My son is more like me than I ever imagined another human being could be. We both love tacos, pulpy orange juice, pistachios, super heroes, and sports.We both have the gift (?) of sarcasm. Once when I picked him up from daycare, when he was three or so, the owner told me she had no doubt whose child he was. On Sundays we dress alike. He even crosses one leg over the other when he reads, just like I do.
There is one difference between us. As he puts it, his skin is dark and mine is light. This isn’t a new discovery for him, but it has been something he’s talked more about lately. And when we talk about it we talk about how much we are alike, and how beautiful his skin is, and how this difference is something that is wonderful.
Yet, almost every day I am reminded that some people in our world don’t see these different hues we share to be wonderful. Friends, we absolutely have a racism problem in America, and this is a problem that keeps me awake at night. Someday (too soon!) my child with dark skin will drive off in a car, without me, and to be honest, that terrifies me.
Please hear me: I am not saying all police officers are bad. They aren’t. I would be willing to wager that the vast majority are wonderful human beings who have given their lives to protect and serve our communities. They deserve our appreciation and respect. I believe that is a fact, and the officers I know personally are these kinds of people. And what happened in Dallas was an evil act of violence carried out by an ill person, and it should be condemned in the strongest of terms.
All violence is evil. Every violent act is wrong.
All deaths should be grieved.
But we cannot deny that some of those who wear badges aren’t seeking to protect and serve everyone in their community. Some use their position of power to dominate, humiliate, and in the worst cases, commit murder under the guise of law and order. That, too, is a fact. To demonize all police officers would be wrong, of course, and I don’t hear that happening by and large. It would also be wrong to ignore the reality that some, a minority, are using their position and authority to enact their biases. This isn’t just true of police; people in all kinds of authority positions abuse their power: clergy, business, you name it. And the “bad apples” cannot be allowed to spoil the bunch.
Which brings me to the phrase, and the movement, Black Lives Matter. Many white people I’ve talked to take exception to this phrase. “All lives matter,” they say. Here’s the thing, all human life is sacred. All human life has inestimable value and worth. Regardless of skin color, nationality, sexual orientation, political affiliation–any of the boundaries or labels we create–every human being is made in the image of God, and deserves dignity and respect. That’s true. Yet, I believe we must affirm and proclaim that Black lives matter.
I have a friend who has two daughters. He loves them both deeply. He’s a good dad. However, when one of his two daughters was diagnosed with an illness that was considered critical, this daughter received the focus in a different way. She was sick and needed to receive treatment, and he would have moved heaven and earth (and did) to make sure she was ok. Did the other daughter cease to matter? Of course not! But in that moment, the daughter who was in danger had to become the focal point. Can you imagine asking him, “You’re taking off work to spend time with this daughter but not that one. Doesn’t she matter, too?” See?
When Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor, the meek, the persecuted,” we don’t stand up and protest, “But what about the rich, the powerful, and the non-persecuted?” Why? Because we get what Jesus is doing. He is announcing Good News to people who have been marginalized, excluded, and devalued by the system.
This is why we must insist that Black lives matter. Because there are those who don’t yet know that it’s true. Because a parent should not have to worry that their child will become a victim because of the color of their skin. Because racism is evil, and against the very essence of the Kingdom of God.
And we must keep saying it because right here in the USA, not too long ago, black bodies were bought and sold, refused human dignity, and banned from water fountains and lunch counters.
To say “All lives matter” isn’t even true. Until we all know that Black lives matter, all lives really don’t.