I WANT YOU TO SEE ALL OF ME:
COUNTERBALANCE SUPPORT AND THE MOVEMENT FOR BLACK LIVES
Alicia Garza, one of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement (BLM), has been quoted saying “I want to make sure that people are not saying, ‘Well, whatever you are, I don’t care.’ No, I want you to care. I want you to see all of me.” Leaving the goal of tolerance in the past and striving for true support between people - something that will be referred to as “counterbalance support.” Much like a counterbalance movement in dance or a counterbalance structure in architecture, this support is personalized, active and engaged. It is something that requires trust and reciprocity between two individuals. Actively embracing and seeing all of someone rather than being ambivalent is a pivotal concept towards being aware of your position and how you interact with social structures that influence communities. To say that something or someone is counterbalancing another is to imply that the action is constantly reevaluating the situation.
This goal of the BLM movement to see all of another person is why the movement often refers to itself as a "re-humanizing project" - striving to have people outside and inside of the community embrace blackness as human. These efforts can be seen in their online presence, conversations stitched together across geographical and social borders through hashtags such as #blackgirlmagic and #blackboyjoy that share stories of joy and explore the depth of identity that oppressed communities must struggle to claim as their own. In a movement that was born out of a love letter written by Garza, it makes sense that BLM would centralize the people who need the most love, the most care, and the most support.
Centralizing the most marginalized is a key aspect of why the BLM organization and activists are actively seeking to create counterbalanced support. This movement, known for highlighting the needs of trans black women as a way to guide the movement to success, strives to reject past toxic systems. Avoiding mistakes that the Civil Rights Movement made, BLM does not want to reenact sexism and transphobia while battling racism as the movements flagship.
In addition to needing the voices of trans black women specifically, the act in and of listening and amplifying the voices of the most marginalized is a counterbalanced act in itself. Practiced in being quiet and small, taking up as little space as possible and being brushed aside, marginalized communities taking up space is an act of rebellion and an important step in the right direction. BLM is trying to change the terms of the social contract that we have shaped modern society around. If we give up destructive behaviors and agree to the code of conduct laid out by society, we have access to the resources of the communities we live in. This system is something that we as a human collective truly believe in.
However, there is evidence that this does not work. Police violence against innocent black men, trans women being murdered in the street, hate crimes in general; all are evidence that this social contract is broken. In contrast, the fact that white politicians can harm others for the sake of capitalism, and that white mass shooters are seen as “one in a million” while black victims are seen as “part of the problem” is another example of the system flaws. The system is full of black people abiding by the code of conduct, yet not receiving the protection and resources from the contract, as well as full of white people who break the rules but are still protected by the system through the activation of white supremacy and systematic racism.
The system is broken. Innocent lives are lost, and the fabric of society is slowing being degraded with every moment we do not hold white supremacy accountable for the crimes it has committed. This highly volatile environment is where the re-humanizing aspects of BLM truly shine.
It is a moment of holding others accountable for their actions, to truly look someone in the eye and understand and see and hear and love the human that they are. Rather than reverting back to the lessons that a history of systematic racism has engrained, BLM asks and demands us to fight back and to say out loud with actions in spaces of oppression and in the privacy of our own hearts that Black Lives Matter.
Written by Shannon Finnell
Published in PSD. May, 2018