Black vs. Blue vs. All Lives Matter
Tensions are high. Violence is spreading. People are taking sides and lobbing straw-man arguments at the other side. Some say “Black lives matter,” while others say “Blue lives matter,” and still others say “all lives matter.” The more passionate people grow in their position, the more they vilify the other side (or sides). What has it accomplished? Thus far it has led to more tension and more violence. Sad. No, not sad, its tragic.
What are we to do as Christians? One of the beatitudes comes to mind. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Mt 5:9 ESV) How do we seek peace? Listening is a good place to start. How many understand the arguments behind the Black Lives Matter movement?
The Black Lives Matter movement started in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, who was black. In the words of Alicia Garza, one of the founders of the “Black Lives Matter” movement, “It was a response to the anti-Black racism that permeates our society and also, unfortunately, our movements.” Listening, we learn that the movement isn’t saying that Blacks are more important than Whites. Their voice is to bring attention to the reality that racism is still an issue. That is a valid message. It wasn’t meant to say that Black lives matter more than others. Unfortunately, the demonstrators and people that make the news (because the news tends to report the sensational) don’t communicate this message. To make their case, many highlight acts of police brutality toward black people as evidence. Instead of making their case, however, that evidence has fueled fear and violence. This was never intended by the originators of the movement as far as I can tell (see their Guiding Principles at blacklivesmatter.com).
To me (and probably many), racism is more theoretical than real. I don’t see it in my circles and so it seems far removed. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t real and it doesn’t excuse me from being a peacemaker. Isaiah exhorts us, “seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” (Is 1:17 ESV) This forbids us from letting our riled emotions be an excuse to ignore the demonstrators. They’re riled up too. While their rhetoric may at times be over the top and their actions as equally violent as the violence they protest, let us hear the truth behind their words. Until they feel heard, the hopelessness and desperation will only increase.
By the way, listening and understanding isn’t the same as condoning and defending the violent demonstrations and acts of terror. These too are injustices that must be addressed. But they are acts of individuals rather than actions of the movement. So let us not confuse them. After all, the argument works both ways. The cases of police brutality are tragic but don’t define the mission of the police force in any of our cities. Sin has no color boundaries.
To be a peacemaker means that we seek justice and correct oppression wherever we find it. Let’s start by listening to each other.