Black Lives Matter.
I’ve heard you say it and I’ve seen you tweet it, but I wonder what it means to you.
Here’s what I hope it means:
I hope black lives matter enough for you to anger your white friends,
enough for you to interrupt your uncle’s next racist diatribe,
enough for you to mess up your holiday gatherings,
enough for you to get blocked by your high school classmate,
enough for you to confront your minister,
enough for you to turn over some tables in your white church,
enough for you to lose people you love,
enough for you to brave the eye rolls of coworkers,
enough for you to share videos you know you’ll get pushback for,
enough for you not to get invited to the neighborhood Christmas party,
enough for you to step into the minefield of family conversations you once avoided,
enough for you to risk being seen as “the angry one” by extended family,
enough for you to say something to the belligerent guy at the table next to you,
enough for you to be pushed to the ground by police,
enough for you to brave rubber bullets and tear gas,
enough for you to be threatened with violence by passersby,
enough for you to be cussed out by a stranger,
enough for you to speak when you used to stay silent,
enough for you to stay after the protests die down,
enough for your advocacy to outlast the news cycle,
enough to read books that make you uncomfortable,
enough to challenge your own assumptions,
enough to name your own prejudices,
enough for you to campaign for black candidates,
enough for you to vote differently,
enough for you to get off the fence of ambiguity and into the fray of clarity.
If black lives don’t matter that much to you—well, they don’t matter that much to you. They were merely a temporary emotional intoxicant that you injected for a few days to give you the momentary high of low-cost moral superiority and cheap compassion.
If black lives don’t merit your sustained attention and your relentless advocacy and a sacrificial solidarity that causes you pain or relationships or opportunities, you’re probably not that invested yet.
But if black lives are worth what you claim they’re worth, if they’re more than a slogan, they’ll be worth your inconvenience and discomfort, and a severing of some ties that need to be severed in order for you to speak unflinching truth in places it may have been excluded from.
After the events of these days give way to the next urgent moment, the next Constitutional crisis, the next noble cause asking for your temporary bandwidth—black lives will still be here and systemic racism and police brutality and white silence, and everything you’re seeing right now will still be happening—unless you stay in the game and put some skin in it.
After you’ve posted a black square on your social media page and tweeted out a meme or attended an event or ordered a t-shirt, how much do black lives really matter to you?
They should matter enough that in standing with them, you lose something.
That’s how much black lives matter.