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Why We Say “Black Lives Matter”

Another day, another person dead from a police bullet. Another night of unrest as anger spills out into the streets. Another heated round of angry statements from all sides shouting past each other. Another opportunity missed to speak words of healing, love, and respect.

We say “Black Lives Matter” because it is not at all obvious that our nation believes this. It seems obvious enough that “All Lives Matter”, but when you focus on those of us who are darker life seems much more disposable, much easier to kick to the curb and forget.

When we say Black Lives Matter we say it not as a direct challenge in opposition to the officers in uniform or to white people. We say it as a challenge to the systems that produce far too much death far too easily, and as with everything bad in our nation that death falls heavily, horrifically on black people. That is why we have to keep saying it until it is true – Black Lives Matter.

The national problem is a simple one – police kill a large number of people all the time. So far this year, there have been 844 people, and it is only September. Some of these were justified, certainly, but the number is unbelievable. No other nation has a tally even remotely as high.  Many large and developed nations go for years without a killing by police.

According to the Washington Post, about a quarter of those killed by police were black – though they are only 13% of the population.

There is no doubt that police also shoot white people, and many of those killings are under circumstances that are hard to explain. An unarmed deaf man, Daniel Harris, was killed last month largely because he didn’t understand the instructions shouted at him. He was white, but that didn’t save him. Did the Trooper have training for this situation? If not, why not?

That takes us to the core of the problem. Police are very quick to shoot, very quick to place a lethal shot, for a lot of reasons. When these events happen we always call for justice, a core value of any free people. But what is “justice” when Philandro Castille and Daniel Harris and Terrence Crutcher and now Kieth Scott are dead? What legal process could possibly bring them back?

The only sense of “justice” we might have is if we make this stop.

In most of these police shootings, even those which could be justified, there was a problem in the system. Either the wrong officer was hired, they weren’t trained properly, they were over-worked, they were under-paid, they did not get the support they need to do their job, or they did not get the support they need personally to deal with burnout and PTSD.

Our system does not hold our police to the highest possible standards and, critically, give them what they need to perform at these high standards.

Far too often, in a troubled community, the only contact with the city services comes with sirens and disco lights blaring. That is systemic problem number one. Our police are called on to be the primary caregivers for the souls of our neighborhoods. How many have the training to do this? How many have the support they need? How many have the personality to be a therapist and pastor and community organizer at the same time they are the armed enforcer of the law?

There is no doubt that our nation is awash in guns. There is no doubt that there is more trouble in communities which are struggling just to get by on a daily basis. There is no doubt that people who are raised in a violent world are more ready to use violence to try to solve whatever problem is in front of them.

This isn’t a matter of a cop here or there. This is about core problems we are too ashamed and cowardly to deal with openly and honestly. This is the United States, and the issues which we mentally shut down on the quickest always have the color of skin somehow imprinted on them. We can’t go there, we can’t admit that racism still defines far too much of who we are as a people.

That is why we say Black Lives Matter. We have to. We must confront this.

Like so many issues which define America today, this also breaks down by generation. Where only 11% of the population backs the statement “Black Lives Matter”, a solid majority of Millenials do – even among whites. There is hope for us even as the violence flares around us.

Sadly, the violent responses like we have seen in Charlotte are what may truly make a difference. As a punk kid in Miami, I remember the riot in May 1980 when the city burned for three days when the cops who killed Arthur McDuffie walked away free. I remember many adults in my lily-white suburban world saying that they understood. “Maybe now there will be changes around here, maybe this will get some people’s attention.” It was that bad, it was that obvious.

After the riots there were changes. Miami, that crucible of the world coming together, has gotten past the worst of racial hatred. It worked.

In the meantime, we have to keep saying Black Lives Matter for one simple reason – it is not in any way obvious that it is true. We don’t say that because we hate police, we say that because we hate what police have been thrown into without any care for what might happen. We don’t say that because white lives don’t matter, we say that because it is high time that white people understand that when the police are out of control we all have reason to fear.

We don’t say that because we want to divide, we say that because we all have to get past the fear which divides and find the love, decency, and respect that unites.

There is a problem in America. Like all of our problems, the burden falls most heavily on blacks and other minorities, but is a burden for us all. We have to say it loud and clear until we do get past the racial divide that stands in the way of genuine action to improve the lives of everyone in need. We have to say it loud and clear so that we all understand. We have to say it loud and clear so that our police have what it takes to be what we need them to be.

Black Lives Matter. We have to say it until it is true.

From the recent Black Lives Matter protest in Minneapolis. The two were identified as a Disciples of Christ Pastor and a Presbyterian Minister. The get this.

From the recent Black Lives Matter protest in Minneapolis. The two were identified as a Disciples of Christ Pastor and a Presbyterian Minister. The get this.

13 thoughts on “Why We Say “Black Lives Matter”

  1. I’m currently reading, “I’m Judging You” by Luvvie Ajayi – she covers a variety of topics, which, so far, I see as humorist work to highlight the very ingrained cultural standards AND systems in place that make such madness, possible, even accepted – – I get tired of people saying, “Well, what can you do? That’s how it is?” or “I don’t have time to read/research like you do – ” Like I sit around eating bon-bons, and reading instead of watching soap operas – –

    Learning about the complex and sometimes deeply entrenched issues in our society as well as our increasingly complex systems (where folks within the broken systems drop the ball, big or small, all the time….) does take time – it takes dedication and willingness to try and learn and discern – it takes having uncomfortable conversations, and hanging in there when you inadvertently say something stupid that is a HUGE trigger point for someone else, but you just didn’t know it, cuz you don’t watch the news, and, You didn’t realize the current definition of a term has changed and/or is laced with ‘entrenched problem” –

    🙂 Kudos for posting – and, going to share a short passage from the aforementioned book, that, I wonder, how many have chosen to be in a group and do this exercise? and if they have opportunity to try/do, choose not to, why? Because they think nonsense? OR because the truth of the matter will make them feel overwhelmed, scared and powerless –

    Quote from, page 85, chapter on racism –

    (from time when author was in college and did time in counseling center – training day….)

    “Our group of twenty was incredibly diverse (in color, religious beliefs, class, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc.)

    “To begin the exercise, we all stood in a straight horizontal line across the room. When our facilitator made a certain statement, folks either took a step back, took a step forward, or stayed in place. Example: “Take a step forward if you’ve never had to worry about where your next meal would come from.” “Take a step back if your hame has ever been pronounced incorrectly.” …. (sic: after 30 statements…)

    “…we were told to pause, look around and see where we were. By then, everyone was standing in different places, and we had to observe whether there was a pattern in who was in front of or behind us.

    “You learn a lot about the people in that room with you, and you might even find someone you’d never expect standing behind you!”

    It takes many voices, and those willing to point out the emperor has no clothes on to effect change – and don’t even get me started on those who love to blast you with “Think Positive, Happy Thoughts and the problems will just disappear” missives, when I dared to say, “Um…ya know? I see a problem with my skills, me, the systems I am part of or choose to support, or…..”

    First step in solving a problem is recognizing there is one – and, oh, how well you articulate the ‘problem’ – 🙂 Thanks!

  2. OMG!! I just typed “did time in” – when what it should read, “worked as a paraprofessional in the counseling center” – see? and not even culturally embedded – me own lil perspective – I do time learning this, exploring that, working at such and such, connecting with these people to learn/understand more – to me? I ‘do time’ anytime an item is put on my “You Know? I think this is a problem, and making it a priority to learn more and find out what I can do in my daily life to help improve it, as I can – ” – cuz I’m too workaholic/broke to travel to rallies/protests, so I must find ways to not support that which I think detrimental AND support that which will serve others than just moi/mine –

    To me? It’s all ‘doin time’, cuz, really, that’s what my life has to give – 🙂

  3. Yes, Black Lives Matter, and yet, blacks are essentially being exterminated through abortion. Why don’t those black lives matter? Upwards of 60% of black babies are murdered through abortion in major cities, but there’s no uproar. There’s no looting, arson, and violence taking place in response to that genocide, not that I would want violence to be the answer. Civil disobedience is not violence. It is radical non-violence.

    All black lives matter, event the most vulnerable. It’s unfortunate that I am supposed to jump on the Black Lives Matter bandwagon while I watch blacks be systematically murdered through abortion. I am all about ending violence against blacks and violence against everyone, but I am still waiting for black unborn babies to matter. When that day comes, I will truly believe that people understand that all black lives matter, and that all lives matter. For now, I will continue to fight against the genocide taking place against blacks and other minorities in our abortion mills.

    It’s very difficult to support a position that overlooks the most vulnerable among us and one that has chosen violence as a solution. Martin Luther King Jr. and Ghandi were powerful witnesses because they did not give in to the human inclination to engage in acts of depravity. Violence begets violence, which is on full display in our nation’s streets. Meanwhile the greatest human rights violation against blacks is occurring in our abortion mills. Margaret Sanger would be proud.

    • Black lives matter is a non-violent movement. The media has been misreporting information. The riots that have occurred were not started by Black Lives Matter. Riots and violence often occurs at protests in spite of peaceful protests by a movement because anyone can come to a protest and it only takes a few people to start a fight. Also, Martin Luther King was accused for inciting violence and during his time, he was shamed as Black Lives Matter is today. There was a lot of misinformation during his time. This is a what activists deal with. I wrote a blog a few weeks ago about MLK and how people don’t fully understand him and his message and how BLM in many ways in more inclusive and globally minded. Blog is below. https://jholmes90blog.wordpress.com/2016/09/20/the-canonizing-of-king-what-opponents-of-black-lives-matter-get-wrong-about-martin-luther-king-and-the-civil-rights-movement/

      In terms of abortion, that is an issue that often relates to poverty, inequality and lack of opportunities. Black Lives Matter’s platform includes addressing issues of poverty and lack of resources. I would love to have fewer abortions but the way to deal with abortion is to look at the root causes of why people get abortion, much of it has to do with poverty. I’d recommend reading the actual platform and policy proposals of black lives matter to understand them better. http://blacklivesmatter.com/

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  5. Thanks for this post and for simply breaking down why we must say and affirm “Black Lives Matter.” When we say Black Lives Matter, it isn’t black lives matter only, but black lives matter TOO. We have to keep saying it because all lives don’t matter. Black lives are devalued in many aspects of our society including but not limited to policing.

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