In a recent conversation, a friend of mine shared with me that she was tired of hearing about the Black Lives Matter movement; and that she would like to hear that All Lives Matter instead and asked that I not include Black Lives in our future discussions. While I value my friendship with this person, I also had to be honest; and this was my response.
“Even though I know this is a tough, emotional issue and many people want to back away from it, I don’t think silence really solves anything. In fact, I think that silence practically insures continued and worsening dysfunction in our society. You said that rather than focus on Black Lives Matter you would rather lift up that All Lives Matter. You’ll get no disagreement from me that every life matters, but that response gives nothing to the Black community when they are the ones being killed in the streets and in their homes. It’s almost as if a friend comes to you and tells you that their mother or father has died and your only response is, ‘Well, everyone dies someday.’ The response may be truthful, but hard hearted and indifferent as well.”
Having empathy with someone or in this case with Black people means first listening and then speaking out for them, valuing them as you would a family member and advocating for them when no one else will.
In this regard, the fact that the president refused to pay final respects to Congressman John Lewis speaks volumes to the Black community. Fractured skull, battered and beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, arm in arm with Martin Luther King, Jr., peacefully marching for equal rights for Black people, 60 years of service to our country, imprisoned over 45 times peacefully advocating for the rights not only of Black people, but also the LGBTQ community and immigrants to this country – this is John Lewis, still speaking. Rather than say he was a real “patriot,” I’ll make the point that he was a GOOD man! We need more GOOD men like Mr. Lewis.
There are many pressing issues today; but we will not prosper without a just response to the problems that Black people encounter. There is no guilt, there is no blame unless in going forward, we refuse to see and speak.