Black lives matter.
I joined hundreds of others in Richmond yesterday, repeating that chant. We were responding to what feels like the re-killing of Michael Brown in Missouri, and especially to the reality that his death has been disrespected by the legal system.
Black lives matter.
It should not need to be repeated. But we did, many times, as we stood on the steps of the John Marshall Courts Building and then marched down 9th Street onto Broad going east to the capitol and then west back to 9th and the courthouse.
I stood and marched with my friend and colleague, Rev. Jeanne Pupke of the First Unitarian Church, and several members of that congregation. One of them gave me this sign to carry. We chanted with conviction, because of course it is true, it is God’s truth even before we know it. But we also did it in desperation, wanting it to be so far more than it is. We know that for too many, black lives are expendable, or at the very least, of negligible value. For many, black lives do not matter much at all.
It pains me to say that Jeanne and I were the only clergy either of us recognized. I pray others were there that we do not know. No clergy spoke. I doubt any were asked–the organizers seemed to be young, and the young so often have little use for religion. This is understandable, given how so much religion has failed even basic tests for justice.
I also marched with the two women at whose marriage I officiated in the first moments after marriage for lesbian and gay couples became legal in Virginia–Nicole and Lindsey O-Pries. I was so glad to see them–it was a message from Lindsey that alerted me to the event–because their being there, along with the presence of Jeanne Pupke and Annette Marquis of the UUA Multicultural Department, united the justice work of LGBT and racial equality. We were back at the Marshall Courts Building for justice. And for love.
I saw no other identifiable LGBT leaders and that pains me, too. We are all too fractured. At a time when marriage equality is marching across the nation, the lives of too many African Americans are still at risk–from police who shoot of course, but also from joblessness and unbelievable incarceration rates and homelessness and hunger and inadequate, even bad, public schools.
Why was not the entire city there? Why are we, as a society, not in full mourning? And why is our focus so much on the destructive behavior of some who act out their anger (and do nothing to help the cause of justice) and so little on the injustice being perpetrated over and over against our fellow citizens who are dark-skinned, and especially the descendants of those our ancestors held in bondage?
The reaction of many–denial and a focus solely on lost property rather than on lost lives–springs from fear, fear that is fed by a scarcity model of social interaction rather than the deeper truth that it is love, caring, kindness, generosity, justice, hope, joy that will see all of us through our present troubles to a better life for all.
Black lives matter. We shouldn’t have to say it. But we do.
And we will–until everyone, or at least mostly everyone, believes it, too.