Many of us have put frames around our profile pictures on Facebook that say – Black Lives Matter. One person commented on my updated profile picture, “My Bible says we are to love everyone! All races matter!” Ok – let’s deal with why we need to say Black Lives Matter.
Let’s start with the first part of the comment dealing with the Bible and what it says. There will be a longer post, someday, about my relationship with scripture, that will deal more with the history of how it was put together and all that jazz. As a Lutheran, I read the Bible through the lens of, “Saved by grace through faith.” In the Bible, I see God’s loving actions, God’s amazing grace, and God’s boundless love. In scripture we learn about a God who created all people in God’s image and a God who commands us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. So, yes, the Bible does tell us that we are to love everyone.
However, the Bible also show us how humanity has a really short memory when it comes to God’s command to love our neighbor. We are uncertain who are neighbors are and seek clarification (Luke 10:29). Jesus can’t really be talking about loving everyone? We have the example of the rich man and Lazarus, where the rich man refuses to see the humanity of Lazarus until it is too late. We have the feeding of the 4k or 5k stories in all four Gospels. (This story is in scripture six times. Maybe it is time to take it more seriously). In each version of the story, the disciples can’t see the people in the crowd as their neighbors. The disciples either ask Jesus to send them away or they doubt that all the people can be fed. I could go on, but I hope you get the point that one of the struggles of humanity is to see others as our neighbor. Jesus recognizes that struggle in us. The Bible points that out to us over and over again.
So the Bible is asking us to check ourselves and to look around and honestly ask, are we loving our neighbor? Are we loving neighbors of different races? Wait, do I even have any neighbors who are a different race than me? Are we creating communities where all people are treated equally and can thrive? The Bible is asking us to do these things, but the truth is that we have not created a society where all races matter. We have not yet overcome the racism at the root of our countries founding.
Slavery was a part of the United States for 339 years 1526-1865
Reconstruction turned into Jim Crow laws and oppression of blacks and other people of color 1865-1954
Moving towards the Civil Rights moment Brown vs. Board of Education and bus boycotts and sit in. 1954-2014
What was happening in each of these time periods?
Black people were property (not seen as human), 3/5 compromise (we are up to 60% human), Dred Scott ruling (could not win his freedom even in a free state). Blacks cannot vote because they are not citizens.
This started as a brief period of gaining rights for black people. Plessy vs. Ferguson upholds separate but equal (which was separate but not equal), KKK terrorizes the black community throughout the US. Separate water fountains. Blacks sit in the back of the bus and use the back door at businesses or restaurants. Voting rights are limited to certain free blacks.
Resistance is strong to civil right gains made by blacks. MLK and Malcolm X are both assassinated. White civil rights activists are killed. Red lining is happening in housing to neighborhoods segregated. Continual efforts to block black pepole from voting.
There is so much more history that could be shared, but what this shows us is that from the beginning of the country’s history, all three branches of government have continuously worked to oppress black lives. Slavery changed to segregation/Jim Crow, which is now the Prison Industrial Complex, showing us that all lives really don’t matter in the same way. White lives are more important to protect than black lives, or Native American lives or brown immigrant lives.
In between those moment in time you have the bright spots of Reconstruction and the Civil Rights Movement, and now the Black Lives Matter movement. These are moments when we stand up and we ask to be seen as fully human, we asked to be seen as created in the image of God, to be seen as your neighbor. Things change a bit, but not enough to let us fully breathe.
Yes, all lives do matter, but the history of the United States of American is to control the bodies of black people and to keep their voices from being heard. The history of this country is that black lives, poor lives, disabled lives, LGBTQIA lives, immigrant Lives, Indigenous lives are not as important as white lives and laws have continued to be created to keep the system of white power in place. Too often we think that this is just the way it is. We forget that the system we have now was designed and we have inherited the flawed design.
I know that now would be the best time to give solutions and to say what we should do next. However, the best thing to do right now, especially if you are white, is to do more research to truly understand more about the history of the systemic racism that we are all swimming in. Watch 13th on NetFlix. Pick up the New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, or other books that I will add to a resources pages. Listen to the White Lies podcast or Code Switch. This is the moment to hold space for the grief, anger, frustration, that you are feeling because the truth of who we are as a people is less than what we had hoped.
Cliff Notes Version:
The Bible tells us that God loves everyone and we should do the same.
We know we should love everyone, but for the whole history of humanity, we can’t seem to remember how to treat our neighbor.
In the USA, a system was created that favors the white race and to silence the voice of others, showing us that all lives are not equal and do not matter in the same way.
Because of this we need to say out loud that BLACK LIVES MATTER until we believe it and live into the command not only to love God but to also truly love our neighbors as ourselves. Then and only then we will be able to genuinely say, All Lives Matter. It would be great to get to that day together.