It is no secret that I love music. Throughout my life it has brought me joy and sadness. It has helped me through good times and bad. It has been present for all of my highs and lows and it is often a friend when I need one. Music sparks memories and can cause emotions like nothing else in this world. While an upbeat tempo can make us feel like jumping up and letting loose, a slow ballad can embrace us like a lover. We close our eyes and sway as the music washes over and through us. The vibrations can help with healing us both physically and mentally. It is said music can even make us smarter. But the lyrics? Sometimes that is what embraces us.
In 1976, in the prime of my teens, Bob Marley and The Wailers released the album Rastaman Vibrations. It was during a time when free love and peace signs of the sixties had moved into an era of sex and drugs and rock and roll. The movements started in the sixties were still alive and well. Oppressed people still fighting for their rights. Women, people of colour, the gay community. All still trying to make a difference. But a backlash also appeared from the conservative religious right who saw only the erosion of societial values. That being said, there have been tug of wars since the dawn of time. Or should I say, since the dawn of religion. Personally the seventies were an incredible time. Gosh I had fun. The summer of 1976 I was fifteen. I had blossomed from the geeky preteen into a young woman who was exploring the world and finding herself in the process. I was on my way to high school and life was fun. That summer Bob Marley and his people left a mark on my soul which I have never forgotten.
The Album Rastaman Vibrations had a gateway cover, meaning it was a folded double cover. It opened like a book. The lyrics are printed inside along with colorful artwork depicting the band. I was excited when I bought this album. Tearing off the cellophane (everyone knows cellophane shrinks and warps the vinyl) I was excited to play it right away. Of course along the edge of the inside cover were useful housekeeping tips as well. It said “This album jacket is great for cleaning herb”. Back in the day we sometimes needed to clean seeds out of marijuana. They pop when burning. The cover was large and sturdy and when you were done you could easily fold it inward so the marijuana slid cleanly back into the bag. Not really news to us kids but the statement helped us bond to this older guy. Bob Marley was all of thirty one years in 1976 but to someone my age he was old. Part of the uncool people generation. But… his music had grabbed me so I let him into my life. My private little collection of music was growing and he made the cut.
I am a purist. I start on side A, drop the needle and listen to the end. Singing along from the printed lyrics. Then I flip the LP, and repeat. Side B. To the end. Until I got to the song “War”. I listened to it over and over and over again. The song wasn’t new to me however it was the first time I had the lyrics in front of me and my heart was overwhelmed. I’ve never forgotten the emotion I felt the first time I read those words. The entire song is powerful but for me one line stood out.
“Until the colour of a man skin is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes…”
This incredibly deep and profound, yet simple statement made me cry. These words have never left me. They have been repeated over and over to my children throughout the years and have not lost their power. Really it brings things down to the lowest level. Imagine a world where we judge others by the colour of their eyes. Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it. And yet…
The Black Lives Matter movement is front and centre in the news. It is known that I am not much into special interest groups. I believe in human rights. The same for all of mankind. Each person on this sweet mother earth is equal in the eyes of God. As BLM has morphed and grown throughout the world, there has naturally been a backlash. People are afraid of that which they do not understand. And the bottom line is that white people just don’t understand black people. I don’t care how many friends you have who are black. Just because you like them doesn’t mean you understand what they live with everyday. There are those who say it is different here in Canada. My girlfriend and I chatted about it the other day. She asked if I felt there was a lot of racism here. Of course there is. To think otherwise is crazy. Are Canadians overt in their racism? No no no! We are much too polite for that. Well some of us. The thing is, if you are white, you don’t feel the same way as you aren’t targeted because of your colour. Ask any person of first nations descent how they feel in any store they enter. Security watches them like a hawk. Young Asians in sporty fast cars must all be in gangs. Brown people must all be terrorists. I am white. I have argued with many a law officer over traffic stops. I have a heavy foot. I joke and laugh with border guards. It is my nature to be silly. I walk into a store with a product I am trying to match and walk out out with confidence knowing no one will suspect me of shop lifting. Once in the airport, while leaving Las Vegas I accidentally pressed the button saying “Yes I am carrying flammable liquids.” Since there is no back button I was escorted to a little desk to have my goods searched. When I explained my error we all laughed and I was sent on my way without any delays. You see… I am white. I have never ever felt what a black person feels when they see the flashing lights of a cop car. I feel perturbed. Resignation over yet another ticket. I feel inconvenience. Never fear, Never!
When my son was in University he accidentally got into a class that was mainly women and very feminist. During a discussion a frustrated young gal finally yelled at my son saying “You just don’t understand”. To which he replied “Of course I don’t understand. I am a blonde blue eyed man living in Canada”. He needed to be taught. We all need to be taught. That is what BLM is about. Saying you aren’t racist isn’t enough. Saying you have friends of colour isn’t enough. Saying you don’t see colour is ridiculous. Are you blind? Saying all lives matter just misses the point on so many levels I can’t begin to even talk about it. Just stop talking. Stop having an opinion about BLM. Shut up! For once in your life recognize just how privileged you are for no other reason than just being born white! Just listen to the message they are trying to send out. Clear your mind and try to listen. To understand. You’ll never really get it but you can try. And then, spread the message.
I have hazel eyes. My husband and four children all have blue eyes. Imagine a world that Bob Marley speaks of. A world where blue eyes are superior and those of other colours just don’t make the grade. Those other people are inferior. I am inferior. I am less than. I don’t matter. I am afraid. Just imagine. He is right. Bob Marley is right. I have learned that to support Human Rights I must support Black Lives Matter. Because…
“Until the philosophy which hold one race superior and another Inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned, everywhere is war. That until there no longer first class and second class citizens of any nation, until the colour of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes me say war. That until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all, without regard to race dis a war. That until that day the dream of lasting peace, world citizenship, rule of international morality will remain in but a fleeting illusion to be pursued, but never attained, now everywhere is war,
And we know we shall win as we are confident In the victory of good over evil”
So says Bob Marley!