When I was a young person I could not understand the folks who would stand on the street corners shouting out their beliefs to any poor soul who happened to walk by. These street preachers seemed unbalanced and ignorant to me. I was thinking about these itinerant preachers today and came to a different conclusion. I get why they were yelling and carrying on. At least I think I do, because I feel like yelling and carrying on about the atrocities that I see happening right now. The hate, the fear, the loathing, the blame, the ignorance, all make me want to stop and yell, “Stop! Stop it now. Stop looking inward for a change and look at your brother, your sister, your neighbor, your fellow citizen.”
The shooting in Dallas, Texas, killing 5 police officers and injuring 12 others, has turned social media into an impetuous frenzy of emotions. Many comments share concern for the families of the stricken officers, offering thoughts and prayers. There are comments from people calling out for peace, and there are comments of disbelief and incomprehension. I understand these sentiments, and I too want to offer comfort and peace. Yet these statements rankle me. We can no longer sit behind our laptop and offer up words. The time for feeling upset and spewing our emotions over FB and Twitter has passed. Now is the time for action.
These comments do not bother me so much as the fear, hatred, and ignorant based comments that I am also seeing. “Black lives are not the only lives that matter, all lives matter.” “Just another black man gone rogue.” “I will not post anything controversial today in honor of the police officers killed.” And many other similar comments that just had me shaking my head and wondering why people get so defensive. Yes, defensive. I am not suggesting that all lives are not important. All lives DO matter. I am not suggesting that one race has more value than another. What I am suggesting is that so many folks become defensive and myopic when confronted with reality and truth, simply because reality and truth can be ugly and uncomfortable and we do not wish to be a contributing part of those realities, those truths.
When I talk about equal pay for women and make the statement, “Equal rights for women in the workforce” I never hear anyone state, “Equal rights for ALL people in the workforce.” When I hear folks talk about the 16 million children in the U.S. who go to bed hungry each night I do not hear cries of, “Food for EVERYONE!” When I discuss LGBTQ equality (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning) I don’t hear shouts of “Equality for heterosexuals!” Those statements are not made because we obviously want equality and food for all. These are obvious inequalities that we recognize and understand. Why then do we become so defensive and adamant when we hear or see “Black Lives Matter?”
Black Lives Matter was not created to imply that Black Lives are more important than other lives. BLM was created because there is an imbalance in this country, and to deny that is ignorant and racist. American was founded on the principle that all people are created equal and that all people have fundamental rights – liberty, free speech, freedom of religion, due process of the law, freedom of assembly, etc. Despite its founding principles of equality, we have a long and ugly history of denying basic rights to certain groups of people. Most Americans agree that discrimination is wrong and yet when we hear of discrimination we become defensive and start claiming that ALL people deserve equality. YES they do, but until we can address the fact that many folks in this country are still treated like 2nd class citizens we will never be a country with “Liberty and Justice for all.”
For White America to believe that all people are treated equally; that the Black, Hispanic, Native American, LGBTQ, etc, communities are given the same opportunities, the same rights, the same privileges as White Americana is a simple matter of burying ones head in the sand and that only generates more division. So when I see “ALL Lives Matter,” I think, “Yes they do” and isn’t it time to prove that to those we have been discriminating against?
If you believe there is no discrimination I would ask you this… If it were possible, would you be willing to change the color of your skin for the remainder of your life? Would you be willing to grow up as Trayvon Martin, India Kager, or Philando Castile? Would you be willing to take that risk, that chance?