Black Lives Matter?

Several years ago, I participated in a Clinton Foundation meeting in New York. During the meeting, I sat by a woman from the United Nations assigned to the genocide issue in Darfur. At that time hundreds of thousands of blacks were being killed or displaced in southern Sudan, but those trying to relieve the suffering could not get significant media attention. This diplomat asked me why she was having such a hard time getting people to care about the suffering people of Darfur. I told her that in our Christian faith everyone is equally important, but in this fallen world, some matter more than others. As our conversation continued, I told her that the people of southern Sudan did not matter to most people in the current geo-political dynamic. Genocide in that region has continued to this day with little attention. It would appear that these black lives don’t matter much.

Ebola broke out in West Africa in 2013. I learned about it on my BBC app, and when I mentioned it to our congregation, few had heard about it. Why? Because it was not a major story in the American media until white Americans who were providing medical care to African victims were infected.

Here in America, blacks kill thousands of black people every year. I have never heard their names, but I do know the names of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, and Freddie Gray. Why? Because they have become symbols for a specific, popular cause. Symbols are important. Every cause has symbols that move the cause forward.

We just saw a perfect example of this with the dentist who went to Africa to shoot a trophy lion and is now known world-wide as a symbol of every malicious animal killer on the planet. He is a symbol now. If he tries to prove he was hunting legally, he will sound absurd. In the eyes of the general public, the factual details of his hunt are irrelevant now. He has become the poster child of a cause.

The same idea is evident with the “Black Lives Matter” symbols. Some care about the nefarious character, disrespectful attitudes, or previous offenses of those who have been killed, believing their errors mitigate, or even justify, their deaths. But once people become symbols, those facts no longer inform the primary public message.

The “Black Lives Matter” movement is highlighting the issue that abuse by authorities, especially white authorities, against African-Americans continues. This would explain why the thousands killed by black on black violence don’t seem to matter as much. That strikes me as unfair because all black lives matter, not just the ones that are lost at the hands of authorities. The black deaths, which occur at the hands of other blacks, are just as important. But, because they are not illustrative of the issue being highlighted by the media and the activists, they seem to not matter as much. Black on black victims are not symbols of a popular cause, so to talk about them in the same sentence as Freddie Gray seems unrelated.

Because black on black murders are virtually ignored by activists, the issue here might NOT be that “Black Lives Matter,” but maybe that racism matters. Or since uniformed officers who take black lives are the newsmakers, maybe it’s NOT that “Black Lives Matter,” but that abuse of government power matters. Based on media coverage and speeches given by the more prominent African-American leaders, black lives lost at the hands of the white police officers matter the most.

Maybe this is why the press wanted George Zimmerman to be white. That’s better imagery. It illustrates a political point better if he is white. The media reluctantly admitted he was half-Hispanic because George Zimmerman kept identifying himself as Hispanic. But even after his personal racial identification was made public, the media still often referred to him as white. If he was Hispanic, it might not have illustrated the political point as well.

Some might argue that the “Black Lives Matter” movement makes racism become the lens through which we see everything. Could there be a reason why George Zimmerman needed to be white and not Hispanic, and that President Obama is not half-white, half-black, or mixed race, but black? The symbolic value is increased when he’s our first black president, no doubt.

Probably the best current illustration of this complex issue is the highly publicized Rolling Stone feature article about the sexual assaults at the University of Virginia. Those assaults drew global attention until someone tried to find anyone who had been assaulted. There were none. What was reported didn’t happen. Several women’s organizations came out after the article was exposed as fraudulent and said that the fact that the sexual assaults did not happen is irrelevant. What was relevant to them was that the story brought public attention to their cause.

Causes are often birthed as a result of injustices. Wrongs need to be made right. But they must be based in truth so we can move forward with clarity to find solutions. If the issue is really that black lives matter, then black lives need to matter, even in the black community. But if the subject is really racism or the abuse of power by the authorities, then those are the issues we all should be correcting.
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Others are interested in your response and I appreciate your feedback. Please ensure that your comments are are informed and contribute constructively. After reading the blog your thoughts are certainly welcome, and I read all of them. But they will only be published if they are helpful to the discussion. At times, after reading a comment, I go back and correct or improve the blog. Thank you.

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18 thoughts on “Black Lives Matter?

  1. Lisa says:

    Im disappointed in your response Pastor and while many blacks kill blacks all over the world, to dismiss blantant police brutality in the case of Sandra Bland (yeah, she has a name) is deplorable. That would be like lumping all religious leaders together and saying that as a group they must all be corrupt because of the illegal activities of just a few. When we over look evil, especially the evil of those in positions of authority over others, we condone it. Dehumanizing groups of people.. never a good idea. Whites kill whites, muslims kill muslims, christians kill christians. Should people not seek justice because they are part of a group? Really? I wholeheartedly disagree with you.

    • I’m not sure Lisa read the blog folks. But I do hear here passion and appreciate what she is saying. I agree with what she is saying. It’s interesting to me that she is disappointed and thinks we disagree, which might be indicative of some portion of the problem.

  2. Jenny says:

    #blacklivesmatter does address black
    on black crime

    • Stacy says:

      from blacklivesmatter website:

      BlackLivesMatter is a call to action and a response to the virulent anti-Black racism that permeates our society.

      • Excellent point Stacy. This says it all. Obviously, facts don’t matter if they say this with a black president, attorney general, supreme court member, etc. These folks use symbolism so much, facts don’t matter.

      • Pardon me Mr. Haggard, but that’s a blatant logical fallacy The country is run by scores of men and women. To assert that there can not be racial inequality due to there being at least 3 African Americans in positions of leadership instantly nullifies centuries of institutionalized oppression is just… well it’s just plain ludicrous.

      • Alex, you did not read the blog.

  3. Gary Sweeten says:

    Great insight into the importance of symbols.

  4. Ellen says:

    Right on! Some really good points everyone needs to think about.

  5. todd says:

    All lives matter, black, white, Hispanic, etc…….. along with the unborn. Everyone, even a racist, knows right from wrong. Most crimes against people, including racism and hate, and abortion, are just expressions of selfishness and self interest. God please free us from the bondage of SELF

  6. Very insightful and brave expression, Ted. We desperately need more voices of truth speaking out to counter the frequently misguided PC messages that are heralded in our culture. Another example of how “all” black lives DON’T matter to the Black Lives Matter movement is revealed through its absence of rage over the facts that black children are aborted at 4 times the per capita rate of while children and that in NYC more black children are aborted than are born.

    • clem griffiths says:

      Can we at least agree that something is wrong with the thought process ?
      If abortion is wrong and in the womb there is no differentiation between black and white what is the value of more statistics when the truth is that at birth the society continues to kill these souls simply because they are black. We kill them by hate, by denying opprtunities, by withholding love, by equating them to pond scum and none of this happens in a sanitized operating room; it’s on the streets, on the workplace in our churches. Abortion is not rampant in New York, they are eliminating us at ages 0,10, 14, 19, 22, 42 please understand all of this is Abortion.
      Abortion us not a uterine phenomenon or at least is not exclusive to that organ.
      The Good news is that all of our prayers have been heard the crucible is overflowing and God is about to speak a word that will change everything so hang on.

  7. Frank in VA says:

    What I got from your blog was different from what others seem to focus on. I think one factor that always distresses me is how truth seems to be lost in arguments. One Irish soccer player said he was against gay marriage, but admitted he was concerned that he would be viewed as a bigot. Now, the social medium didn’t let me communicate with him, but I wanted to stress that being against same-sex marriage wasn’t a concern (everyone has opinions on everything), but that so many people start lying in bizarre ways.

    I, for one, would readily admit that marriage between a man and a woman is the ideal. But sometimes, the ideal isn’t possible.

    You were correct on stressing that truth seemed to have been lost in the heat of the various debates. The UVa case is a good one to highlight: Sexual attacks on campus are a tremendous problem, but that doesn’t justify lying one had happened.

    “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.” That tells me that truth is compelling enough to keep first and foremost. (AA stresses to those in recovery that rigorous honesty is the ideal for those in recovery.)

  8. clem griffiths says:

    Of course you are correct race relations is an issue and back on black crime is an issue but we also understand the importance of differentiating between words and intent. All the black community is trying to communicate is that we love , bleed, care and hope the same way you do.
    The benifit or the opportunity would have been for you to understand our heart cry and amplify it as you deemed appropriate to help the cause.
    Black on black crime and other issues are critically important but at this juncture are best left for the next phase as least let’s agree first that we are not primordial scum

  9. Lenita Davis says:

    I think there is a perspective that you really miss with your words. I write this response in hope that you can really appreciate another vieww point and not get defensive about being tagged as racists or anything else negative and really try to see this from another viewpoint.

    Point One: Black on Black Crime The statistics with blacks that commit crime against each other and whites that commit crimes against each other are pretty much the same. I think the fact that you only look at Black on Black crime statistic implies subtly that “race” makes people more or less violent. Gong further by saying that you never hear activist attack that well, activists do work hard to stop violence education, gun laws etc.

    Point Two: Given that “All lives matter” you would hope that if you are a victim of a crime that you could come to the people in authority and get justice. If you do not feel you can come to the police or the legal system to get justice or if you perceive that you will not be “heard” or worse harmed… You believe that “Black lives don’t matter” Blacks especially poor Blacks do not trust the police. You are only hearing about the cases that made it to the media but there as just as many injustices that you have never heard about that represents the day to day existence of many African Americans in this country.

    Point three- I agree with you problems of abuse are things we all need to be correcting and the thing I like most about the “Black lives matter” movement is that the people who are involved cross all racial and economic levels. I think that is very healing.

    Point four- I would hope that you are not questioning if Black lives matter in the black community . I got that impression when you talked about black on black crime and ended your with this statement

    “If the issue is really that black lives matter, then black lives need to matter, even in the black community”

  10. Douglas says:

    54 yrs old. Married 23 yrs. 3 sons. After returning from a trip to S. Africa, where a lot of healing took place, i began to see the structure of life around me deteriorate back in the states. Not my health or relationship with my family, but my desires unraveled. I had served about 5 years at this point in law enforcement and had found identity in so simple of things. A favorite hat for example. All those things are fading now and what i seem to have left is being identified with Christ. Vulnerable.
    My wife and i were in colorado (WLI) winter 2004 when the topic was broached of Gods plan for your life.
    My wife and i greived for a family we did not know. My spirit did not have peace about it. How quickly i forgot, consumed with my consumerism.
    As i lay in the bed last night i found myself looking at the documentary of your life. A flood of emotion returned.
    When my wife came to bed we watched it together. I was ashamed at the fact i had thought about you from time to time but never searched you out. We immediately prayed for you and your family. Please forgive me.
    I was so encouraged by ( against the world ) how you set your face like flint.
    I am reminded of Christ when I look at your life. So simple this life can be. Re-presenting Jesus in every situation.
    So here i am writing to you to agree that all things only need re-presenting. Clarity you have brought to a cloudy day in this post of yours ive read. Will be on your prayer team.
    Look forward to catching up.
    God speed.

  11. Lillie says:

    Dear Mr. Haggard,

    I just read your blog about Black Lives Matter and I was disappointed.

    I feel as though you need to do more research before you make certain statements about an issue.

    Being that you don’t live in the black community, the inner city in the minority area (where mostly black people live) or are probably not up on local black issues in different communities, you wouldn’t know that there have been protest and uprisings when a black on black crime effects the community (especially killings involving drugs, a drive by, children murdered, murder by robbery, and drug houses). Just because the media doesn’t show when a black activists comes to a black community to attend a rally for black on black crime doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

    In addition, you mentioned George Zimmerman being mixed, the reason the media mentioned he was white was because they had job applications, a copy of his application to attend school to become a police officer, and his application to be a security guard where he listed his race a white, NOT Hispanic or even mixed. This was show on HLN during the trial. Why before the shooting of Trayvon Martin Mr. Zimmerman wanted to be known as white and claimed his white family side for jobs, but wanted to be known as part Hispanic and claim that side during the trial. It must have been a move his lawyer told him to do.

    As for a Obama, history (and a one time by the US Constitution) if a person has any part of black blood they were considered black.

    I feel that like in some of you other blogs, you should get your facts straight before you write about it especially when it comes to issues related to black people and the Black Lives Matter movement.

  12. rose says:

    Perhaps you might have reconsidered your views on “Black Lives Matter”…?

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