Hello again. It's Friday, July 8, 2016. I'm getting ready to head off to work, but some thoughts have been weighing on my mind over the last couple of days in light of recent events in Baton Rouge, Dallas, and Minneapolis. It's funny how I feel cautious to write about what I'm going to write about. I ask, "what will people think?" Will they still want to hire me as a photographer? I can be selfish at times too. I wonder if I have anything constructive or positive to add. Will I only be adding more to the pain in this country? Again, I pray we can reflect together and be together in this time.
You can clearly see I titled this blog post, "Lives Matter." Instantly I realize that title alone will offend someone. We have the movement called, "Black Lives Matter" that has risen in response by the black community to stand up for themselves. The "Black Lives Matter" title has caused both a cheering in our community, along with a backlash by some to respond with, "All Lives Matter." Thus, we have come to a place of controversy on which title is more important. From an outsider's perspective (mine), I can't help but wonder if something is being missed here. I'd like to share some thoughts. My understanding of all the nuances is limited, so be warned...I'm just going off of the limited exposure I have seen in the immediate community around me and on Facebook...the bastion of all social insights! That's a semi joke...
Black Lives Matter
When a community responds to their own hurting, whether the hurting is from violence by both inner and outside forces, I understand that community is not rising up to say, "Other Lives Don't Matter." They are rising up as a community as to say, "we care about what is going on, and as a community, we will speak up to both the outside forces, along with the inside forces." They are not waiting for someone else to care first or to lift them up, but rather they are taking pride in their own community.
All Lives Matter
When I've seen black people responding to violence against black people, I've seen a response by others saying something to the effect of, "Hey, why aren't you as angry when a white person gets killed by the police? You say "Black Lives Matter," shouldn't All Lives Matter?" The response to me seems an effort to try and point out a double-standard by the black community. And then it becomes a confrontation that the Black Lives Matter movement is just black people who don't really care and ultimately should be dismissed.
But then the same happens when someone does really mean to say, "All lives matter!" They don't see it as a movement, but as a statement to say all persons matter, from any race, religion, or position.
When a black man is shot by the police, for whatever reason, I see a myriad of responses. With our technology, we're given the privilege(?) of getting some of these incidents on video. Often they are shaky and don't show the whole incident from the beginning. However, we can see parts. Too many times have these incidents occurred. I wonder, as another consequence of this technology, the nation is watching and making decisions. Many become outraged (and rightfully so) and sad that someone was gunned down.
What I see that happens next is that people then take sides to try and explain why or what happened. It seems like an auto response. Quickly it turns into a defensive blame-game of who's absolutely at fault. Honestly, I can understand why. One side will see a person, black or white, be killed. Regardless of their actions (or non actions), a life is ended. To see a person who can't breathe be choked to death, or to see a kid carrying Skittles on the way home be gunned down...it's hard to fathom what would justify being killed. Not always, but it seems too often that the person shot was not being physically aggressive towards the police. The people watching can't help but wonder if skin color had anything to do with the escalation of the matter by white police officers.
"You aren't supposed to fight or argue with cops"
Then there's the other side. This side will say that the death MUST (emphasis needed) have been warranted. "You aren't supposed to be arguing with the cops." "Obviously he was doing something wrong!" "He has a prior criminal record. He was just a thug and a piece of shit in society!" "It's not racism when he's combatting the cops!" As I write this section, I must admit to feeling angry with these responses. But I must move on...I think you get the point.
To Both Sides
Personally I think it's normal, or honest, to feel any of the above responses. The question I have though, is not whether reside in our feelings, but what do we do with them? Often, our immediate responses are our honest feelings. What if our immediate feelings are actually wrong?
"Be Quick to Hear" - James 1:19
To the side that would choose to justify a killing based on assumption, is it helpful to tell a grieving person that their son deserved to die...no matter what? From the Orlando shooting, I've heard a few people say it was in a way ok...because they were gay. Or for Eric Garner, some have said it didn't matter that he was choked to death because he was breaking the law...he sold cigarettes illegally. It's a cold and calloused response. It results in groups rising up to say, "lives matter." In their case it's, "Black Lives Matter." The more you piss on their feelings, the more their lives matter. But sadly, even as I write this, it's already being ruined by the former responses..."but he was a thug!" Sit with that for a moment and feel what the recipient will hear you saying.
We in America hate terrorists. We would all agree it's utterly stupid to target and kill people simply because of their nationality or religion. When our loved ones are killed for such a thing, do we line up and list out each individuals wrong-doings? Joe Smith was killed in a plane hijacking, but it's ok because he stole a pack of gum. It's ok because he voted Republican? It's ok because he jaywalked on the way to the airport? It's complete nonsense. But, somehow we do that same thing in police shootings. We piss on the dignity of humans and their remaining loved ones.
When a parent sees their child hurt, they don't typically care what the child did. All they see is their child hurting. Sometimes deadly mistakes happen all too quick. Instead of passing blame, can we slow down and listen to those who are grieving and ACTUALLY grieve with them?
To the party that is hurt? It's understandable to feel hurt and outrage. I don't think it's ever fair to tell you not to feel that way. But my hope is that in saying all of this, it's to say not all of us are against you and want to embrace you. Or at least, we want to grieve with you. Please don't take revenge into your hands. I know this may sound dumb and over-generalized, but after the shooting in Dallas, I can't help but wonder how angry some people are...to the point to go kill police officers. These officers had nothing to do with Baton Rouge or Minneapolis. As bad as it is for some people to lump a whole people group together as thugs, it's just as bad to lump all police together as racist pigs. To target people based on the uniform they're wearing or the color of their skin, it's just as bad as if they were doing it to you. Again, I can't say not to feel angry. But, killing another person will not end violence. It will not bring back your loved one, nor justify the evil done against your loved one. There are many who will stand with you and want to hear what you have to say.
In the Charleston shooting, I loved and was moved by their response as community. They sought to forgive the shooter. It's not easy, but it's possible to love those who hate and do hurt you. We have many great examples of evil in our history and our society, but we also have many great examples of power in love.
Our Lives Matter
Whether you're carrying a bag of Skittles, CD's, a badge, or nothing, your life matters. I know I wrote this poorly, but I hope it gives a sense of wanting to be your friend in your time of crisis, in hopes that we can progress together. I'm not here to minimize or dismiss anyone. Please feel free to write/comment your feelings...even if you think I'm a total tool for what I wrote.