Moral Priorities: Black Lives Matter

By Rev. David Wilson Rogers |  October 15, 2016

            Across the land the heartfelt cries for justice are captivating the media, galvanizing hearts, and dividing Christians along stark ideological lines. The problem is, however, the passionate outcries are largely misunderstood and dangerously wrenched out of context. Once twisted into something they are not, angry voices of condemnation rise in order to shout down the media-manufactured outrage. In the end, truth is lost and justice is denied. The tragedy marks a serious moral failure in our modern experience.
            On February 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin was fatally shot by George Zimmerman. The facts in the case are largely subject to interpretation and continue to be greatly disputed, but Zimmerman was found Not Guilty in a Florida court. The shooting touched a chord in the hearts of many in the United States, thus giving rise to the understandably controversial “Black Lives Matter” movement.
            Inflated in the media culture and fanned by the deceptive winds of social media, Black Lives Matter took on a life of its own. For some, the movement was a profound point of taking a stand against injustice and others interpreted the movement as insulting to both law enforcement and the rule of law that necessarily governs our land.
            Amid the media storm of misinformation that surrounded Black Lives Matter arose angry—and well-intended—counter claims such as “Blue Lives Matter” and the ubiquitous “All Lives Matter.” Combined, the three slogans quickly became banners of identity and rallying cries of political priority which quickly seemed to negate and oppose one another based on distorted absolutes. Yet, the original cries for justice and particular experience of oppression, discrimination, and exclusion experienced by many African Americans in the United States continues. For all its good intent, the Black Lives Matter movement has also sparked a firestorm of backlash which has undermined the genuine message it seeks to communicate.
            Black Lives Matter is not against the police or opposed to decent Law and Order. Likewise, it does not say that other lives do not matter. It is a public acknowledgment that, in many places across the nation, it is evident that Black lives do not matter to all people or in all circumstances. It is a cry of personal outrage based on actual experience.
            The reality for some in America is that men and women of color are substantially more likely to be treated poorly by people in authority, frequently profiled and questioned solely on the basis of race, and often subjected to living in academically underserved areas that superimpose harsh levels of poverty upon them. What is even more telling is the disproportionate number of Black men and women who are either stuck in prison or caught up in a diminishing spiral of systemic poverty, oppression, and economic inequality.
            Far from being anti-police or exclusively centered in elevating one race above all others—as many have vehemently, although erroneously claimed—the movement is simply a call for justice for all people that arises out of the depths of a part of America where justice and equality have largely been denied.
            Rather than be angrily divided over the flagrantly distorted aspects of Black Lives Matter, Christians need to prayerfully understand the genuine cry for justice that are at the heart of why the movement has meaning. Failure to hear the cries of injustice and inequality rising from some of the most maligned neighborhoods and communities of our nation is a moral failure that Christians must overcome.