I have something to say about this black lives matter business but before I do, let me quickly set this up:
When my mother died in a very tragic way, I often heard things like, “She died? Well, I’m sure glad my mother’s still alive”.
When I was going through a painful divorce, I heard things like, “He’s divorcing you? Well, I’ve been married for 36 years”.
I purposed not to let these peoples responses shake me so this is what I figured; they didn’t respond in an empathetic or sympathetic way because 1) they just couldn’t relate, 2) they felt uncomfortable. Most people don’t know how to deal with others’ grief, 3) they truly didn’t know how to help or what to say and instead of saying nothing, they say something foolish. I’ve done the same thing many times! Or maybe 4) they actually thought they were helping or saying something beneficial.
I am not saying I deserved compassion, but despite me not receiving it, I really tried to show compassion towards them. For my own sanity! I had to examine myself and think back on all of the times I “helped” in the wrong ways, said unintentionally hurtful or stupid things, wasn’t there for people because I honestly didn’t know that they needed help or how they needed help, or I helped up until it was inconvenient for me to help any further.
Me being honest with me helps me not get so ruffled about people bashing #blacklivesmatter before fully understanding some of its meaning.
If I were to paraphrase part of the #blacklivesmatter meaning, I’d say “Hey brown/black people, even though you deal with blatant and subtle proven systematic racism and racism expressed in a variety of ways, and even though everything under the umbrella of racism is telling you that you are of lesser or little value, I am saying that you are valuable. You are loved. You are capable. You are beautiful. You can get through this. Believe these things despite the racist circumstances that you have and will again encounter. Be strong, be loving, and continue standing up for your rights. Do it all knowing that your-life-does-matter.”
But that’s too long for a hashtag.
#blacklivesmatter could also mean, “Hey white-skinned people who are consciously and unconsciously racist, please open your eyes, your minds, your hearts to see we are not a stereotype or a statistic or a caricature or willing to be treated unjustly. Just like you aren’t. We are not all bad, not all good, not all thugs, not all of anything. Just like you. We are not a generalization. Just like you. Please don’t judge the majority of us by the few that are acting crazy. The majority of us won’t judge the minority of you who are acting crazy. We love you but we have to encourage ourselves right now. Encouraging ourselves doesn’t mean we devalue you. Yes, some do hate you but most of us don’t. Just as some of you hate us but most of you don’t. Please understand that racism is a real thing for us. We aren’t making this stuff up. You may not be racist yourself but racism still speaks and still, for the most part, reveals itself through people who look like you, but may currently express itself via an alternative vocabulary and mask. For years, society and media has made white “the default”, “the standard”. We see how the world is shaped – by a mostly white American male society through mainly media and marketing. American media and marketing has brainwashed even us and we are going through an “un-brainwashing” period right now. We’re American citizens and we want equality, unity, and for racism to no longer be normal in our lives and ignored or swept under the rug in any of your lives. This shouldn’t be a big deal to fight for. You would do the same. You have done the same. Picketing, marching, voting – those are all ways of standing up for your rights and justice at large. The majority of us don’t condone this being done in a dangerous or unlawful way. In fact, the majority of us, for years now, have been fighting this racist disease peacefully and creatively but it just so happens, we’re now getting more press. And mostly negative press, which again, proves our point. So just in case you don’t know or have forgotten, our lives matter just as much as yours. We love you, but we are giving ourselves the extra love we need right now. And listen, most of us really do desire to get to the point to where none of us are saying, “we”, “them”, “those people”, “our people” and part of that starts with the unity and equality we’re fighting for. We may have experienced life in America differently but that doesn’t negate that we are you, you are us, in different skin.”
But that’s too long for a hashtag.
Tearing apart this potentially empowering and encouraging phrase/movement/reminder is similar to if a couple is having a heated disagreement and one of the spouses doesn’t exactly know how to articulate what they’re feeling so says everything wrong. The other spouse, instead of looking past their words or anger, and hearing their heart, they pick apart their words and things escalate. They are thinking more about themselves and how things are being said rather than what their spouse is really trying to say. If they were being selfless at the time, they would actually assist their spouse in expressing their heart by giving them time and support – all the while, hearing them out, trying to understand where they’re coming from and asking how they can help and meaning it. This is love and unity.
Instead of hearing the hearts, the meaning, the real-life-experiences of people with more melanin who are saying #blacklivesmatter, those saying it are being devalued, once again, by many because many are offended by the originators of the term or because what they’re saying is not expressed in a way that makes everyone comfortable or because it’s not pre-approved and packaged oh-so-right. In short, it may be because you just don’t understand. And that’s okay. It’s hard for any of us to be empathetic towards what we don’t understand.
When we are having a disagreement with someone, we won’t always understand their point of view. But we should always try. We should never be dismissive of someone’s feelings or experiences. Belittling and dismissing them is like someone who’s verbally abusive. Criticizing anothers attempt to communicate their heart reveals the criticizER’s insecurity, their battle for control, their selfish, their hardened heart. It’s bullying. Why would any of us not want to help someone in pain or distress? Honestly? We are to cry when others cry, laugh when they laugh (empathy) and get angry at any injustice shown towards them (sympathy). We shouldn’t get deflective or defensive or angry to the point of making the situation worse but to the point of helping.
This topic of racism is important to most people with darker complexions. Really important. If you are white and know someone black or brown but haven’t asked how they are or asked how you can help, I challenge you to examine your heart to discover why. Why is this a “those people” issue to you? And talk to your brown/black friends (if you have any) with the intention of hearing them, really hearing them. You might learn some amazing things and at the very least, get to know them better.
Yes things are better than they used to be but they’re still not how they should be. Yes, God loves all of us. Yes all lives matter. But all lives have not been abused, belittled and hindered in a variety of blatant and secret ways for hundreds of years. It’s been going on long enough to prove and measure and create statistics. Not all lives have been consistently crying out for justice in America. But black lives have, brown lives have, red lives have. And they and we should all be defending and helping these lives. It just so happens that right now, we are in an opportune season – a time to focus on the brown/black people who are reminding each other and those who don’t know that black-lives-do-matter. I know it’s tough, I know it’s uncomfortable, I know it’s a sacrifice, I know it’s messy, but it’s a worthwhile investment into the strengthening and building up of our future as a people. One people.
This is a pivotal time in this country and we should all feel privileged to be a part of it and eager to mend breaches and mature as a whole. We should strive to truly listen, to understand, and just plain ol’ help. Doing nothing is not helping. Even if you care.
This is one of the most challenging topics America must be honest about, confront, and heal from in order to continue singing (and praying) “America The Beautiful” without hypocrisy.
Whoever you are, I love you.
Thanks for reading.
Originally posted July 13th, 2016
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