evening was building comfort kits for the homeless. The attendees had brought gallon ziploc bags and snacks, toiletries, hand warmers and supplies for the homeless. The 30 people in attendance made nearly 100 comfort bags. The remaining supplies were then donated to the food pantry at the church. Included in every bag was a “Know Your Rights” card, explaining what to do if stopped by the police.

I met several people. I made sure my shy daughter made some contacts both with the church and local BLM leaders. Most importantly, I changed my perspective. I came prepared to set aside my differences. What I didn’t expect was that we would unite behind common causes.

The Unitarian Universalist Church is not only non-denominational, it’s non-dogmatic. They welcome Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddists, Pagans and Atheists. A granola bar doesn’t have a religious affiliation. A packet with a toothbrush, razor and feminine pads, doesn’t come with a tie to a religion. Unless, it’s the universal religion that says we should take care of each other.

Last night I met a lot of people who were living that sermon. They didn’t change my political beliefs, but they didn’t try. It’s not at all what I expected.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2017 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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