Reflections by Seth Kaper-Dale at the end of 2016
Since the killing of Trayvon Martin in 2012, and especially since the police killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner in 2014, Black Lives Matter has been arguably the most important new movement in America. Black Lives Matter has, of course, mobilized the black community, especially younger people, but it has also mobilized white young people, especially on college campuses, to look white privilege squarely in the face. Black Lives Matter was launched in response to a few specific moments of violence and brutality, but its agenda is wide—as wide as the horizon of violence against black bodies. Those killer cops, those gun-toting neighbors who killed black men, they are just the obvious abusers—representatives of a nation that has perpetuated injustice against black people since the nation’s foundation. This nation has robbed black people from the moment they were ripped, against their will, from Africa, and the nation continues to create a world where that robbery goes on, in covert ways most of the time. White people who have taken Black Lives Matter seriously have been embarrassed and ashamed by what has been exposed so plainly now.
As I run for governor in the state of New Jersey I am very aware of the ways that black lives continue to be undervalued and mistreated in our state. Whether we talk about economic development, education, public safety, social safety nets, criminal justice, education, housing, transportation, community development…blackness=disadvantage. No. Disadvantage is way too soft a word. Being black in New Jersey means that your body, your personhood, is of less value than others. No. Maybe it’s worse than that. To be black in New Jersey (and America) means that you are valued firstly in the ways that you can be a commodity to help more valuable people advance. You are worth something as a prisoner, you are worth something as an underpaid laborer, you are worth something as a criminal—paid next-to-nothing so that white owners make money off your body while your family waits for your return. There are, of course, gentle ways to talk about race-related issues in New Jersey. It's not all bad. But one thing Black Lives Matter has taught me is to stop pretending we’ve made much progress.
One of the things that I’ve heard said, frequently, by people who are made uncomfortable by the term “black lives matter” is “all lives matter.” Somehow to even say “black lives matter” is too much of an affront to the already privileged. To me, “black lives matter” doesn’t say it quite strongly enough.
I am a man born in white skin, into a white family. I cannot change the color of my skin or the privilege connected to it. But I can say, and I will say, and I will work for policies that say, “black lives matter more than my white privileged life.” Until justice and peace embrace, until there is real equality among people of all hues in America, until there is real repentance, and improved laws that tip the scales black-ward, I say, with conviction, that black lives matter more than my own.
As I begin a serious run for governor in 2017 I hope that all who believe that black-priority is at the heart and soul of repairing our state will join me. I have many policy ideas that I believe are faithfully weighted toward making New Jersey less systematically violent for black people, and more beautiful for all, but I don’t want to propose them alone.
Can it be a New Years Resolution to join me in this journey?
Please sign up to be part of my campaign at www.kaperdaleforgovernor.com.
Peace to you,
Gubernatorial Candidate for the Green Party
December 30th, 2016