How would you respond if I said "Dog's Lives Matter?"

Much has been written lately defending the Black Lives Matters movement, and much criticism also. I haven't much new to add to this public discourse. But lately I am troubled by friends and acquaintances who I know have good hearts, but they are stridently opposed to the movement. The criticism always boils down to: "It's wrong (or racist) to say Black Lives Matter because all lives matter." To those people, I'm going to repeat (more-or-less) what has been said by others many times, in hopes that my friends of good heart will read and have a change or heart.

When I am anguished over abuse or murder of children, and I say "Children's Lives Matter," would you think I am saying that adult's lives don't matter? When I am anguished at cruelty and killing of dogs, and I say "Dog's Lives Matter," would you think I am saying that people's lives, horses' lives, bird's lives and all other non-canine lives don't matter?  Then why, when I say "Black Lives Matter" do you think I mean that the lives of policeman, or White people, or any other group of people do not matter? All the Black Lives Matter movement is saying is, at this point in history, it is important to recognize that Black lives DO matter, also.

It's really that simple. You can try to complicate the issue with all the arguments and accusations that have been going around, but it's not complicated. Sure, some protesters have been violent or destructive, but there is always a small fringe of any movement, political cause or political party who become violent. Let me remind you that the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma federal building, which housed the FBI and a childcare center, was planned and carried out by a man who was White, identified as a Christian, supported the Ku Klux Klan and the White-supremacy movement, and earned a Bronze Star for military service in the Persian Gulf War. He was motivated by the belief that the government was going to take away his guns and because he was outraged by the FBI's storming of the Branch Davidian compound (Christian by the way). Should we associate his actions with any of these groups: White people, Christians, war heroes, gun owners?

The truth is, a hugely disproportionate number of killings and beatings by police are carried out against African Americans, particularly Black men. I'm not saying that some or even most of these killings and uses of force weren't justified. And in case you aren't getting my point yet I will say it one more time: Polices' lives matter too. I will stand up any day for police officers' right to use reasonable force, including deadly force if necessary, to defend themselves, or the lives and safety of others, from a credible and imminent threat that cannot be otherwise avoided. Give me the name of the organization or movement that advocates for this and I will sign up right now. 

But if even one Black man is killed without justification, isn't that a problem? Moreover, it doesn't really matter how many were justified or not. Isn't it a problem that this is happening? That it has been happening for decades, even longer, should be enough for people of good heart to ask, "Why is this happening?" Regardless, if the reason in a particular case is racism, or perhaps it is rooted in the culture of drugs and poverty that have beset our cities for so long and the officer was justifiably defending him or herself against an armed criminal, it is still a problem that so many Black men are being killed by police. I served for 23 years as a peace officer, dealing directly on a daily basis with some of the most violent people in society. So I believe I have some credibility here.  

Shouldn't all people be anguished when yet another Black man is killed, even if the officer had no other choice? And one last time, when a police officer is killed we should also be anguished.

The problem with responding to "Black Lives Matter" by saying "police lives matter" or "All lives matter" is the context. If you came up to me and said "police officer's lives matter" I would most certainly agree with you. But when you respond in this manner to people's anguish over the loss of Black lives, it denies the legitimacy of that person's grief. Would you go to a memorial service and tell the family of the deceased: "But other people's lives matter too?" Of course not. That would be cruel and tells the grieving family "at this time your grief doesn't really matter." But that is precisely what you are doing when you tell people who are anguished over the loss of Black lives that "all lives matter."

You say, "But that isn't a good analogy." And you're right, because it isn't an analogy at all. The Black Lives Matter movement is, above all else, a public expression of anguish over the loss of life. It is also a call to society to do something about it. So don't try to diminish other people's grief by telling them that other people matter too.

The good-hearted response to "Black Lives Matter," the Christian response if you will, should be:

"You are right. I sense your pain. And as good patriotic American, we have no choice but to do something about it. "

When the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called for equal rights for Blacks he was saying, in essence, Black Lives Matter. At that time the large majority of American believed he was saying dangerous things, that he was demanding changes that would destroy our society. I believe most Americans today believe the movement he helped build was essential to advancing the cause of racial justice. Which side of this debate would you have been in the 1960s? Which side of the Black Lives Matter movement would Dr. King be on?

I say Black Lives Matter because I believe we can do better as a nation. It will not be easy, but it is time. Our fellow Americans grieve and it is our responsibility to comfort them. This is “Why We Can’t Wait…

Wait, has almost always meant never…We know through painful experience that freedom is never given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed…Human process never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes with tireless effort of men (women) who are willing to work.” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


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