Boston Globe columnist Jenee Osterheldt demonstrates a complete lack of empathy towards those with different beliefs in her latest column. In it, she describes the joy that she felt during a protest this summer:
What I remember most about the Say Her Name March & Rally: I was happy.
The summer sun seemed to kiss our foreheads with love that Fourth of July. It should have been sweltering, the streets flooded with over a thousand people, masked and marching in the name of Black womxn. Maybe it was. But all I remember is the solidarity.
For almost three miles, I danced in the streets from Nubian Square to Boston Common, celebrating our lives, loving our lives, delighting in the richness of our Black beauty. I wore Breonna Taylor’s face on my face, a mask donned with daisies made by Boston writer and artist, Arielle Gray. I danced for Breonna.
The march stopped at Harriet Tubman House where Black Lives Matter Boston and other organizers honored fellow activist Monica Cannon-Grant. They called for us, Black women specifically, to shake something and let joy move us. The speakers boomed with Beyoncé’s “Brown Skin Girl.”
We formed a circle as women with ebony skin filled the center, hips swaying, arms in the air, smiles wide and filled with magic. As a light-skinned Black woman, I stood on the outside, cheering them on, my fist in the air, holding sacred space for my beautiful sisters who are hurt the most.
Then their hands, rolling like waves, a current of energy pulling me in, called to me to join them — an intimacy as strong as any hug between sisters. We are Black girls and we dance together.
Overjoyed is a state I’ve only been immersed in once in 2020. It was in that moment. And that moment, to me, is my most powerful act of protest.
My first thought upon reading this was: “Well, aren’t you lucky?” I can honestly say that overjoyed is not a state that I have been immersed in at any point in 2020. Nor, really, is any form of happiness. And that is, in large part, because of the supporters of the very movement that Osterheldt so glowingly describes.
First, governments all over the world decided to take away everyone’s fundamental rights because of a novel virus. Then, because a policeman killed a man who happened to be black, people decided to erupt into a brutal, intolerant mob determined to smash to pieces everything in the world that has anything to do with Christopher Columbus, the Confederate States of America, or anything or anyone deemed to fall short of said mob’s arbitrary, racist standards of political correctness. As a person who values fundamental rights and also loves Christopher Columbus, the Confederate States of America, and history in general, the year 2020 has been nothing short of devastating.
How dare Osterheldt gloat about her joy and happiness when the movement that she supports has denied these very things to people like me? It is bad enough that the BLM movement has essentially destroyed everything that I love in the world, but now they are adding insult to injury by waxing poetically about how happy it makes them to do so. The protest Osterheldt writes so effusively about took place less than a month after Boston’s statue of Christopher Columbus was decapitated as part of a different protest by the same movement. Did Osterheldt stop to think for one moment about the hurt that this act of bigotry caused the Italian-American community? Did she stop to think of the pain inflicted on me, a person who is on the autism spectrum, who loves statues and history, and who used to walk by and admire this statue nearly every day? Or, for that matter, did she stop to think of people who cherish their Confederate heritage, and the anguish that they must be feeling as the BLM movement tears down, one by one, the statues and monuments that they hold dear?
Osterheldt argues that the narrative surrounding the BLM protests should not be “looters and shooters” but instead “a love language spoken in the tongue of liberation.” But the reality is that looting, violence, destruction of innocent people’s property, and worst of all, destruction of beautiful statues, have been major parts of BLM protests. No, not every single protestor engaged in these destructive acts, and perhaps a majority did not. But these acts need to be fully acknowledged and unequivocally condemned. To characterize the BLM movement as filled with joy, love, singing, dancing, smiles, and solidarity is an inaccurate and incomplete portrayal. It is an insult to the innocent people who have been harmed by this movement, such as myself, small business owners, the Italian-American community, and the Confederate community. It denies the physical, financial, and emotional devastation that this movement has inflicted.
Again and again, Osterheldt and the people she interviews in her column mention “liberation” and “freedom.” It’s interesting that people seemingly so passionate about liberation would have nothing negative to say about Second Amendment violations, governments’ authoritarian measures to combat the coronavirus, the Durham-Humphrey Amendment, the Affordable Care Act and its individual mandate, or any other things that actually take people’s liberty away. To the BLM movement, “resistance” seemingly constitutes stomping on the underdog, and “liberty” seemingly means the ability to destroy and trample on any culture that is different from your own.
“No matter where one lives, running while Black isn’t easy,” Osterheldt writes, without providing any evidence or logical reasoning for why this would be true. You know what isn’t easy? Not being able to visit the North End anymore because it is too traumatizing to see the empty pedestal where Christopher Columbus used to be. You know what else isn’t easy? Not being able to visit Boston at all without being overwhelmed with sadness at the fact that the city is just not the same now that the statue of my hero is gone.
Believe it or not, it is not only black women who have richness and beauty. All races and genders do. For example, lately I have been reading more about the life of Christopher Columbus, someone who I have always admired as a proud Italian-American but didn’t know a ton about. Learning more about his personality, his successes and failures, and the obstacles he overcame, makes he admire him even more. I’ve also read about a wide variety of Confederate generals, learning about their quirks, their skills, their temperaments, and their philosophies. There is richness and beauty in the lives of all of these brave leaders from history.
But the BLM movement doesn’t care about any of that; in fact, they seem determined to stomp out the memory of these historical heroes. All that they care about is people who look and think like them. Osterheldt does not care one iota about the Italian-American community, about those who value their Confederate heritage, or about people on the autism spectrum like me. We are the people who are truly “hurt the most” (to use Osterheldt’s words), and she is kicking us while we’re down. It is easy to be happy when the things that you love, the things that you value, and the things that make your life worth living are not brutally, mercilessly, and inexorably being destroyed. Osterheldt’s joy during the Breonna Taylor protest is what privilege truly looks like. Instead feeling empathy for those less fortunate than her, she is rubbing salt in our wounds.