hold up! don’t just skip past this and assume everything that comes next. please. i know you’ve heard it already too many times. but this isn’t going to go away if we don’t engage.
because of the climate of our nation that is polarizing so deeply that the “other” side (which ever that may be) is immediately labeled “crazy” and people disengage from dialogue, i’ve got to start with some clarification.
WHAT I AM NOT SAYING
- i am not saying that all other lives don’t matter: i am in no way shape or form advocating for violence against ANY individual or people group. nor am i saying that other lives matter less. albeit crudely, one fellow succinctly put words to this misunderstanding by tweeting: “#BlackLivesMatter doesn’t mean other lives don’t. Like people who say “Save The Rainforests” aren’t saying ‘F**k All Other Types of Forests’”. the statement brings to the fore what is being ignored. if some individuals use that phrase as a justification for violence, it doesn’t mean we throw the baby out with the bathwater.
- i am not saying that everything associated with black lives matter is all good: it is so important to recognize that those who use this phrase are not all associated and organized together. the phrase can refer to the principle, the movement, and/or the organization. if i agree to one it doesn’t mean i agree to all. for example i can use the hashtag #prayfortrump and i could mean we need to pray for our enemies, we need to pray for a presidential candidate to make wise decisions, and/or we need to pray for him to win. if i agree to one statement it doesn’t mean i agree to all. I agree with the principle of black lives matter but I do not agree with everything that the organization stands for. if we are waiting for perfection we will not find it this side of heaven.
- i am not saying that i speak for all black people: i am not a black person. i won’t pretend that i experientially know what it’s like to walk in their shoes. yet, my fellow black brothers and sisters have challenged me to speak up. as a non-black person i am speaking to my non-black friends. i don’t think i have to convince my black friends that their lives matter. i am haunted by the words of mlk jr. when he shared “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
WHAT I’M HOPING WE CAN ACKNOWLEDGE
- unarmed black people are disproportionately killed by law enforcement. when adjusting for most recent u.s. population, in 2015 unarmed black people were nearly 4 times as likely to be killed by police than unarmed white people. i am not trying to villainize the police but rather to reveal the troubling response of us as americans, that there is something lurking in our hearts where this is considered permissible. if we find ourselves thinking “well, they must have done something to deserve it”, doesn’t this reveal a prejudice within ourselves to not give the benefit of the doubt to a person because of their race? and even if it were the case, is death the verdict deserved? is an entire race guilty until proven innocent? this is not even to focus on blacks being killed by other non-blacks while unarmed and doing normal non-criminal activities. i won’t even spend time on the effects of entrenched racism (we don’t even have to go all the way back to american slavery but can look at housing policies from the 20th century) that our fellow black human beings must endure to this day.
- black people are made in the image of God just as every other person is made in the image of God. save Christ, no one person or group has the monopoly on the reflection of his image. the body of Christ ought to reflect his image more clearly but that may not be the case these days. each part of the body is not the same but we all need each other. this does not mean that we are not also all broken with sin. but this does not take away from the dignity of human life no matter how different from our own.
- Jesus calls us to love our neighbors no matter who they are and no matter how much it will cost us. Jesus not only told us this, he modeled this…to us who treated him like an enemy. He interacted with and loved on all people – cross gender, cross culture, cross class, cross creed. He paid the ultimate cost of his life on the cross to love us. we have neighbors who are literally dying and in need of tangible love.
this is why black lives matter should matter to each of us.
HOW THEN CAN WE RESPOND? L.I.V.E.S.
- Listen: we must be quick to listen and slow to speak. especially to those with whom we are unfamiliar, where the temptation is to dismiss without understanding. let us give one another the benefit of the doubt that this person is not just plain crazy but has reasons coming from their experience. let us treat one another the way we would want to be treated.
- lnvestigate: this takes listening a step further to actually check if what is being said is true and not jump to assumptions and conclusions for which we have no evidence.
- Validate: this is so important and what i am not seeing enough of. i’m not saying you have to agree with everything a person is saying but we cannot invalidate a person’s experience (and especially not of a whole race) or the pain that they feel…especially if you are not of their race. who are we to say “no, you didn’t experience that” or “no, you didn’t feel that”? it is especially unfair for the person in a position of relative power (or associated with power) to tell the person who has experienced pain (at the hands of this power) to lay down their pain while they themselves are unapologetic of the pain inflicted.
- Engage: this is where we move from mere lip service to action. james, the half brother of Jesus, reminds us that it does no good to see a person in need and say they should be filled but do nothing to meet that need. what does this wronged brother or sister need? maybe it is to stand up for them where they are not given a voice. maybe it is to empower and encourage them to stand. maybe it is to stand with them in a difficult situation. let us ask them and respond where God has given us the grace to be able to meet that need. where we are unable, let us grieve with them and ask God for more grace and faith to hope for better.
- Speak: this should be last as it is often what we are prematurely drawn to do first. also our words have less integrity the less we have done what comes before this. but speaking is eventually what we will need to do to confess and confirm what God has put in our hearts. we must spread the word of God’s kingdom to the unengaged.
ignoring black lives matter won’t make it go away. our fellow human race is speaking. we need to listen and engage. what we can not do is ignore race and hope this all goes away.
let us remember that in the kingdom of heaven (i hope to be there one day with you) we will be worshipping the One we were made in the image of…and every nation, people, tribe, and tongue will be there.