All lives DON’T matter — and that’s the problem

Feb 12, 2016 by

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As a white person, I’ll tell you something: I feel threatened by the Black Lives Matter movement.

There was a time, briefly, when I would have been one of those people who, if I saw the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, I would have muttered inside, “All lives matter.” Oh…wait…I still am that way. And that doesn’t make me very happy. That muttering little, snide, grumpy voice whispers in my head and I find myself not really liking it very much.

Why? Because I’ve come to realize the lie that it is. Through social media, I have found several friends out there who have a much more personal stake in the Black Lives Matter movement than I do. For them, when stories of Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland and others (and boy, do I feel guilty for not remembering more names than just those two) are told, it’s not just some new story that can be set aside — it’s a reality. For them, the statistical likelihood is that they have a higher possibility of being the next dead black person than I have of being a dead white person at the hands of police. The question “Am I next?” is very real for them.

Basically, when it comes down to it, it is very obvious in society that, when a black person is killed by the police, then it’s a matter of “Well, if they would just obey the law in the first place” or “They obviously shouldn’t have been doing that” or “Well, he did have a criminal record, after all.” Meanwhile, a white mass murderer in the Carolinas kills a black congregation gathered to pray and, rather than going in guns ablazin’ after this potentially armed-and-dangerous criminal, he gets a gentle walk out of his home. Do all lives matter? I’m not so sure. It seems that black lives matter less than the white ones. They seem to be so much more easily thrown away.

I know this, not because I myself have experienced it, but because I’ve taken it upon myself to listen more to people not like me. I don’t necessarily agree with all that I hear, but I’m listening. And in that listening I hear my black brothers and sisters telling me stories about how they feel that, as “post-racial” our society claims to be, it’s obvious that their lives matter less than mine in society as a whole. If you think about it, it makes sense to do this kind of listening. When it comes to someone being oppressed and someone being an oppressor, who would be the person who could be most trusted to express and explain what it feels like to be oppressed?… That’s right… now you’re getting it.

So, no, all lives DON’T matter. Oh, they should… certainly, they should. Especially as a Christian who follows the law of love, they should. As someone who follows the man who told the story of a racial conflict where one person who is hated by (and returns that hatred) another person’s people group, when presented with such a person in a dire situation, instead of just walking on, stopped and helped him up. All lives SHOULD matter. Jesus, I’m pretty sure, taught that. Even our enemy. Their lives should matter as well.

But the point of #BlackLivesMatter is not to say that other lives don’t, but to stand up and say, proudly, that in a society where it is obvious that black lives don’t matter as much as white, that black lives do indeed matter — that is a very important statement to make. Until society itself reflects this truth, we cannot say, honestly, that all lives matter. That is not truth.

So, for now, I suppress that grumpy little voice down deep. The Jesus who is in me does not accept this false statement. The Jesus who is in me declares that, counter to what society seems to demonstrate, #BlackLivesMatter. As someone committed to the good news that all people are loved, all people matter, all people are important, all people are images of their divine creator, I say: Black lives matter.

Robert Martin blogs thoughts, reflections and stories regarding theology and the Christian walk at The Abnormal Anabaptist, where a version of this post originally appeared.


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