This is addressed to my dear white brothers and sisters. It is my honest hope that this helps you understand what many of you seem to be missing about Black Lives Matter! Many, not all, of you are good people who seem to simply forget things you already know whenever conversation drifts to racism. Consider this my good faith effort to help. I am only speaking to my white siblings. I have nothing to offer people of color because they already know in their hearts, minds, and bodies the truth that I can only articulate imperfectly to you.
You will notice that the name of this article includes an ellipsis before the words, “Black Lives Matter!” This is to indicate that there is some information that goes unsaid when people say those three words. I believe that the words “Black Lives Matter!” are the last three words in a long sentence and that forgetting this has led many of you to jump to the wrong emotional conclusion. It seems that many of our white brothers and sisters believe that “Black Lives Matter!” is a shortened version of the phrase “Only Black Lives Matter!” In other words, they perceive that there is something missing but they wrongly conclude that the missing word is “Only.” They bristle at the suggestion that their own lives may not matter. I want to affirm your perception that there is something missing before “Black Lives Matter!” but I want to help you understand that what is missing isn’t the word “Only.”
The actual missing words that the ellipsis represents in “…Black Lives Matter!” might go something like this. “Because we acknowledge centuries of white oppression, enslavement, and exploitation of, as well as violence directed toward black people, and because we recognize the ongoing and unjust ways that black people are demeaned, devalued, ignored, neglected, and abused by our white centered culture, we want to state without reservation that despite the efforts of white privilege and supremacy, Black Lives Matter.” I am not the authority on this sentence and black people may write it in other more eloquent, true, and effective ways, but you get the gist of what I am trying to say. My dear white brothers and sisters, if you accept the truth of my long ham-fisted effort to articulate the history of racial injustice in this country, you must recognize that it is much too long to be a slogan. It does not work well on t-shirts, Facebook, or Instagram. As such, the phrase “Black Lives Matter!” stands for the whole sentence and the ellipsis is omitted because we assume that white people of good heart already know and understand the unstated portion of the phrase. Most of you do understand and accept it. Those of you who do not fall into the category of “not all” that I referenced in the beginning of this essay when I said that most of you, not all, are good hearted people.
This is why “All Lives Matter” is a betrayal that undermines the very message that needs to be communicated the most. If you put “All Lives Matter” at the end of my long sentence you recognize immediately how it renders hollow all the words that go before it. In truth, there is no ellipsis before “All Lives Matter!” It is a slogan meant to replace the word “Black” so we can ignore it and diminish its importance. Doing this is indecent and unchristian. Most of you should be able to get this. When I tell my white children that “…Black Lives Matter” they understand that I am not saying that their lives are unimportant or that they do not count. They also understand that when we say “…Black Lives Matter!” we are saying a lot more than just those three words. So it is time for white people of good faith and good hearts to get on board. Not that getting comfortable with a sentence changes the world for the better or creates more justice for people of color, but it is a beginning and we cannot take the ultimate step of justice if we do not take the initial step of acknowledgement.