By Vernon A. Williams, Gary Crusader
An Open Letter to White America:
Let’s be clear. There is an organization called Black Lives Matter that sprung from a grassroots initiative to address racial oppression and social inequity in America.
Then, there is the expression that sounds the same but may or may not refer to tenets of the movement. It is simply a moral affirmation. Black lives matter.
No matter what persuasion, you have every right to agree or disagree with the concept or the workings of the organization. Maybe you disagree with their tactics, think their leaders are uninformed, that they rely too much on emotion, or that their goals are unclear.
Such concerns are discussable. You are entitled to your opinion. Not even all African Americans believe the NAACP and Urban League and even Black Lives Matter are relevant.
Some Black folks shun the leadership of Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and others credited as leaders in their community. Some see Minister Louis Farrakhan as a demagogue. Some denounce the Christian church – once revered as Ground Zero for our freedom struggle. The so-called Black community is NOT a monolith.
Oneness of thought is not a prerequisite for being a good American – a decent human being. Conversely, the wealth of perspectives and the right to articulate differences constitute the foundation of our democracy and contribute to a free nation.
You have no moral obligation to endorse or support the organization — Black Lives Matter. It is a different situation, however, when it comes to articulating the sentence or phrase: “Black lives matter.” That is simply acknowledgement of the existence and humanity of a people made by God – just like you.
Can you imagine setting the bar any lower? All that’s on the table here is encouragement that you accept and confirm through utterance specification that the lives of a significant U.S. demographic – people who helped build this nation and who fought its wars – should be counted like everyone else.
No special treatment is required. The request is not to love Black people (though it would be a wonderful footnote vying for national unity). Contrary to popular belief, such acknowledgement doesn’t obligate you to give special preference to African Americans (not to be confused with justifiable efforts to atone for past injustices and to level the proverbial playing field).
Understand that there is no assertion that Black lives matter more. This affirmation need not come at the expense of or regard for any other race, nationality, or ethnicity. It just assures that Black lives cannot matter less.
It is abhorrent and intellectually dishonest to assert “Black lives matter” results in disrespect for so-called “blue lives.” That is a myth of the enemy to separate people of good will. Police are important to every community. The assumption that African Americans inherently disdain law enforcement is a cruel subterfuge and gross mischaracterization. What Blacks object to is both police brutality and the lack of recourse against those who disgrace the badge; points no reasonable humanity can debate.
Mind games and divisive rhetoric are counterproductive. It is clearly timeout for semantics. This is a seminal moment for the United States. We may not agree on everything, but we can agree that there is no virtue in Nazism, fascism, sexism, anti-Semitism and racism. If you do not agree, stop reading immediately because this message is not intended for you. God save your souls.
For those with good hearts — and that is the overwhelming majority — you felt no compulsion to distinguish the color of victims courageously protesting bigotry when a ruthless killer plowed his car at a high speed into unsuspecting crowds of innocents. His only distinction was evil. We should apply such objectivity consistently.
Likewise, let’s stop pretending not to recognize bigotry. Requiring evidence to substantiate reckless disregard for Black life in America is simply disingenuous. You already know what hatred looks like and what it sounds like. The only problem is, you have no idea what it feels like. If you did, you would fight with us — not against us.
African Americans need more than expression of a thought. Words alone ring hollow. We deserve to see and feel manifestation of the core belief that Black lives matter. That can and should come in too many ways to detail in a single column but the common elements are respect, inclusion, empathy, justice and accommodation. African Americans deserve a nation enabling “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
It will reinvigorate our nation’s sagging spirit to say it. Black lives matter. It will be good for national unity to say it. Black lives matter. It will bode well for peace among the races in the future to say it. Black lives matter. It will unite us as brothers and sisters against common enemies. Black lives matter. It will heal rather than hurt. Black lives matter.
In conclusion, know that all benefit from mutual regard for the value and values of every people. Whether or not you are already on board, choose to change or reject this appeal altogether and continue to contribute to the divide, it doesn’t change a reality. Whether you accept or reject invitations to reconciliation — the truth is the light.
The truth is — Black lives matter.
CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference-makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: [email protected].