Why Don’t We Say All Lives Matter?
Black Lives Matter (BLM) founders state that BLM is a human rights movement, “an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise”. “Black Lives Matter is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression” (www.blacklivesmatter.com). According to the Unitarian Universalist Association, “to say “black lives matter” doesn’t mean that black lives are more important than other lives, or that all lives don’t matter. The systemic devaluing of Black lives calls us to bear witness, even as we acknowledge that oppression takes many intersecting forms” (www.uua.org).
According to the Unitarian Universalist Association website, “Black Lives Matter (or #BlackLivesMatter) is a movement and a stance in response to the reality: the United States was built on a legacy of slavery, racism, and oppression that continues to take new, ever-changing forms” (www.uua.org). Black Lives Matter raises public awareness of America’s treatment of African American citizens, many of whose lives are rendered invisible amidst perceptions among 50% of the American public that America is post-racial. Unitarian Universalists are called to bear witness of the following facts:
According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “African Americans bear a disproportionate burden of disease, injury, death, and disability…for blacks in the United States, health disparities can mean earlier deaths, decreased quality of life, loss of economic opportunities, and perceptions of injustice. For society, these disparities translate into less than optimal productivity, higher health-care costs, and social inequity” (https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5401a1.htm).
African-Americans comprise only 13% of the U.S. population and 14% of the monthly drug users, but are 37% of the people arrested for drug-related offenses in America (http://www.drugpolicy.org/race-and-drug-war).
Studies show that police are more likely to pull over and frisk blacks or Latinos than whites. In New York City, 80% of the stops made were blacks and Latinos, and 85% of those people were frisked, compared to a mere 8% of white people stopped (https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-racial-discrimination).
In 2010, the U.S. Sentencing Commission reported that African Americans receive 10% longer sentences than whites through the federal system for the same crimes (https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-racial-discrimination).
In 2009, African-Americans were 21% more likely than whites to receive mandatory minimum sentences and 20% more likely to be sentenced to prison than white drug defendants (https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-racial-discrimination).
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, one in three black men can expect to go to prison in his lifetime (http://sentencingproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Race-and-Justice-Shadow-Report-ICCPR.pdf).
In urban communities 50-70% of children have been exposed to lead and other toxins, in their homes, in the soil, and via centuries old water pipes. At high levels of exposure, lead attacks the brain and central nervous system. It can cause coma, convulsions and even death. Children who survive severe lead poisoning may be left with mental retardation and behavioral disorders. Schools in predominately African American neighborhoods have historically been faced with underfunding. A recent study by data scientist David Mosenkis, found that in Pennsylvania school districts, “… no matter how rich or poor the district in question, funding gaps existed solely based on the racial composition of the school. Just the increased presence of minority students actually deflated a district’s funding level. The ones that have a few more students of color get lower funding than the ones that are 100 percent or 95 percent white” (http://www.allgov.com/news/where-is-the-money-going/poor-white-school-districts-receive-better-funding-than-poor-minority-districts-151006?news=85757). African Americans students, regardless of socioeconomic class are more likely to be expelled and approximately 3.5 times as likely to be suspended as white students for non-serious offenses (guns, drugs, fights); Over half of black young men who attend urban high schools do not earn a diploma, of those that dropout, nearly 60 percent will go to prison at some point; an estimated 40 percent of all students that are expelled from U.S. schools are black; African American students, in particularly African American males, experience higher levels of school disengagement; a phenomena that occurred after desegregation. Disengagement contributes to higher dropout rates. African Americans experience higher unemployment rates, higher rates of incarceration, more severe and longer sentencing for similar crimes (e.g. sentencing for crack vs. cocaine), African Americans are 2.5 times as likely as white Americans to be shot and killed by police officers; unarmed African Americans are five times as likely as unarmed white Americans to be shot and killed by a police officer.
Mark Harris, author of the Historical Dictionary of Unitarian Universalism wrote, “From its beginnings, Universalism challenged its members to reach out and embrace people whom society often marginalized.” Additionally, the Black Lives Matter Movement centers those historically marginalized within the “Black liberation movements by affirming the lives of Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, Black-undocumented folks, folks with records, women and all Black lives along the gender spectrum” (http://blacklivesmatter.com/herstory/).
Black Live Matters Founders share: “We are grateful to our allies who have stepped up to the call that Black lives matter, and taken it as an opportunity to not just stand in solidarity with us, but to investigate the ways in which anti-Black racism is perpetuated in their own communities. We are also grateful to those allies who were willing to engage in critical dialogue with us about this unfortunate and problematic dynamic…From our vantage point, the Movement for Black Lives, once achieved, will create an inclusive democracy that guarantees freedom and justice for all” (www.blacklives matter.org).
Civil Rights Activist Ella Baker said in the 1960’s, “Remember, we are not fighting for the freedom of the Negro alone, but for the freedom of the human spirit, a larger freedom that encompasses all mankind.”
All Lives Matter when Black Lives Matter.
On February 12th 2017, you are invited to the rededication of the Black Lives Matter Banner, which serves to demonstrate Piedmont Unitarian Universalist Church’s commitment to diversity, social justice and dream of inclusive democracy and justice for all. After the rededication, please join us in a festive afternoon of sharing your own personal soul food that serves to lift your spirits. You are invited to share a narrative about your soul food if you are so inspired!
www.blacklives matter.org. n.d.