Some of you seem to be wondering what the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Nina Pop, or Tony McDade have to do with the tattoo community. Why would Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown or Kalief Browder matter to those involved in an industry that seems, on the very surface, so removed from class, sex, race, or eco politics? There are many answers to that question. But, to put it extremely plainly, it matters because everyone is a part of this community. We are living in this world, we are not separate from it, and our actions, our voices, mean everything.
What was once an underground social club full of bikers and gangbangers has now evolved into an industry that should be beyond racism, sexism, or other direly pathetic points of societal structure. Tattooing has become part of the mainstream which means that our strengths, most particularly our intense connectivity beyond global boundaries, is always a tool to be wielded for the benefit of others. This includes, without question, the Black Lives Matter movement.
The tattoo industry has been, rightfully, targeted as one that so often ignores the existence of Black people, People of Color, Female, and LGBTQIA+ presence. But enough is enough. Any perverse act to stay silent or step aside while the news is an onslaught of police brutality, domestic abuse, or violence of any kind, should be met with a swift, albeit compassionate, educational kick towards direct action.
It is unfortunately necessary for people to protest in order to pull notice from major media outlets and the powers that be, which is heartbreaking. There shouldn’t be any question of how precious a life is. No one should have to fear for their lives on a constant basis nor be forced to engage in an entire system that is set up to fail them from birth, but that is the brutal reality for the people that the Black Lives Matter movement represents.
This isn’t about “all lives matter”...because Black lives are statistically proven to matter less or, clearly, not at all. So, it needs to be said. Loud. Again and again until it is finally not just heard, but enacted into the deepest parts of society. The last gasping words, “I can’t breathe”, by two men murdered at the hands of police became a powerful slogan because it’s a physical and metaphorical statement encapsulating what it is to be Black in America.
Mass incarceration, the School-to-Prison pipeline, the systematic job inequality, economic inequality, housing segregation, and our failing healthcare system, all of these, and more, prove that the Black Lives Matter movement is absolutely paramount. Even the Coronavirus, which hit the African American community in grim numbers, is a testament to the necessary protests which desperately hope to enact change.
What has always been so beautiful and comforting about the tattoo community, for me, has been our dedication and quick action to support in an absolute and loving manner. This industry is not an “industry” as Forbes would have it, but a family. A family born of extremely integral moments of cathartic transformative and intimate experiences which should extend outside the confines of private studios and street shops.
We are not of the mainstream, no matter how often “tattoos” show up on Google trends. Even perceived outsiders who are attracted by this community are brought here partly by the tattoo communities refusal to play by the rules of globally accepted societal terms. We are, when at our best, “refusing to cooperate with an evil system.” This includes supporting the Black Lives Matter movement which, at its core, asks for the decimation of said evil system for many a damn good reason.
Although, at first, our adoration for the art form of tattooing brought us together, our humanity is the deeper connection. Our capability to give, to support, is limitless. Our rage can be empowered through our heart and hope to change this world. To quote Martin Luther King Jr., “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. The beauty of nonviolence is that in its own way, and in its own time, it seeks to break the chain reaction of evil.” His was the path of inexhaustible hope, resilience, and setting a precedent to lead by example and action.
Now is the time to expose the sinew of our strength: our connectivity, our courage, our profound immovable love for freedom and justice. None of us are alone in trying to dismantle and revolt against the man-made ideologies that suffocate and snuff. There will always be someone there to raise their voice along with yours.
Below you will find a list of resources to support various organizations, bail funds, legal defense, and similar, that are battling the constant and systematic brutality against the Black community. Every single positive step, action, voice, is needed. Please do your part.
There are many, many, resources out there and many, many lives to support; this is just a start. Do your honest best. Make a difference. Be an ally. Get involved. Educate. Raise your voice. Stand up. Give a helping hand.