Thursday, 1 September 2016

The 'ALL' lives matter conundrum

I was recently privy to an interesting, yet depressing, display of passion as some people engaged in a discussion over the 'Black lives matter' campaign. One person, advocating civil disobedience and action to highlight the plight of black people, was incensed when another responded with the observation that, "All lives matter."

This comment, in the ears of the campaigner, apparently diminished the offence against blacks and supported the shooting of black men in the US and the discrimination against blacks, and the death of black people in custody, in the UK.

In a bid to bring some balance and reason to the debate the questions, "So are you saying black lives matter more?" was asked. This brought a silence which gave me the chance to make the observation that the 'Black Lives Matter' campaigners themselves say that there is a silent, yet implicit 'too' at the end of the statement - of course it would be helpful if the implicit was made explicit as this would stop some people from adding an emphasis that adds a match to the interracial conflicts that so trouble us.

Having managed to bring about a momentary hiatus in the debate, so one piped up with a comment about the number of whites killed by blacks and vice versa - a gift of a point because it gave me the opportunity to point out that the majority of murders are intraracial (in the US this is 93% of black murders and 84% of white murders) - so not a true statement at all.

What we need to understand is the fact that in the US there have been a number of black people killed by the police and that this campaign is a response to that - especially in the light of judicial, institutional; and even populat support from some (presumed white) communities - for it seems there are grounds to assume that in some places they do count blacks lives cheaply.

This movement is an attempt to address some of the attitudes regarding black people, and there are obviously many (in the US and the U.K.) for where I live I have heard the following speak of black people as being more prone to crime because  it's part of their culture.

The reality is that some places and some people display prejudice and act wrongly towards certain people groups. Take a look at the press and you'll see stories reporting these against people with different skin colours, sexual orientations, religions and more beside. All of these people matter but in the setting in which crimes and inequity occur, it is right to highlight the underlying issue behind the abuse.

The Church is great at standing up for campaigns and making a stand on just about everything (other than it seems at times the Gospel) but we need to be a voice for understanding, compassion, justice and mercy. Micah 6.6-8 (one of my 'live by' passages) calls us to exhibit humility: A call to make sure that no one person, people group or class regard themselves, or are regarded as more than equal.

Micah calls for justice: So we treat all people rightly and equally.

He calls for mercy: which means that rather than seek revenge or to settle scores, we turn the other cheek and regard those before us as we would have others regard us.

"Black lives matter' is not a response against whites, neither is it an attack on the police, the institution that is the state, or any other group who have authority: It is a plea to make all lives matter universally and whatever group is being acted against wrongly in particular.

and we, the Church, should be championing that cause.

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