As I’ve told you before, there are times when I’ll get a little burst of creative energy here on this blog and will write a few posts ahead. The post originally scheduled to run today was one of those posts. It’ll run some other time.
After the series of events this week that culminated with the murder of five Dallas police officers and the attempted murder of several others, this post needed to take spot.
Why would a white guy even attempt a discussion about Black Lives Matter?
It’s a valid question. And the answer is simple, really.
It’s because common sense is color blind.
You see, I’ve reached the point of exhaustion from covering story after story about race relations only to see the same ridiculous, pointless responses that continue to pepper what might otherwise be a more effective discussion.
I’ve reached the point of frustration with these same old scenarios playing out over and over again without either side making any progress because of semantics.
I’ve reached the point of realization that a blog with the slogan, “Regular doses of common sense” needs to pass along a few pieces of it on this particular topic.
It was about a year ago that I had the chance to meet the Rev. Jesse Jackson in person. He was in the Charleston area in the aftermath of the Mother Emanuel Church shooting and the effort to take down the Confederate flag from the state house grounds in Columbia. And he spent a few moments with several of us at work one afternoon to talk about the fight for civil rights and how much things had and had not changed during his lifetime.
And he talked about the movement called Black Lives Matter.
You’ve certainly heard the name. Depending on the color of your skin, its meaning, however, may vary wildly.
He addressed that gap in understanding, and I’ll explain how he did in a moment. But before that, I’m going to give my own illustration of the problem.
Some of my readers happen to be fairly religious. A good many of those might refer to themselves as Christian. And a handful of those regular readers who are religious enough to label themselves as Christian might be the type of Christian who walks around with a conditioned predisposition to label anything that shows a desire to remove from public policy things that are specifically Christian-oriented as “persecution.”
(Personally, I see Christian persecution as the kind of scenario in which a pastor I once met teaches the gospel in the Middle East despite the fact that getting caught doing so could mean his immediate execution. That, friends, is persecution. Being told that a prayer before a public council meeting will be replaced by a moment of silence so people who wish to pray can and people who do not won’t have to, on the other hand, is not.)
But let’s say that you’re the type of person who resents such actions. You genuinely believe your concerns as a Christian are being pushed aside.
“Christian values are important,” you say in protest.
“Everyone’s values are important,” an atheist says in response.
Let’s stop for a moment. Let’s take a deep breath.
Now, let’s be absolutely honest here.
If you’re that Christian who just stood up for your values and you’re met with an answer that everyone’s values are important, what are you really being told?
Whether you want to admit it or not, whether the atheist meant to imply it or not, what you’re hearing is that your values aren’t important to the other person.
Sure, you might argue that the literal meaning of “everyone” in “everyone’s values are important” is that everyone is equal.
But there’s some part of your flawed, human, mortal little brain that won’t see it entirely that way. There’s that tiny sliver of neurons that will process it as a slight.
A slight against you.
That takes us back to the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
During his time with us, he pointed out a “missing word” in the slogan. What it’s saying, he told us, is “black lives matter…too.”
“Black lives matter” doesn’t mean white lives, hispanic lives, asian lives, gay lives, or even police lives don’t matter.
The point of “Black lives matter” is that its creators have come to believe by what they’ve seen in their lifetimes that all those other lives, in this society, already matter. And all of those other lives happen to matter more.
What they see from their perspective, is that black lives seem to be the only ones people believe don’t matter…or at least don’t matter as much.
You can argue whether that’s true for the rest of your life. If you really want to, have at it.
But arguing with someone who feels their lives are of less regard to society as a whole because of the color of their skin does nothing to change their mind or yours.
Of course all lives matter. Of course every person has value.
The phrase “Black lives matter” doesn’t dispute that. It’s time we all dispense with the semantics here.
It means “black lives matter, too.”
Responding with “all lives matter” is like saying, “Everyone’s already treated equally.”
We have come a long way in the struggle for equality. But we aren’t there yet.
If you truly believe everyone is treated equally, you haven’t been paying attention.
The right answer when someone says, “Black lives matter” is not, “All lives matter.”
The right answer is, “Yes they do.”