All lives (don’t) matter

Sep 25, 2015 by

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Some political slogans have a long shelf life, but some sink from their own dead weight.

There is probably nothing more obvious from the headlines of the news virtually every day — 50 years ago, tomorrow, next week and next year — than that all lives don’t matter.

Maybe in some naïve, delusional state we might imagine, for a brief shining moment, that all lives equally matter. But after a few seconds of thought, we all know better.

And we all know that all lives should matter.

Each human being should have the same opportunity, the same access to justice and safety, the same respect and range of personal and career choices, the same rights under the law.

But we all know how far we are from such a dream.

And we all know that we should be living in that world.

All you have to do is look at any day’s headlines to see an ever-expanding list of people who don’t matter: refugees, immigrants, Palestinians, felons, addicts, our own local homeless, the unemployed and far too many others.

You have to wonder why we are so eager to define, categorize and dismiss so many groups, nationalities and ethnicities.

We love to distance ourselves from “those people.”

We give them names before we cast them aside — gook, wetback, queer, raghead or a hundred more.

We’ll call them anything except fellow human beings.

The first commandment to people of color in a white dominant society is, “Be like us.” If they cannot, or refuse to, they will forever be relegated to the margins of society.

They will fill our slums and our prisons. They will populate our urban legends and deepest fears.

The slogan, “black lives matter” emerged precisely because of this set of black stereotypes that dominate our laws, policies, urban design philosophies and school systems.

Black lives matter resonates because of the way black lives (and bodies and voices) have been over-represented (and under-respected) in political and professional circles, news headlines and incarceration statistics.

Any racial or ethnic slur will be welcome if it helps us see them as anything other than individuals created in the image of the living God.

Or even as an individual welcome in our neighborhoods, our social circles or our homes.

What have we become, when for so many of us, for so long, our highest priority has been to dehumanize those not like ourselves?

Our laws and policies, to a large degree, are based on our fears, especially regarding personal safety.

White society doesn’t like to publicly acknowledge this very often, but we love the idea that we can cordon off and permanently label those who we believe threaten us.

You can call it white identity politics, white privilege or even white supremacy. You can even refuse to acknowledge it at all.

But the reality is that nothing terrifies us more than God’s view — not so much that “all lives matter,” but that each life matters — infinitely more than we can know.

Morf Morford writes for an ESL blog and the Burnside Writers Collective. This blog post is provided thanks to our partnership with Red Letter Christians

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