• Ilan Cooley

black lives matter. period.


I see you. I hear you, and what you say matters to me.


Photo credit: Sarah Wills Photo


I am a student of Oprah. I watched her show for many years, went to Chicago for a live taping of the Oprah Winfrey Show, and have been fortunate to see her motivational speaking tour twice. She says those of us who grew up with her are kind of like her children. So as a member of Oprah’s extended family, I want to share this piece of her wisdom.

Everyone has the fundamental need for validation.

“Every single person you will ever meet shares that common desire,” she says. “They want to know: Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you?”

When people say they are confused when they receive pushback for saying ‘all lives matter’ as a counter agenda to the Black Lives Matter movement, I am equally confused they don’t get it. To me it simply seems they are incapable of offering someone else validation. They are practically screaming, I don’t see you, I don’t hear you, and what you say means nothing to me.

Think of all of us as a family, like Oprah does. In a family there is an ebb and a flow of family dynamics. Everyone has their unique contributions and qualities. They have struggles and sometimes even tragedies. From time to time, someone in the family might be having a hard time. The job of the family is to focus in on that person and to surround them with love, comfort, attention and support. In times of struggle, the focus and attention turns toward the person who needs it the most. This is not an act of betrayal or abandonment of the others, it is what families do. They help one another. They support one another. The stand up for one another. They rally.

If someone in your family is in peril, do you demand attention? If you would, maybe you need to do some soul searching to figure out how you became a such a spoiled child, because you’d sound like a brat having a temper tantrum. If you cannot put someone else’s needs ahead of your own, you have some work to do.

I come from a big family. In a large family you don’t always get a lot of attention, in fact sometimes it is spread so thin you get none of it, but that all changes in a tragedy. When I was seven I had acute appendicitis and I could have died. At the beginning of the illness I was tended to like a kid with a sore stomach. I got the maximum amount of attention in a busy family when it was perceived I might be overacting the flu. But as it became apparent I was in real trouble, I was rushed to emergency with only moments to spare.

In that moment, my siblings didn’t demand my parents to pay more attention to them. They didn’t complain. They worried and kept vigil. That is what families do. They rally.

Zoom out on this idea a bit and think of society as a very big family. Your brothers and sisters in the black community are in peril. It is time to worry, to keep vigil, and to show solidarity, dispense empathy, seek understanding, and provide protection. That is what families do. They rally.

I can care about someone without knowing them. I can care without completely understanding what they are going through. I can react when I see someone in pain. I can offer help, support, or whatever is required of me.

I was not in the Philippines to watch the tsunami wipe away hundreds of thousands of lives.

I did not experience the earthquake in Haiti personally.

I was not in New York during 9/11.

Yet, during each of these tragic world events, I still felt other people’s pain.

I have never personally experienced genocide. I have never experienced racism. I have never been marginalized. I have not personally gone through many things, but I still care. I can rally.

I read an essay written by fellow Canadian Desmond Cole. In it he detailed his personal experiences being profiled by police more than 50 times, just for being black. I have never experienced even one of the things he described, and there is only one reason.

Me not knowing his story is my issue to fix. Any information gap, lack of understanding, blind eye turning, dismissing, silence, internalization, unwillingness to educate, or apathy, is my problem to fix. It is all my problem to fix.

If you’re still saying all lives matter, or don’t understand the big deal saying it, that’s your failing. Fix it. At the very minimum - google it.

After you finish with google, walk to a mirror and take a long, hard look at yourself. If you still only have the ability to validate your own ideas, perceptions and beliefs, try again. If you have an actual reaction to people asking you to care about them, you’re the problem. If you get defensive, you’re the problem. If you go out of your way to diminish others, you’re the problem. If you are an adult acting this way, you deserve to be treated like the spoiled child you are. Go sit in the corner. If you are tempted to turn around and cause more disruption, you are only going to get more time in the naughty chair. If you don’t want to be a part the solution, at the very least. Please. Shut. Up.

Everyone else—we need to rally.

I’m a humanist. I literally believe that everyone is entitled to equality. Everyone. In the words of Oprah, “I see you. I hear you, and what you say matters to me.”

Black Lives Matter. Period.

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