Why I’m not putting a Black Lives Matter sign in my yard
by Khama Ennis
“Mama, we should put some signs in our yard.”
I’ve heard this a few times from my daughters. I’ve never been a bumper sticker or obviously branded clothing type of person, but this is a bit different. What they are referring to isn’t about providing free advertising for fashion labels or putting out educational pedigrees. What they’re asking about is why we don’t have a Black Lives Matter sign in our front yard. I'm Black and my children are Black biracial, after all.
As the movement - which I wholeheartedly support - has grown, I’ve been struggling with my resistance to putting a BLM sign up in my yard, even as they have sprung up elsewhere. The thoughtstorm that erupted in a recent middle-of-the-night waking eventually forced me to dwell in the pain that putting a sign out is a reminder that there are so many who disagree with the notion. Not only are there many who disagree, but there are people who openly demonstrate their belief in its exact opposite. Through threats. Through violence. Through votes. Not only do they believe that there is no value to Black lives, but they have been convinced that the mere existence of Black lives somehow robs them of benefits that they would otherwise be enjoying.
I live in a “nice neighborhood.” I use that phrase intentionally, knowing that in the US a “nice neighborhood” is one that has no more than a few Black homeowners. So in addition to the low level discomfort of living where I do & knowing that people who don’t know me may be surprised to see a Black woman sitting on the front porch like she owns the house (because she does) and that maybe one day, one of them will make a "concerned citizen" call, it’s just too much. It is too much to be in a place of sanctuary and look out at a daily reminder that I have to defend my existence.
I smile every time I see a Black Lives Matter on someone’s lawn because it’s a sign that I or one of my relatives could safely ring the doorbell and ask for directions if we were lost. It is a sign that the reflexive reaction to the existence of Black and Brown people is not one of disdain at worst and tolerance at best. It is a sign that affirms what my existence proclaims.
I am not the one who needs to be convinced that Black Lives Matter and declare it for all the world to see.
For now my yard will stay plain. I have told my daughters that our being here is a protest. I have taught them to see what is absent around them in addition to what is present so they can question why that is. I have taught them to hold their heads high and claim their space wherever they are. I have taught them that their lives matter, that Black Lives Matter. And perhaps one day, the pain of having to make that declaration on our front yard will be less acute. Perhaps one day, I will be able to view it as a triumph rather than a plea. Perhaps then, the sign will be in my yard too. Right now, however, it is all a bit too raw and that is ok too.