Black Lives Matter, because black lives matter…because black lives matter…because black lives matter.
I am a white woman, and I have two little girls whose skin does not match mine. Their father is black, and my girls are beautifully bi-racial. If you didn’t know I was their biological mother, you’d see them as two curly-haired, brown-eyed black girls, and not notice the particular markers I added to their makeup from my white-skinned self.
Since you’re reading this on the internet, I’m going to start with the assumption that you’ve heard the saying, “Black Lives Matter.” It’s more than a saying, it’s a movement really. You’re probably also familiar with the terms “Blue Lives Matter” and “All Lives Matter.”
But, I don’t want to get off-track before we actually get started. To be clear, I’m not here to talk about the Black Lives Matter movement.
What I want to talk about is an observation I’ve made watching people react to the statement, “Black Lives Matter.” After Trayvon Martin was killed in 2012, groups of people began chanting these words. It wasn’t long before you could drive down the road and spot signs with this phrase written across the front. Shortly after that, Mike Brown died on a street in Ferguson, just one town over from where I lived. Soon, “Black Lives Matter,” could be heard from just about every corner of my neighborhood.
I began to take note of my internal reaction to these words becoming a rally cry in my community. My first reaction: “well, YEAH, black lives matter.” And since I’m aiming for full disclosure here, I also began to think, “but really, don’t ALL lives matter?” That’s hard to admit, but it’s true. It was like I was selfishly worried that if people spoke the words, “black lives matter,” that I would somehow be excluded from the “mattering” because of my white skin. My desire to respond with “All Lives Matter,” was in part due to the instinctual reaction I was having to the mostly unfamiliar feeling of marginalization.
I wanted to keep mattering. (I wonder if that’s a basic tenet of humanity; the idea that we all matter and want to matter?)
It turns out I’m not the only white person who had these reactions. As I saw my internal reactions verbalized by other white people, I started to realize what my reaction was doing: Minimizing.
People of Color (POC) were responding to direct stimuli that told them they didn’t matter. But, it wasn’t only the direct stimuli—POC have lived through generations of compound messages telling them they didn’t matter. We live in a country where school children are taught to quote famous speeches about all men being created equal, about having a dream…and yet entire people groups were being forced to live in a space of cognitive dissonance; hearing that they are equal, and yet, being treated as different. Some people chose to respond to this dissonance with the rally cry, “Black Lives Matter.” And it caught on.
As time marched on, I started to see something else pop up around my newsfeeds: The “Dear White People” posts.
I’ve seen post after post where a white person is trying to explain to other white people why black lives matter. Typically, the writer is a white person who has adopted, or birthed, a child of color. Their posts say something like this, “Guys, seriously, I’ve seen racism firsthand now because my kid has experienced it, and it’s not ok for the future to look like this. We white people have to pay attention, because black lives matter, because my kid’s life matters.”
It seems totally well-intentioned. I’m a white mother of children of color, and I’d be lying to you if I said that I don’t worry about their future and the marginalization they may face. I’m worried about the bias they will have to overcome. I think my kids’ lives matter, and I’ve been tempted to speak to the masses in much the same way.
Admittedly we seem to be a culture that has a hard time looking past race and labels. We want to be able to categorize ourselves, and others. I’m not suggesting we stop seeing color. I’m not suggesting that we say all people are exactly the same. I am suggesting that we work towards being better at respecting the humanity of all people in our midst.
I can’t deny the fact that I truly believe our identity and value are rooted in something much more important that the color of our skin. I believe in my core that WHO you are as a person matters much more than appearance. And, I believe in loving and caring for my neighbor.
When we say, “Black Lives Matter,” are we saying that other people groups don’t matter? I don’t think that’s the case. Do we truly believe that all people are created equal? Do we live in a country that still believes it’s ok to have a dream? Do we think we can further a society that can respect the humanity of each of its members?
Black lives don’t matter because I have black children.
Black Lives Matter.
That’s it. No qualifications.
Want to say it with me? Black Lives Matter, because black lives matter…because black lives matter…because black lives matter.
This post reflects the views of the author, and is intended to start a conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
Or, if you’d like to hear some overall thoughts on racism from Christians at THRED, you can find those over here.