“Black Lives Matter” (BLM) signs are popping up all over in Morris, including in my yard. I see “All Lives Matter” signs too – a rebuttal, I assume, to the BLM signs. Here’s a hypothetical conversation between me and my “All Lives Matter” neighbors:
Me: I am curious…what is it that you are trying to say here?
Neighbor: Every life matters, not just Black ones! Blacks are no more special than anyone else.
Me: An understandable response, I guess. I think all lives are important too. Putting up a “BLM” sign, however, doesn’t say your life is not important. It doesn’t say Blacks are more special or more important. Look, America is pretty white-centric. The media, our government, corporations and popular culture – all generally reflect the Western, white, Anglo~Saxon view of the world.
People of color (including Blacks) are almost completely invisible and unrepresented. If they are shown in popular culture, it is often in a negative or a demeaning way. Being invisible, it is easy to ignore them. They are other and as such, their pursuit of life, liberty and happiness doesn’t matter.
By saying “Black Lives Matter” I am saying I recognize my fellow Black Americans as a valuable part of the community and country in which I live. Instead of keeping them at arm’s length and holding them down with a system that has, for centuries, kept them invisible and oppressed, I support their struggle for rights as equal partners.
Neighbor: That’s just bogus. Everyone in this country has the same rights and opportunities. It’s a level playing field. No one went out of their way to help me!
Me: Look into it. The “playing field” is anything but level. Voting rights. Home ownership. Health disparities. Educational outcomes. African Americans have struggled for these fundamental rights for decades. George Floyd’s death has been the catalyst that has caused the scales to fall from people’s eyes. Black people have been systematically shown, day after day, generation after generation, that their lives, their culture, their needs and wants really don’t matter much in this country.
Neighbor: I still think that “Black Lives Matter” means that my life as a white person doesn’t matter, and that’s just wrong.
Me: That’s not the message. If it would help you understand, say “Black Lives Matter just as much as mine.” It has been so bad, for so long, that the invisible and beaten down need to scream and pound and shout, “OUR LIVES MATTER! Quit treating us as if we are expendable and invisible! Treat us as if we matter!”
Neighbor: I don’t know any Black people.
Me: Perhaps it’s time you did.
Nancy Carpenter, Morris