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Black lives matter! Get into the arena, white people.

Black lives matter! Get into the arena, white people.

By Elaine Wilson-Reddy

Black Lives Matter.

But don’t all lives matter?

The parsing of these two phrases has caused tremendous conflict, confusion, and anger. I attended the town hall last Thursday evening that was at Pioneer Playhouse where this conflict, confusion, and anger were evident after three white, male panelists gave their tone-deaf reply when asked their thoughts on Black Lives Matter.

City of Danville “mayor” Mike Perros was first up to the plate. He took a swing with “Black Lives Matter. Period.” Not bad for the person who made fun of a black, female city employee for wearing a wig while she was receiving chemo treatments. It’s a weak single, but he’s on base.

Next up was Republican Boyle County Judge Executive Howard Hunt. He swung at black lives matter but ultimately missed the ball with his additional comments. He called himself out as a Christian (he is a Republican after all) and stated that he doesn’t differentiate “between any of God’s creatures as far as importance, but I do agree, black lives matter. OK?” So close, but still not on base.

Boyle County Magistrate John Caywood swung hard with “Black lives very much matter.” Like Hunt, Caywood took the Christian stance but adjusted with being a veteran when he stated that all lives matter when in combat. He also mentioned God and even said Native American lives matter when in combat. Still not unequivocal.

Batting clean up was City Commissioner Rick Serres. Bless his heart.

“The answer, all lives matter, as was already stated down there. Sometimes we forget in times like this about those other people that have been scrutinized – gay, Asians, even women – every one of the people have been scrutinized, but I think if we reach out and shake each others hand and try to understand each other, life would be better.” Amnews.com, 06.12.2020

Scrutinized? Even women?

I suspect he was going for a Kum-Baya-Can’t-We-All-Just-Get-Along moment. Their inning resulted in no runs, one soft hit, and three errors.

The problem with the All Lives Matter statement is that it disregards the issues behind the Black Lives Matter movement. The laundry list of dead black men and women at the hands of police is unending. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and David McAtee are the most recent ones. It isn’t new. Does the name Emmitt Till mean anything?

Why is it so hard for white people to get behind Black Lives Matter? The statement isn’t “Only Black Lives Matter”. Or “White Lives Don’t Matter”. Or “Black Lives Are More Important”. White Christians love to say that their god doesn’t see color. If that were true, why are there so many color variations of human skin who, according to the Christians, are made in their god’s own image?

I hope that these men learned something at the town hall. I hope they understand the societal privilege that comes from being a white man in America. They definitely spoke from their birthright perspective.

It reminds me of the powerful Man in the Arena quote from a Theodore Roosevelt speech.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/63389/roosevelts-man-arena

Our black sisters and brothers are in crisis. They are in the arena. It’s not enough to choke out the words, Black Lives Matter. It’s about getting into the arena with them, circling them to keep them safe while we ALL fight for justice, equity, and peace.

Get into the arena, white people.