i post this logo on my facebook cover from time to time:
when i resurrected the logo again yesterday, various people have commented on it. maybe it’s because the george floyd trial has been in the news. maybe it’s because another unarmed black man was killed not far from where the trail is taking place. maybe because it pricks our conscience.
“black lives matter” certainly evokes strong emotions
from the website: BlackLivesMatter was founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer. Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, Inc. is a global organization in the US, UK, and Canada, whose mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. By combating and countering acts of violence, creating space for Black imagination and innovation, and centering Black joy, we are winning immediate improvements in our lives.
who would be against eradicating racism and violence?
for several years now, blm has shown a spotlight on the racial inequities that exist in the usa and the consequences that follow. in the area of public safety, race plays a significant role in the way law enforcement responds. abuse of power can have deadly consequences– especially for people of color and in particular for black men. the abuse has produced gravemarkers with the names of real people: trayvon martin, eric garner, michael brown, tamir rice, walter scott, rayshard brooks, daniel prude. and their are countless others. each of them died unjustly.
these black lives matter. why? because each is a son of God and has inherent dignity. each of them– as we all are– are made in the image and likeness of God. each of them are deserving of our respect and love.
racism in our country is so pervasive that it is embedded in our various systems and institutions. yes– the catholic church included. blm is challenging the way that we see ourselves and the racism that can exist in all of us. at its best, blm is moving us toward racial justice and standing against violence/abuse against people on the margins. is blm perfect? of course not– no group/organization is.
but blm is bigger than one 501 c3 non profit organization. it is difficult to face the racism within us, our own families our own race.
blm becomes marginalized when we respond with, “all lives matter.” a reasonable person is not going to state that all lives do not matter. of course, all lives have inherent worth. but all lives wont matter until black lives matter. and it feels that some people want to marginalize the voices that cry out for reform, accountability and justice. is it the angry voices and shouting that people fear? is it my own lack of awareness? “all lives matter” does not advance the dialogue of understanding and compassionate response.
blm highlights the extreme and unique ways that our black brothers and sisters suffer still. blm invites us to care. what makes us turn a blind eye to these important stories– and even oppose the dignity of our black sisters and brothers?
this theme of racial bigotry becomes personal when one knows or has had a loved one suffer or die because of a negative or tragic experience. understandably, emotions run super high in the extreme pain of family members and friends. everything can be seen through this personal lens. one the other extreme, there are folks who do not know or have not really heard the stories of those who have suffered through violence spurred by racial bigotry. their hearts can remained unmoved and the theme can become a idea or concept that can be argued.
real people are not ideas though. and real people suffer still and will die
on my FB blm cover, posts by ricky tikki tavi come through the lens of a 21 year officer of the law. i knew ricky as a quiet college kid and one of our retreat leaders in the mid 90s! you have come a long way my friend. as a latino police officer, i bet you can write a great book of the things you have seen and heard in the field and from inside the precinct. time will tell if the jury in the floyd case is convinced of the manslaughter charge. for those of us who lived through the rodney king trail in 1992, we know that anything can happen in the jury system .
without a doubt you must feel frustrated at times because many people do lump all police officers as racist. it must be frustrating at times to want positive changes to public safety policy only to be met by the wall of systemic dimension of bigotry. good old boy networks can run deep in police departments. i get it. as a catholic priest, i know that some people think that we are all child molesters; catholic bigotry is alive and well in the usa also. entitlement in the priesthood is our good ol boy system. these systemic issues are very difficult to address because it takes personal transformation. this does not happen overnight– if at all. we really do bring our sinfulness to our work relationships and it can become normalized.
when i lived in the back-of-the-yards neighborhood in chicago, the police there assumed the vast majority of young people as gangbangers. it affected how they related and spoke to us. yes– us. because of my shaved head even i was assumed to be a gangbanger on more than one occasion. when the police cruised the streets in the squad cars, it really felt like they were sharks swimming looking for us seals for dinner. many police officers were fine with the latino gangs shooting each other up because it reduced their population. shootings and murders investigated? not in the back-of-the-yards. not in the black neighborhoods either. brown lives matter too.
it is a temptation to lump all cops as racist if that is all one experiences.
undeniably there are good cops. in part, it is for their benefit too that the deep seeded culture of racism within departments ought to be addressed. the good cops can play a key role in advancing this lofty goal. small town police departments differ greatly to the big city police forces. even there, seattle is very different from atlanta because of regional and cultural differences. each department will, or will not, respond to the challenge to change for the common good. my guess is taht they all will limp along since this is a new trail that we have not addressed.
in an fb comment, rosemary neill wrote: “It would be great to be able to have a conversation with Christ and see what he has to say about whose lives matter” thank you for this thought! right now, i imagine the jesus who would invite us all to table for dinner with great food and wine. and jesus would engage us in the nature of love– as jesus always does through the Spirit
perhaps the discussion at table could be spurred by jesus asking us to respond to various questions:
“do you not remember that i had focused my time and energy teaching you about love? do you not remember that the recipients of this love were those who were on the margins of society and our own group: those with leprosy, the samaritans, tax collectors and prostitutes, women and children?
“do you not remember how i taught you about the “good samaritan” who cared for his enemy as the prime example of love of neighbor? do you remember that i told you to do likewise? love of enemy is difficult yes but it is an essential part of love of neighbor, no?
“do you not remember how i taught you to address God as “Our Father?” do you not realize when you pray this powerful prayer, we all become brothers and sisters?
“do you not remember the last supper? do you not realize that when i gather you around this table, i continue to invite you to wash each others’ feet in selfless service?
“do you not remember how i stood firm against the bigotry and self righteousness of the leaders who conspired to put me through a suffering death? i remember how you ran away from being with me at my time of need. you did not yet know the power of the resurrection of the Spirit upon and within you. i forgive you and now you can love me by loving others: people who suffer hunger, thirst, being a stranger in your midst, in prisons and hospitals.”
i believe that jesus would ask, what makes you think that the lives of our suffering black brothers and sisters are not worthy of the love that i teach?
black lives matter because of love. God’s love for us all is the foundation and the call to love one another is our if we dare follow jesus in the Spirit.
how will you and i respond today?