In the last couple of weeks two simple #BlackLivesMatter banners in front of my church were knocked down and trampled. It has happened at least twice. They’re back up again. Knock them down as often as you want, it won’t change our determination to have this message heard.
All across the country as so many Unitarian Universalist congregations are prominently displaying the #BlackLivesMatter message the banners and signs are being defaced, stolen, and knocked down. The word “Black” is cut out, painted over with the word “All”, or the banner is covered with profanity. I’m not sure when it became acceptable to vandalize church property, but this is a line which is all too easily crossed by those who cannot tolerate the most serious challenge yet to the institutional racism still alive and well at the very heart of our society.
It speaks with the loudest voice possible as to why this message is important.
Since my reblog of John Pavlovitz post on the subject last week and related comments I have made elsewhere, I’ve received a few private messages, mostly cordial – by those who still struggle with this topic and while well intentioned insist on trying to convince me that #BlackLivesMatter is itself a form of reverse racism. And frankly I don’t care how many times I have to explain this – “All Lives Matter” in the context of this discussion is meaningless at best, and at worst simply blind surrender to a permanent status quo of white privilege and power, coupled with continued violence and death for African Americans.
Being that I am a middle-class white guy who cannot in any way relate to what it is like to be black in America, I am in a poor position to speak to what #BlackLivesMatter is really about in its entirety, but I can certainly tell you what it is not . . .
#BlackLivesMatter is not a denial of the value of any other human life, it has nothing to do with this at all. “All Lives” are not the continued specific target of institutional and vigilante violence, disproportional imprisonment, and significantly lower life expectancy. Black Lives are.
#BlackLivesMatter is not a denial of the tragedy of any other loss of life. It does not in any way suggest that the lives of law enforcement officers are any less important.
#BlackLivesMatter is not “reverse racism” as someone suggested to me this past week. It demands nothing but full and complete and equal respect and value for those in our society that have suffered from a cruel and hideous history spanning a half-millennium of overt and covert servitude, crushing poverty, and unspeakable injustice at the hands of the European Americans who hold all of the power in our society. If you’re not black don’t use the phrase “reverse racism” in my presence unless you’re ready for an earful.
I’ve learned a great deal from this movement already, and I’m sure I have much more to learn. One of the most shocking revelations to me was just how much my own judgement is still colored by the bias that is a part of our culture. If you don’t believe this, take the RACE IAT test at https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/ and find out how much your attitudes are influenced by race.
The battle against racism is not over in this country, and none of us will be truly free until it is.
Scissors and spray paint are not going to change a thing.
Opening up your mind just might.