After all this time, I don’t know why we still need to do this, but sadly we do.
It’s okay to say it, white people. You should say it. You need to say it.
This is not an outrage competition. It is not a chance for you to roll out a laundry list of the things that upset and burden you. It is about one very specific necessary reason for outrage.
It is not a tit-for-tat hashtag war where you insert any other people group in response, somehow illustrating your righteous position on equality for everyone to see.
It is not about all lives, it is about the lives of people of color in a country with a well documented history of systematic and individual discrimination against them.
It is about those with power and charged with protecting and serving all people, becoming an instrument of continued oppression of and violence toward a select group of them.
#BlackLivesMatter is a movement born out of the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin murder and the deeply embedded racism revealed in our national response, in the tilted press coverage, in the persistent victim blaming—and ultimately in the way we simply didn’t seem to give a damn, because deep down many of us are scared of young black men wearing hoodies at night too.
This far more than a hashtag.
It is not (as you often assert) an event-based response; about a single shooting, or one corrupt officer, or one unarmed murder victim. It is about a pervasive pattern of state-sanctioned institutional racism that permeates the political process, the police force, our kitchen tables, and yes our private heart space.
It is about shameful, horrible history still repeating.
So this is about Baltimore, yes but not only about Baltimore.
It is certainly about Ferguson, but about far more than just Ferguson.
It is indeed about Chicago, but it is much bigger things than merely Chicago.
Yes it’s about Michael Brown and Eric Garner and Laquan McDonald but not only about them.
It’s about the scores of people whose names did not make the news, whose murders were not recorded on bystander camera phones; those who quietly and without fanfare simply became a convenient statistic to feed our accepted national narrative of bad guys getting what they deserve and of innocent people not needing to fear the police.
This is about America and its legacy of deeply embedded racism, one we seem all too content to continue by refusing to even acknowledge where and how it lingers.
It’s speaking directly into a system that operates and has operated as if black lives matter far less. It’s purposefully and explicitly lifting up the inherent humanity of those who have been and still are being treated inhumanely.
Saying it acknowledges the blind spots we’ve inherited that prevent us from noticing our privilege, our biases, how we unknowingly devalue people of color—and the way all these things conspire to make us much more tolerant of their deaths, much more likely to rationalize them away, and much more likely to get over them quickly.
When we say #BlackLivesMatter, we don’t need to also simultaneously say #WhiteLivesMatter to somehow model moral consistency. Our nation has lived morally inconsistent and that is the very point. That white lives matter in America has never been in question a single day of our existence, so we really don’t need to say it.
We’ve never not mattered in the process.
If you’ve ever been stopped by police and not feared for your life, you’ve mattered.
If you’ve walked down a street at night and not been looked at with fear or suspicion, you’ve mattered.
If you’ve participated in our legal process and assumed you’ve gotten fair treatment, you’ve mattered.
Until this is true for all of us, we have work to do.
Five years ago our ministry launched a campaign called “All People Matter To God” and it’s what I believe. I’ve always felt called to be a pastor for all people; to treat everyone with equal dignity and compassion, but this doesn’t mean that I uplift all groups, all the time, with equal voice. There are moments in time and in our history when we need to clearly champion the rights and loudly affirm the value of people groups who are being victimized and marginalized. There are times when we need to acknowledge the privilege we’ve inherited and purposefully condemn the ways that privilege is still perpetuating injustice and nurturing violence and preventing progress.
This is such a time.
Yes, white lives matter.
Yes, police lives matter.
Yes (insert people group) lives matter.
This isn’t what this is about right now.
#BlackLivesMatter simply means, “Black lives really do matter and we haven’t always acted as if they do, and I want you to know that I’m not okay with that.”
Say it, white people.
You may even come to believe it, and our nation may come to live it.