Black lives matter. It has to be said because it is not readily seen when we turn on the news, when we visit black communities, when we investigate the history of American policy and practice. When we listen to black voices, we have to accept their experiences as their reality even when if it differs dramatically from our own.
You might have seen a few years ago, a man named Desmond Cole wrote a piece about the practice of carding in Toronto. The striking statistic Cole shared was his own. He had been stopped by police 50 times in Toronto. He is not a criminal. He does not have a record. So why all the stops. Because he is black. He was being carded. Asked to provide ID and divulge information because “he looked like a person of interest”. There’s a free documentary by Cole called The Skin We’re In. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=msoBTIv1VqM
Cole’s work focuses on the real problem of racism in Canada. This is not just America’s problem. This is a problem rooted in colonialism and the pursuit of profit at whatever cost (aka capitalism). If you participated in the Blanket Exercise we hosted last year with MCC you will remember the stories of how Canada’s Indigenous people were utterly dehumanized leading to their continued marginalization. If you dig into our history books you will find black slaves in Canada. If you drive through Essex County you will even find confederate flags proudly fluttering in the wind.
My experience of moving to Leamington has been interesting in this regard because it didn’t take very long for the warnings about the Jamaicans to reach my ears. It didn’t take long to learn of ‘White Power’ having been spray painted across the Caldwell First Nation sign at the end of the bypass. Racism and prejudice are alive in this small-town community. People, human beings, children of God are ‘othered’ because of the colour of their skin and for their demand for dignity and equality.
No group is perfect. There will always be an individual who acts in a socially or morally inappropriate way. But to make that person the rule for everyone who looks like them is foolish and ignorant. To fear an entire group of people, to avoid an entire group of people, or to profile an entire group of people because of their skin colour is anti-God and anti-neighbour which basically makes it of the devil. Racism is Satanic in the truest sense.
And this is why we need to say that Black Lives Matter. Because Black lives do matter. Black lives must matter. I’ve heard from some that they would be more comfortable with All Lives Matter. As a church, as Christians, we affirm that all lives do indeed matter. But in this moment, we have to give our attention to black lives because historically and currently they matter a lot less in a lot of ways. Yes, there are exceptions but there is also the rule.
White supremacy is real and prejudice against racialized people is real. It’s not always clear how or where or when it’s at play if you are a white person. We’re accustomed to white privilege and so its active in covert ways that we need to ask for eyes to see so we can truly stand in solidarity with others.
I don’t say these words to condemn. I promise you. I have white supremacy in my heart. It’s in the air I breath and that’s a difficult thing not to breath in. I don’t like it. But each of us is responsible to do the work of rooting out this thorny nature. Each of us is responsible to participate in God’s vision of justice for the world. So, I don’t speak condemnation. I hope you hear an invitation to talk about this and to acknowledge that Black Lives must matter more than they have.