In thanksgiving for the life and work of Julian Bond, who tired of hearing “If only they were all like you.” It reminds me of often hearing from those opposed to LGBT ordination, “But we would ordain you!”
“Black lives matter” is not just wisdom for protesting “issues” of law enforcement. It should be a mantra for all of life.
Black lives matter when there is equal access to prenatal and postnatal care, preschool, decent housing and nutrition, education, healthcare, employment, promotions, advancement, economic opportunities, voting rights, justice in the courts, representation on school boards, law enforcement agencies, city councils, state legislatures, congress, corporate boards, and executive positions in business and government—to name some of the things routinely denied.
Black lives matter when the disproportionate detention and incarceration rate of African-Americans on mere suspicion, manufactured evidence, mandatory minimum sentencing, or low-level drug offenses is reduced dramatically or eliminated altogether.
A pet peeve of mine has been to see black people cast in incidental roles in movies and TV programs (how many black judges can there be?) rather than seeing their characters integrally woven into an ensemble cast, though this has been changing in recent years.
I once worked with a progressive but all-white group who would have agreed that all of the above are examples of institutional racism, and whose members said they wanted to do something about it. But a colleague who had worked with the group far longer than I told me privately, “They all want to address the issue of racism politically, but few, if any, actually have black friends.”
The person observed that institutional racism will only be dismantled as we take racism personally, when black lives matter in our own friendships, families, congregations, work places, working relationships, and social networks.
A white police officer testifying in the O.J. Simpson trial was asked if he was a racist, and he said “no.” I was astounded. I don’t know how any white person in the United States can say they have avoided being taught prejudice to some degree. And we all benefit from white privilege, just as our white ancestors (and not just slaveholders) benefited from black slavery.
I believe our society survives partly because it is graced with the fortitude and forgiveness and sometimes generational forgetfulness of the minorities it has wronged. And most amazing to me are the descendants of slaves who were “owned,” brutalized, raped, and lynched. How can they stand our uppity white domination? How can they stand the undue influence of angry and mean folk trying to undo what progress has been made in redressing past sins?
Those who forgave the deadly, racist shooter in the Charleston church were as Christ to me. Their grace exposed the racism of those who held onto the confederate flag as a way of life. Their grace transformed parts of the country that seemed irredeemable.
Black lives matter.
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