Yes: Black Lives Matter (1)

Black Lives: a marker of progress for white lives?

I haven’t said much about the state of our world since the May 25 death of George Floyd (other than the introductory remarks in my last newsletter, here.)  In part, I felt that #BlackoutTuesday and its basis, #TheShowMustBePaused, were meant to focus the world’s attention on Black voices, to encourage everyone to “take a beat for an honest, reflective and productive conversation about what actions we need to collectively take to support the Black community.”  On top of that, I could see that the very last thing any of my exhausted Black friends needed was another plaintive and heartfelt apology for the incredible abuses inflicted on them by people who look like me.

So while the world was blowing up, I did my job, launched my book, watched the news, listened to people. I wept and raged and shook my head in disbelief-that-is-no-longer-disbelieving.  I watched in awe as people like the angry and eloquent Kimberly Jones spoke her heart:

She’s way more generous than I am. If I’d been around during the French Revolution, I’d have swept through Versailles with a torch.

For the past four weeks I’ve watched, and listened, and tried for that honest and productive reflection. Because, as Jelani Cobb writes in his New Yorker article about Juneteenth:

There’s a paradox inherent in the fact that emancipation is celebrated primarily among African-Americans, and that the celebration is rooted in a perception of slavery as something that happened to black people, rather than something that the country committed. The paradox rests on the presumption that the arrival of freedom should be greeted with gratitude, instead of with self-reflection about what allowed it to be deprived in the first place. Emancipation is a marker of progress for white Americans, not black ones.

The problem is not with Black America, but with the side of the street I live on.  In going forward, some of the actions I have decided on are behind the scenes, and will remain there.  Seems to me that a person who needs credit for acts of decency is part of the problem.

Other things I decided on are longer term, and you’ll hear about them when they come around.  Change only works if it lives past the present.

And then there’s the more immediate act—namely this week of posts here on Mutterings. (And no: if you’re tired of Black Lives Matter, if your head will explode with one more thing to feel guilty about, if life is already making your eyes weep and your ulcer flare, you don’t have to read me this week.)

I write fiction. My audience is incredibly mixed, in age and ethnic heritage and political beliefs. As a storyteller, this is how things work. It always astonishes me to come across a reader who holds vastly different beliefs from mine, but it is absolutely not my job to vet my listeners. The story is the story, and any subversive messaging I sneak in has to be low-key enough to overlook at first glance—not because I’m ashamed of it or want to lose a sale, but because nothing kills fiction faster than the smell of the soap-box. If you’re preaching, it’s not a story, it’s a sermon.

(Though I have a strong, knee-jerk reaction to being told what to do. People who email me saying they won’t buy my book because of something I said or didn’t say, or that I really mustn’t write that kind of book again, always get my second reply—the polite one, after I’ve deleted the first one.  If my politics offend you that much, no one is making you buy my book.)

Laura: I’m dead chuffed that Yorkshire Tea hasn’t supported BLM.
Yorkshire Tea: Please don’t buy our tea again.

All of which means that on the one hand, I am a writer of fiction whose political and sociological opinions should be of less concern to the general world than my choice of dishwashing soap. On the other hand, I do have strong opinions, and I am a citizen of the world.

So the time has come to say, yes: Black lives matter.

White and blue and brown lives matter, too, of course they do—but in this country, Black lives have long carried an extraordinary burden, and at this moment, we might—we just might, if we all respond, have a chance to take that burden off the backs of our Black friends and neighbors.  Or off their necks. And maybe redeem ourselves a little in the eyes of the future.

Black lives matter.

That’s the theme over the next five days here on Mutterings. I’ll be talking about Black writers, about saying the names of victims, about the idea of “defunding” the police, and some thoughts on where I’m going.

And I’m leaving the comments open, although anyone who loses the thread of rational conversation will be blocked.

Posted in


  1. Sherri Mancusi on June 22, 2020 at 9:06 am

    I deeply appreciate the quote from Jelani Cobb and look forward to the next 5 days. So much to learn and unlearn.

  2. Karen Buys on June 22, 2020 at 9:42 am

    I have so many thoughts, but paramount among them is thank you. Thank you for using your voice and your platform to help us be better. (and I’d be right there with a pitchfork in one hand and a torch in the other)

  3. Jani Wolstenholme on June 22, 2020 at 10:32 am

    The video and the quote are powerful and honest. I will be waiting for the next 5 days! Thank you!

    • Laurie King on June 22, 2020 at 1:26 pm

      I know, isn’t she something else?

  4. Helen Davis on June 22, 2020 at 10:41 am

    Thanks so much for addressing BLM. Brilliant work of non-fiction

    • Laurie King on June 22, 2020 at 1:26 pm

      Thanks, Helen.

  5. Carolyn fetsko on June 22, 2020 at 11:44 am

    Telling authors what to write or not write is censorship. Write what you damn well want.

  6. Martha M on June 22, 2020 at 4:25 pm

    From the moment I first read your work I knew I would find a friend among the printed pages of Russell, Martinelli, and others. Thank you for speaking out. #blacklivesmatter. I cannot take responsibility for my ancestors actions but I can and do acknowledge the privilege with which I been given – not earned. And I vow to keep educating myself so that my voice is loud when it needs to be but, more importantly, supportive and encouraging always. I look forward to reading more of your thoughts.

    • Laurie King on June 22, 2020 at 7:22 pm

      Thanks, Martha, and let’s indeed go forward together.

  7. Stacia on June 22, 2020 at 6:33 pm

    Powerful video. Thank you for sharing.
    It’s time for us, as white people who benefit from that privilege every single day of our lives, to be ANTI racist. To be ANTI racist, we must speak up. Even if we lose a reader or a friend or even a family member. It’s the very least we can do.

    • Laurie King on June 22, 2020 at 7:22 pm

      Yes, this is flat out time for the change. The more voices, the better.

  8. Barbara Kline on June 22, 2020 at 8:16 pm

    Dear Laurie,

    Your blog about Black Lives Matter was spot on. I look forward to the next five days and your blog. Now, I must go sharpen the tines on my pitchfork and light a torch . Thanks for all you do.

  9. Meridith Lee on June 23, 2020 at 2:18 am

    Well observed. This upheaval has galvanized young people of all colors here and around the world. Open hearts, thoughtful conversations with family and friends are resolve are needed. Past time for change.

    • Laurie King on June 24, 2020 at 11:28 pm

      I hope that change is in the wind, indeed.

Leave a Comment