All Lives Matter

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    “In religion and ethics, inviolability or sanctity of life is a principle of implied protection regarding aspects of sentient life which are said to be holy, sacred, or otherwise of such value that they are not to be violated.” [1]

The struggle over whose lives matter means that we value life in this society.

That’s good. But what about black lives? Why is there such a focus there?

I have this to say to my friends who believe they are white (I first heard Ta-Nehisi Coates use this phrase). Many of us who are in that category have difficulty understanding the problem; our children are not being arrested and killed. In fact, the action of our police is overwhelmingly directed at those who believe themselves to be of color. It’s a stark and brutal reality.

So when I talk about improving police, most of you who believe yourselves to be white are most likely puzzled because you have no reference point. It’s off your radar screen. It’s not about you or yours.

Therefore, when a youth of color is shot by police, you may think another criminal has unfortunately got himself into a situation in which by his own fault led to his demise. Think Michael Brown.

In my work as a believer in social justice I have heard many of you who are white say: “He shouldn’t have stole those cigarillos.” “He should not have fought with Officer Wilson.” Probably so. But did his actions at the beginning of the encounter — his theft, his struggle with Wilson, deserve the death penalty? That’s the real question.

Because police have little contact with your children, you have difficulty seeing the problem. Let’s face it, kids do dumb things — they drink, they take drugs, they steal, and they go against rules regardless of the color of their skin. So do those who suffer from mental illness.

Nevertheless, we are all in this together. While we try and segregate those of us who “have” from those who don’t, we cannot. While police are not ever-present enforcers in our neighborhoods we must be concerned as to how they represent us — the body politic — in other people’s neighborhoods.

A society which claims the lofty values we profess, that we care for the least among us — the poor, ill, those homeless and without jobs or hope, should be expected dto “walk its talk!”

Just like in medicine, there needs to be an expected standard of police care and conduct regardless of a person’s race or socioeconomic status. “One nation… with liberty and justice for all.” When it comes to liberty and justice — no exceptions.

That means everyone has a right to expect, at a minimum, police who contact them will be fair and honest, treat them unconditionally with respect, and only use the very minimum amoiunt of force in carrying out their duties.

If we don’t care how one person’s child is treated by police simply because they are different or poorer than we are, we have slipped and stumbled as a moral people. That’s what the present crisis in policing is all about. And that’s why it needs our attention and action.

That’s also why I am so passionate about pressing our nation’s police to improve — to be fair, honest, and respectful, controlled in their use of force, and to work closely and with those who live in the neighborhoods they police. They can do this and many of them are already meeting this standard. But when it comes to life and death, compliance must be 100 percent,

After all, don’t those of us who are white expect that will be the case when police contact us or our misbehaving children? The poor single mom in the high-rise ought to be able to expect the same. It’s simply right.


[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanctity_of_life