Today marks a year since a moment occurred.
It was a moment when teenager Mike Brown was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.
Today marks a year since a movement began.
It is a movement called Black Lives Matter and it is not only raising awareness to white supremacy, police brutality, and the devaluing of black lives in our country, but is also a movement of change and, ultimately, justice.
Black Lives Matter is a movement seeking to bring about the social, economic, and political liberation of black people. It’s a movement of re-humanizing those who have been de-humanized.
It is a movement declaring there are systems and structures in place that favors certain people over others. This system is not new. It’s been around a long time, as far back as 1619 when it was gruesomely obvious that black lives did not matter. And as much as we would like to think that we have moved past such history, the stain of slavery and racism remain. It permeates all areas of our culture.
This movement is forcing us, and I’m glad that it is, to face the effects of white supremacy, white privilege, and systemic racism. It’s forcing us to come to grips with the fact that racism didn’t die with the end of slavery but simply took another form and continues to rear its ugly head. It is hitting us over the head with the truth that the Civil Rights Movement didn’t end when schools were integrated. It’s uncovering extreme police brutality that men and women are being killed at the ends of those who vow to protect us. It’s revealing our own racial biases and, although that might bring a sense of guilt, it should push us to repent and ask for forgiveness. It’s forcing us to see that racism is alive and well, it just looks differently than white people owning other humans. It’s worse than we could have expected.
This movement is not just headlines, social media posts, or ideas. It has names.
See, the death of Mike Brown, which caused people to rise up, wasn’t an isolated event. It’s happened before. For centuries. It keeps happening. Over and over and over. And, people are fed up. We all should be.
There’s Mike Brown; Christian Taylor; Tamir Rice; Eric Garner; Freddie Gray; Jordan Davis; Andre Williams; Samuel DuBose; Anthony Ware; Walter Scott; Justus Howell; Eric Harris; Brandon Jones; Tony Robinson; John Crawford; Yvette Smith; Sandra Bland: Ralkina Jones; and so many more.
Did you know that unarmed black individuals are 7 times more likely to be killed by police gunfire than whites? Did you know police have killed more than 700 people this year? If you want to see it, check this out. I hope it will shock you. While you’re at it, here are a few links on white privilege, racism, and race baiting.
You might respond to the Black Lives Matter movement by thinking All Lives Matter. I get why people respond to that and the sentiment. But sadly, like the idea of colorblindness, it is well intended, but painfully ignorant.
Let me encourage you to think through the implications of that phrase. As politically correct you may intend to be with it, the phrase is dismissive, ignores the problem, continues to erasure of black life, and is the exact reason the Black Lives Matter movement exists. For more, check out these links here and here. Or check out the image to the right:
Although I’ve read articles, re-tweeted, and posted links on social media, I have done very little to affect change and proclaim that Black Lives Matter. I haven’t marched in any protests, written letters, had many conversations, or even blogged a lot about it. For that I apologize.
I apologize that one of the reasons I don’t discuss this topic is that I fear responses by my white friends- saying I’m playing the race card or something. I apologize that I fear preaching about this stuff, because when I preached on Ferguson, Travyon Martin, Black Lives Matter in the past, I get backlash and a few angry emails from congregants or leaders.
It proves my own privilege; I’m afraid I might get into some heated conversations when my African-American friends fear for their lives. It’s shameful.
The more I learn about the realities that my friends of color face everyday, the more I see it everywhere everyday. The more I listen to their hurt, frustration, pain, and experiences, the more I am overcome with how blind I have truly been; how privileged I am; how much I benefit from this system; how easily racial biases persist; how regretful I am I didn’t speak up sooner.
My fellow white people, we have work to do. So much work to do.
This isn’t a guilt trip. This isn’t a shame-fest.
It’s a wake up call. It’s a reality check.
We need to learn. We need to study. We need to acknowledge. We need to confess. We need to repent. We need to work for justice.
As I have been reflecting on the death of Mike Brown today, I am reminded of Jesus.
Centuries ago, Jesus was profiled, he wasn’t trusted, he was presumed guilty by a corrupt power system and structure that refused to see him as an innocent man. Eventually, he was physically beaten, past the point of recognition. After this, his dark brown body hung on a cross for hours. People stereotyped him as a criminal, mocking and spitting on him.
This moment started a movement, too. A small group of people, who I’m sure got plenty of criticism for their beliefs, stood up for justice, reconciliation, and community. They fought against corrupt political and governing systems of power. They protested in such a way that eventually great change occurred in their culture and had lasting affects for generations.
And this moment and movement ushered in a new Kingdom, a new system, a new way of life; full of love, mercy, justice, truth, and goodness.
There will be a day when black bodies are no longer killed on our streets.
There will be a day when power systems no longer oppress people.
There will be a day when people will not be racially profiled.
There will be a day where there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.
But, until then, we have work to do.
Until then, we must say it; we must believe it; we must help to make it a reality:
BLACK LIVES MATTER!
BLACK LIVES MATTER!
BLACK LIVES MATTER!