What does a family, a community, a city, a country, or a world look like when All Lives Matter?
I live in the Dallas-Ft Worth Metroplex. And as most everyone knows, we had a recent shooting where five police officers were shot and killed while working a peaceful Black Lives Matter Movement event in downtown Dallas, Texas.
The first time I saw the “Black Lives Matter” meme, it was in a Facebook post the summer of 2014. There wasn’t any added comment or explanation of the post. At the time, I didn’t realize it was a movement. I thought it was a new creative meme.
When I saw the post, it immediately brought to mind a conversation that I had had the previous day with my son’s godfather. I am someone who is very aware of synchronicity and divine intervention. I am in awe when these occurrences happen in my life, as if I am being divinely guided by some spiritual being. It actually happens quite often but that is a post for another time.
I commented on the Black Lives Matter post.
I explained how I had just had a conversation with my son’s godfather, who was very depressed after losing his partner, Jose of eighteen years. He had even contemplated suicide. After he and I talked, I got ready to leave and walked to my car. I started my car and was about to leave when this overwhelming thought came into my mind. I thought about the time my high school friend, Mark, committed suicide a couple years after graduating and how I was the last friend to see him alive, dropping him off at his home the previous day and him saying things to me like, “nice knowing you,” and how I didn’t take him serious. I’ve had many regrets about that over the years. Could I have said something that would have mattered?
So, I got out of my car, walked over to my son’s godfather, who was standing in front of the house, stood directly in front of him, made clear eye contact and said, “Your.Life.Matters.”
We were both brought to tears and it was an emotional moment. I had to be sure this time I made it perfectly clear. Sometimes we just don’t get a second chance.
Well, the response or reply I got back from this page was not a favorable one. She did acknowledge that it was great how I was there to help my son’s godfather through his time of need but accused me of combating the “Black Lives Matter” with the “All Lives Matter” antidote, which was a statement that was included in my comment.
At first, I was hurt and offended. I was unaware of the movement. I was sharing a moment. I felt God had given me this sign or affirmation of what had happened the previous day. This person didn’t know me personally. She made a quick assumption and most likely assumed something about me, based on my Facebook profile picture. And my first thought was to respond harshly and tell her just that. But I waited. I cooled down. And I began to do some research. Lord knows, my mixed family has had our own experiences with discrimination.
I had to ask myself, “What was my true intent? Was it to combat this post from the Black Lives Matter to the All Lives Matters?” My answer was clear. No.
So I explained exactly that to her. I apologized to her and told her that my intent was not to downplay the importance of “Black Lives”. I shared with her a recent post that I had written in response to the current events and told her that I understand the hypocrisy in America.
As a child, one of the quotes that I heard often was, “Actions speak louder than words.” The truth is we can say “All Lives Matter” in response to the “Black Lives Matter” but our American history tells us that just simply is not or has not been so. It is a thought; it is a spiritual truth and principle. But is not an action that we actively participate to create.
Let me explain the problem with the duality of these two movements.
When I gave birth to my first born son, Jaren, many of my family members were upset with me. They had racist ideas and prejudice feelings towards my newly formed mixed-race family. Some overcame their racism, some learned how to mask them in my presence and some refused to acknowledge me or my son. We had been cutoff and were not welcome. My step father, who came into my life when I was five years old and became my primary father figure while my biological father was in prison, took the longest to overcome his narrow-mindedness. He disowned me and my newborn baby. He did not accept his grandson, Jaren, until twelve years later.
We came face to face one time with my step father at the local custard stand back home, where he and my mother were sitting in the car. My sister talked me into walking over to the car in hopes he would finally get to meet Jaren, who was two years old at the time. My sister hoped our father would miraculously overcome his bigotry. He didn’t. He refused to look at or speak to me or my son.
Now during that time, I knew that my son’s life mattered. And I am sure I made the statement a time to two to my mother and siblings. I could have, maybe even should have said, “Jaren’s life matters,” to my father that day. And he could have responded, “All my grandchildren’s lives matter.” And while both statements are true, it still does not resolve the issue that one is being discriminated against and excluded solely based on his race and skin color while the others are not. The issue is being ignored.
On top of that, my family could have said this is not right. Karen and Jaren are family. They could have voiced their opinion and acknowledged the wrongful acts. But they did not. My older brother, sister and their spouses were the only ones to at least acknowledge to me that they didn’t feel it was right for the way I was being treated. However, they would not voice their opinion or outraged to our father. Why? Did they fear he would exclude them from his graces too for speaking up? Or did they believe deep within that it was okay for me and my son to be treated that way?
“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” ~ Dr Martin Luther King
After the Dallas Police shooting, our church hosted “A Call to Action.” I quickly began to see “Blue Lives Matter” social media memes along with front yard signs with this same campaign slogan supporting police officers. And while I know it was criminally and morally wrong for someone to shoot those police officers, it seemed to me that those who did not want to acknowledge the Black Lives Matter movement could now protest with their Blue Lives Matter movement, just like the All Lives Matter movement was attempting to do.
On the other hand, sadly, when nine church members were shot and killed sitting in their church, where was the outraged? Where were the protests? Where was the Call to Action? How many shared a Twitter or Facebook post of sadness or support of the innocent lives that were taken that day? I can tell you that my church was pretty silent on the issue. There surely wasn’t any Christian Lives Matter movement, hash-tags or memes floating around social media. And why? Because they were nine Black Christians? If a gunman, especially a black gunman walked into a white church and killed nine white church members, there would be an outcry and outrage. No doubt in my mind.
I’m not sure I understand how some can dislike the Black Lives Matter movement because it sounds like it excludes All Lives (Black Lives Matter has never, ever insinuated that other lives don’t. ), but then support or hash-tag Blue Lives Matter which also happens to be a select group. I’ve even recently seen All Dogs Matter. But the actual movement was created by and for Black Lives. To use it for ones own agenda is a form of plagiarism and appropriation.
A few months back, Jaren and his friend had a very real experience and encounter with police. He and his friend were stopped and questioned for “suspicious behavior”. It was late, after mid-night. They had been walking around catching Pokémon and were on their way back home, walking through a church parking lot when two police cars surrounded and cornered them. Two white police officers got out of one of the cars. One officer had a rifle in his hand with his finger on the trigger.
What is so suspicious about two grown kids (18 year olds) walking around that police felt they needed to be armed and ready to shoot? And they needed two cars? Does my son look that scary or like a criminal?
Jaren said one officer was calm and cooperative. He had heard about the Pokémon Go game. However, he said the other officer, the one with the rifle in hand, was stone-faced. This encounter shook up my son and he admitted he was scared. I’ve encountered the police several times while in high school. Two times, I was taken to the police station because drugs were found in the car. Not once, even when the car was full of white teenage and young adult males and females, did they ever pull a gun on us ready to shoot.
Jaren has been taught to respect the police. In elementary school, Officer Tommy would come to the school and visit with the kids. Officer Tommy also worked at our local mall. When Jaren saw Officer Tommy at the mall, Jaren would always say hi. And sometimes Jaren would want to stop by the police shop located in the mall just to say hi to Officer Tommy. Jaren had no reason to fear the police and has always been respectful. On top of that, Jaren’s father and Uncle are both police officers.
I am so very thankful that our boys got home safe. But not all boys or men who are unarmed do. Some get shot.
I’ve wondered, if something happened to my son that night, would my family, friends, church members still stand silent? Would they think that my son and his friend must have done something to cause their fatal fate? Or would they believe that sometimes innocent or non-threatening people, especially black men can get shot just because they are black? Would my community protest on behalf of my son and his friend for their injustice? Would they stand firmly with me and host a Call to Action on their behalf?
We all have aspects that connect us; it may be our language, religion, ethnicity, race, country, community, or social or economic status. It could even be our disability. That’s natural. That’s human nature. But…when we are unable or unwilling to see another side of the story, when we ignore the facts, when we allow that which connects us to also separate us from others we create or perpetuate issues in our society. When we honor or value the lives of those with certain job titles over that of the average civilian, when we feel more for those who look like us than those who don’t, that’s an issue. When we become distrustful of someone solely because of their race or differences we are not acting in the true sense of the slogan that All Lives Matter.
The truth is America has had a history of systematic racial discrimination against black lives. Black lives have been stolen, kidnapped, owned, enslaved, bought and sold, traded, beaten, raped, oppressed, marginalized, hung, and killed with no regard.
So the question is do all lives really matter?
It not just words on paper, or a Facebook or Twitter post. Real lives are at stake here.