I pray that all is going well with you on yet another day that the Lord has made.
I wanted to reach out to you to lovingly address (and prayerfully have conversation about) some of the concerns that I have regarding the propaganda that comes from your movement. Over the past several months now, it seems that everywhere I look, everywhere I go, I find people proclaiming that “All Lives Matter”. More often than not, the statement is used as a rebuke to those of us who state that “Black Lives Matter”; a correction mean to usher is back into a mindset of equality and equity.
I’d like to offer that there are deep misperceptions on your end about what we mean on ours. I would contend that these spaces of equality and equity are not ones that we have vacated, but rather, these are spaces that we seemingly occupy alone.
For your consideration, I’d like to offer a different way of thinking about the state of affairs we find ourselves in collectively and how it affects African Americans, specifically.
Think with me on these questions for a moment: What does it mean for you to be invited if you’re not allowed (or expected) to be yourself when you get there? What does it means for a people to have to downplay and deny their own identity for the sake of acceptance in a larger dynamic? More categorically, what happens when I have to compromise my “Africanity” in the name of inclusion in the grouping of “all”? Are there other sub sects and groups that are castigated for speaking to their own issues in specificity?
When Parisians are victimized by violence & the cry is to “Pray For Paris”, the collective rebuttal isn’t that “All Cities Matter”. When police are killed in the line of duty and the cry is “Blue Lives Matter”, the collective reply isn’t that “All Public Servants Matter”. Even deeper, the reason why it isn’t the response is because to suggest that “All Cities Matter” in the wake of Parisians having to deal with realities unambiguous to them or to suggest that “All Public Servants Matter” to police officers dealing with the death of their colleagues would be both insensitive and inconsiderate.
It is in this same vein, that when African Americans (& others) proclaim that “Black Lives Matter” and people respond to this declaration by stating that “All Lives Matter”, an act of disregard, disrespect and devaluation is taking place.
Though you may not realize it (at least I’d like to think you don’t realize it), this repeated rhetoric represents a passive decimation of our movement; an invitation to a global party which stipulates we, as African Americans, are our best when we are seen and not heard.
Now, I realize that the tone and topic of this letter may have become suddenly uneasy. Let me pause briefly to say that I make no judgements here. In fact, my Bible teaches me to not to. As a Christian, I also try to presume the best of intentions when dealing with all people. My words are not given in an attempt to condemn but rather to correct.
That being said, these repeated rejoinders from your end made to the pronouncements of personhood from our end are offensive. Your failure to see it this way, does not make it any less hurtful nor does your indifference towards it make your action any less ignorant.
Brethren beloved, please allow us, African Americans and those sympathetic to our struggle, the God-given space that every one else on the planet is afforded to grieve and self-determine for ourselves. Do not allow your lack of comprehension to translate into a lack of compassion. If you feel compelled to critique our behavior, be just in your observations & invest as much time criticizing what creates our responses as you do criticizing the responses themselves.
We are all children of Most High, valuable beyond measure in the eyes of God. Despite this truth, not everyone’s life is viewed, treated or treasured in the same way. All we desire is to be seen as God sees and regarded in the same way our cultural counterparts are.
We welcome your prayers and participation, but, please, refrain from confining us. Allow us the freedom to emote apart from your approval. Doing this is necessary if we are to ultimately to “act justly, love mercy and to walk humbly with our God”. Hopefully, we can discuss this further. Take care & may God bless all of us.
I was on my way to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Following the tragic death of Alton Sterling, an African American whose life was viciously and needlessly taken from him by police officers sworn to protect and serve, I was ready to lift my voice in prayer, protest, and dialogue. Handling my responsibilities with the congregation I serve (and equipped with the prayers and support of that congregation), I was headed to the airport. The continued abuse of authority by law officers needed to be addressed and I was ready to do so in the name of a God who loves justice and righteousness.
On my way to the airdrome, my phone rang with a call from a number I didn’t recognize. I answered and though the number was unfamiliar to me the voice on the other end was. The voice was that of my oldest son.
He was calling me to come and get him as he had been robbed at gunpoint by a pair of young men while dropping a friend off at home. Instantly, I turned my car around and began to head in his direction while listening to the details of the incident. He told me that things happened suddenly and abruptly. He explained that as his assailants kicked and beat him, he laid still on the ground. Even after they had left, he remained on the ground for fear of losing his life. He said that after a few minutes, confident that they had departed, he got up and used the phone of a bystander to call the police and then to call me. I instantly begin to pray that God dispatch angels to watch over my child until I could.
Hearing that police officers were on their way to my son, and given the reality of what has become regular procedure for so many policeman and policewomen across the country, I sped as fast as I could to my son to protect him. I drive till I arrive where he is and when I get there, I find that the police had beaten me there. I prayed for peace as I approached where my son stood with the officers.
I walked over, tightly embraced my first born, and asked him if he was alright. He assured me he was and after I looked him over to sense his wellness for myself, I began to make my way over to the officer to talk with him. Before I get to him, the officer begins to make his way over to me. The policeman introduces himself and apologizes for the incidence that involved my son. The officer then goes on to tell me that while I was on my way there, he had contacted the paramedics to make sure my son was physically well. He had already taken a investigative report but reviewed the report with me to inform me of the events that had transpired. The gentleman also stayed with my son and I while the crime scene was investigated and information was exchanged. The experience ended with another heartfelt apology for what had happened to my son and an assurance that the detectives and he would all do what they could to apprehend these persons. He also left me his cell number to call him if I had any questions. I gratefully shook his hand and took my son home; praising God not only for His protection of my son, but also for the officer that He allowed to be there with my son.
I share this story not to invoke any sympathy on my behalf. Nor do I write this to defend those persons who hide their hatred behind the police badges they brandish. I write this to offer perspective in the midst of our collective pain. With another maddeningly recurring rash of African American fatalities by police, it is easy to allow the hatred at the center of these actions to infect our perspective of the world. In these times of stress and sadness, it is so simple to seek our solace in solutions laced with spite. I offer that our efforts to counteract these wretched actions against us…our protests, our activism, our strategies, our defense of ourselves, even our angst…must be rooted in love. For it is only love (and the God that love originates from) that is able to downthrow the disease of hatred that ails our society. To imitate and react to the hateful acts committed against us validates those acts. If the actions are wrong, retaliation of the like is also wrong (even if it is done in the name of right). It is this conduct that furthers and perpetuates the hatefulness we attempt to stand against. We instead must negate this hate with our capacity to love.
We musn’t allow hate to paint inaccurate portraits of this world. Instead, we must dare to view the world through the lens of love. Hatred would lead us to believe revolution will only come through retribution. The Bible tells us not to “repay evil with evil”. Hatred would make us think that violence is specific to a race or even a religion. Reality shows us that violent tendencies are found across the varied spectrums of our society. Hatred would have us think that all police are evil. Life reminded me on last night that all of them are not. Our efforts are not only against persons but also against the spirit of hatred they are operating in. We do not defeat hatred by operating in reactionary fear or remedying revenge. When we come together and act in love, when we become brave enough to live out our love boldly, that hatred will ultimately be defeated.