Why I Say Black Lives Matter
It wasn’t until I was bed ridden from a hip surgery that I discovered the sermons and speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. At the time, I was going through quite an intense spiritual transformation and began discovering Christian leaders and pastors that were discussing civil rights and the need for racial reconciliation and healing across our nation. I remember starting with the Letter Written from the Birmingham Jail and being profoundly struck by the passion of MLK and his love for God, justice, and people. It was clear to me this man was a prophet of his time.
I started there and over time, read all of his speeches and sermons. I still open my copy of Testament of Hope from time to time. I came to see his commitment to non-violence and call to justice as a formidable force to be reckoned with. However, one of the things that impacted me was the vast majority of white clergy and people that wanted the civil rights protesters to stop. Well-meaning religious people just couldn’t understand why people were speaking out against the injustices that were taking place at the time.
And so it seems we find ourselves in the same predicament today…
Over the last few years, I have witnessed racial tensions escalate as the number of young black children, men and women have been murdered unceremoniously by police and others. At this point, the names are too many for me to list. We have seen the black community grieve and start to protest with the Black Lives Matter movement. As the movement has grown and protests increased, there has been a backlash from the white community. We have seen the response of “All Lives Matter.”
While I agree in theory that all lives matter, I believe the slogan erases the injustice of racial inequality that still stains our country. It’s an easy way to say you believe in the equal treatment of all people without addressing the stark contradiction that still exists today. How quick we can turn a blind eye to the suffering of a marginalized community when we politely say, “All Lives Matter.”
When we look at the story of Moses and the liberation of the Hebrew people, we can draw a parallel to that of the current civil right and Black Lives Matters movement. Most religious people I know love this story, but what seems to be inherently missed, is that we can substitute white America as the Egyptians in the story and our black brothers and sisters as the Hebrew people. This is not to say that white people are bad. It’s to point out that systemically we have an economic, education and justice system the highly favors white privilege and power.
As I learn more about what it means to “love my neighbor as myself”, it requires me to put myself in the experience and situation of those that are different from me. This is not easy as it requires serious contemplation and demands change of thinking and behavior. It asks me to listen to people who have had a different story and upbringing, and admit that I contribute to a system that is skewed in my favor.
Recently, I met an amazing black gentlemen who is spending his time educating black youth about how to interact with cops. He is a former FBI agent who has spent intimate time navigating the current justice system. He is one of the many great black leaders I know working with youth, teaching them to be respectful and courteous, but also informing them of the dangers that are unique to them because of the color of their skin.
I grew up in Middle America, rarely interacting with any people of color which allowed me to remain fairly isolated to our problems today. To deny there are current issues within our current system is to willfully ignore the facts. A few years ago, I would have been one of the “All Liver Matter” folks, but my eyes have been opened to far too many travesties to stay silent.
I now say, Black Lives Matter.