BLACK LIVES MATTER
(by Murphy Davis – – a Catholic Worker who works to end the death penalty. Murphy Davis and Ed Loring, two Presbyterian clergy, started the Open Door Community in Atlanta, Georgia)
More than a year has passed now since young Michael Brown was shot down in the streets of his own neighborhood by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Police killings of citizens occur approximately every 28 hours in the U.S., but the killing of this particular unarmed young Black man was a turning point. The streets of Ferguson exploded with angry citizens, determined to seek justice for Michael Brown and for their community. Other towns and cities joined in. New voices have emerged every day in the streets and courageous young Black people are taking risks to interrupt business as usual with the message that Black Lives Matter.
I would venture to guess that most Americans who are not among the white supremacists can agree – black, brown and white – that Black lives matter even though most would hasten to add, “All lives matter.” This qualification shows the lack of understanding of what the activists are saying. Black lives are at risk every single day in the U.S.A. Black mothers and fathers tremble with fear when their young ones leave home to play or go to school. Will they return alive? Can they walk from here to there in safety? The stress of daily life is incomprehensible to those who grow up believing that “the policeman is my friend.” The young Black leaders are not asking to be heard; they are demanding to be heard; and there is rage in this demand. It is long past time, and their patience is thin. We of the white power structure have had opportunities again and again. We will ignore them this time at our own peril and at the peril of our still-waiting-to-be-born democracy.
Black lives have been cheap from the time the first chained black feet walked off of ships onto the shores of Virginia…When chattel slavery was abolished, white supremacy found other ways to accomplish its evil. The short years of Reconstruction meant the vote for Black men and forward movement for former slaves with the protection of federal troops. But when the “Redemptionist” white Southerners had their way, the protection disappeared. The Klan enforced terror in the Black community; the vote was snatched away, the cruel system of sharecropping instituted, and the use of Constitutionally sanctioned penal slavery kept most of the captive labor force in place…Our history as a nation has rested on the assumption that Black life is cheap and expendable. Mass imprisonment, the death penalty and our financial systems have insured that black bodies continue to be under the control of the dominant (white) system.
…As a whole, we are reluctant to seriously examine the structure of white supremacy and white privilege. This leaves us blind and deaf to the cries of our young friends who demand that we listen NOW. We continue to allow “racism” to be about only those who are Neo-Confederates and openly advocate a whites-only America.
Black Lives Matter…and other established and ad hoc groups are crying out for us to understand the pain and terror of Black life in the U.S. When Eric Garner can be choked to death on the street by a gang of police, when Sandra Bland can be stopped and jailed and “found dead in her cell” for the crime of an improper lane change, when Walter Scott can be pursued for allegedly failing to pay child support and shot to death in the back, when 12-year-old Tamir Rice can be shot dead by police on the playground—as we know, this list could go on and on. The message is clear: Black Lives Do NOT Matter. Black life is cheap. Black bodies are still a disposable commodity…..
How would we white people feel if the young people at such risk were our children and grandchildren? I have a little white grandson who is almost 12 years old. What would I do if he were – God forbid – shot down while playing with other children? Well, the truth is that these are our children. In the words of Jonathan Daniels, who sacrificed his own life for the life of a young Black woman named Ruby Sales, “We are…one. We are indelibly, unspeakably ONE.”
…Anytime people are shot down in the streets, slammed to the ground, or killed in prisons or jails, they are our sisters and brothers. The police who shoot them down (even though they might protest) are our sisters and brothers.
We Are One. Black Lives Matter. This is an emergency. When will we act?
Peace and gratitude,
Larry, Ronnie, Jan, Mary Jane, Aida, Susan and J. Arthur
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