While driving to the store, I noticed a black man walking towards me alongside the road. As I often do when I see someone, I wondered what his story was. Who is he? Where he is going? What is his life like? Since he was somewhat close to the road’s edge, I worried about his safety. Suddenly the question hit me. If this guy was killed, would it matter to white culture? Sadly, I thought it wouldn’t, that he wouldn’t. Certainly not as much as if he were white. Or better yet, white and good looking. If he were rich, he would have the trifecta of important qualities. But then if he were all of those things, he probably wouldn’t be walking alongside that particular part of the road anyway.
Let’s be honest, white friends. We say we aren’t racist. We say we are all for equality. We say we aren’t part of the problem. But when we see a black man walking towards us as we sit in our parked cars, we make sure our doors are locked. While walking, if we notice a black teen approaching, we make sure our wallets are secured or our purses are held close. When we see a black woman with children waiting for the bus, we assume she had those kids for the welfare benefits. When we hear of another black victim, we have an easy answer and move on. We would never say these things. Not out loud. But deep in our bones we think it. I know because I see our Facebook posts about what we really think of black people, welfare, and poverty. We share the videos that include all the African American stereotypes. We are silent on the death of Tamir Rice. (Do you know who Tamir is? You should, particularly if you have children, had children or were a child at one time.)
When I first wrote about the racial divide on my blog, I sorted through some thoughts on the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. I didn’t mention it by name, but I wrote that all lives matter. I even used it as a hashtag. A few times since, I seriously considered going back to edit that part because I have learned more about the movement. And because annoying white people have taken #AllLivesMatter to steamroll over the BLM movement. But I have resisted the temptation to edit because the post was honest to where I was at the time and reveals some of my ignorance.
I have spent the last year listening again and learning more. I have spent time considering my own perceptions of people and how my perceptions can be unfair and even hurtful. I have had a number of conversations, attended gatherings, read accounts, and looked for ways to help. And I will continue doing so. None of this is easy work. But it is important work. Because black lives do matter. We don’t need a White Lives Matter movement masked as All Lives Matter because that sentiment undergirds nearly every aspect of our culture. We don’t need to feel threatened because we already have ample advantages.
I heard someone recently say that she couldn’t watch 12 Years A Slave because it was too difficult to watch. It was extremely difficult. And uncomfortable. And painful. Those who were birthed from slavery don’t have a choice whether they will face the difficulties of racism, hatred, or slavery’s lingering effects generations later. We white people need to do better. My faith says so. My conscience says so. My experience says so. Do black lives really matter? Hell yes they matter. Now what can we do to better show it?