Today we are going to engage with a topic that is on many of our minds and lips: Black Lives Matter. How would Jesus engage the Black Lives Matter movement?
First, I want to state that I am not passing judgment on or addressing the politics of the movement, the history of the organization, or its actions today. Rather, this blog is about the sentiment behind it; that Black lives have value and that Black people feel marginalized.
Many are quick to retort, “But All Lives Matter!” Friends, I am not so sure that Jesus would have responded this way. There is no question that Jesus loves all lives and in turn died for all lives, for every nation and tongue. Jesus reinforced that when He ministered to Jews and Gentiles, free people and those in bondage, rich and poor. However, I do not think that He would have responded to the statement “Black Lives Matter” like many of His followers do with “All Lives Matter.” Jesus would respond with a spirit of humility.
I want to speak to a few misconceptions that I feel many people have regarding the BLM movement. I feel like many times the response “all lives matter” comes out of a spirit of fear. The phrase “Black lives matter” implies to some that White lives don’t matter. “White privilege” implies to some that White people have better lives than Black people, or that the pain and suffering they have been through does not matter. And that is not what anyone means at all.
To me, “all lives matter” sounds more like, “But I matter too.” It is the fear of being discounted and dismissed. When people say, “Black Lives Matter,” they are not saying, “Black Lives Matter more,” or “White lives do not matter,” or “Asian lives don’t matter,” or… you get the idea. They are simply saying that they matter just as much as we all matter, but they have not been feeling that way. Believe it or not, “Black Lives Matter” is the Black Community saying, “But I matter too.” My continuing conversations with the Black Community reveal that they have felt disregarded and trivialized.
We, as children of God, are not to walk in a spirit of fear but walk in love for our neighbors. I know we love our Black brothers and sisters. However, oftentimes what we say is not conveying our love, but rather our fear, and making our Black brothers and sisters feel not like our neighbors, but like outsiders. We need to extend the love that is in our hearts.
Oftentimes, I hear people saying, “I am not racist.” BLM isn’t calling every White person in America racist. What its members believe is that many of our society’s systems (like the educational system, the prison system, the justice system, etc.) are racist, or that they do not actually give us the same, equal opportunities that America prides itself on. They are saying that our society still needs a lot of work if we want “liberty and justice for all,” as our Pledge of Allegiance states.
The phrase “White privilege” is easily misunderstood, because it sounds like it implies that White people have not had to earn what they have. What BLM followers mean by this is that they feel White people have better opportunities (a lot of times) than Black people. They feel like they have to work harder in order to get to the same place as a White person. The Black Lives Matter movement looks around at positions of power occupied by White people and ask the question, “Why?”
We can agree that White people are not better than Black people, and Black people are not better than White people. So why are these positions so overwhelmingly filled with white people? Black Lives Matter followers say it is because of White privilege, because those systems are not giving them equal opportunities. They want to change the systems so that America is truly as equal as we strive to be.
I have heard people say, “I do not think Black people experience racism. I have never seen it.” Just because the wind cannot be seen, does not mean it is not felt or does not affect things. We cannot know what another person feels or experiences in their lives that we do not see,; what happens when no one is looking. This dismissive attitude only exemplifies some of the reasons that the Black Community feels disregarded and trivialized.
The Black Community is hurting and in pain right now. Jesus told the parable of the shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine sheep to go after the one who is lost. This shows how Jesus loves each and every one of us, but it also gives us an example of what we need to do as well. Instead of dismissing the pain of the Black Community, we need to be the shepherd who pursues those who feel like they are marginalized, on the margins of the herd. Instead of invalidating, we need to listen, to really hear, and to empathize with the pain of others.
Many of my friends proclaim the euphemistic slogan that “Love is color blind.” Jesus did tell us to “know no man after the flesh.” The harsh reality is that man tends to look at the outside and not the inside. This is part of our sin nature. Our goal should be to see people like Jesus does, but we often do not. There is no way we are going to scourge our land of racism overnight.
The first step, though, is to drop our spirit of fear and adopt a spirit of humility.
Next week’s blog will go more in depth about Jesus’s humility as he washed the feet of his disciples, and the footsteps he left for us to follow.