Those of you who know me well have understandably gasped as your eyes skimmed across those words. Please bear with me. Those of you who think you know me may silently cheer me on as you lament the loss of five police officers in Dallas. It is to you I write.
I too lament lives recently lost. I am still lamenting 50 lives lost in a gay night club in Orlando. I lament two lives of black men recently lost at the hands of police. I lament the countless lives lost in similar fashion at the hands of police and citizen alike before them. But the three words at the beginning of this apology do not adequately reflect such lamentations. These words instead serve division by criticizing others for standing on the wrong side of the line we ourselves have arbitrarily drawn in order to make such criticism. In our society, there is a stark contrast between black and white. In 2012, an unarmed 17-year-old was shot and killed because an armed citizen felt insecure at the sight of a boy in a hoodie, so he decided to stand his ground. In 1987, the FBI released the sketch of a man in a hoodie who nine years later, at the age of 53, was captured. He was put on trial, and sentenced almost two years after his capture to four life terms without parole. He survives to this day in a Colorado prison. We let him live, because all lives matter, including the three he took and those of the 23 he injured. But, 14 years later, a boy had to die because all lives matter. He took none. Now, see how far we have come: Just a few days ago, we sent a robot with a bomb to kill a suspect who was already cornered. I need not tell you the color of each of these men, you already know.
And while we lament the death of five in Dallas, we forget the names of those who went before them. I recently read a short piece that we should only say “all lives matter.” I gathered the author was white, so I assumed she was writing only to her white brothers and sisters when she said there was nothing to debate. I was taken aback: I did not know that because I am white, this was the only thing I can say. Perhaps she is right. Perhaps I should not say that black lives matter, for there is danger in co-opting black voices, which we have done for so long that we have forgotten their names. This I write to you, you who now undoubtedly regret your silent cheers. I will call you out on your glaring hypocrisy. Black lives do not matter when all lives matter, for with those three words we silence the voices of the oppressed for the sake of the comfortable. We listen no more to the voices of those carousing us to the realization of the often violent disparities sending the message to all lives that some lives never mattered in the first place. If all lives matter, then black is no longer separate; neither is blue.
If all lives matter, we must forget our own names, too. Yet we remember our names, and our idle words have betrayed our deceit. I have witnessed it. We consistently, repeatedly, and unashamedly refuse to live in a community that reflects a modicum of this sentiment so proudly proclaimed as if it cannot be questioned. And in our blind and unwaivering protest, we looked but did not see the gun that fired the fatal shots, even those of this most recent instance against these we purport to lift up; that gun was in our hand from the beginning. While we remember those who willingly adorn themselves in blue for our sake, we must not forget those who have no say in the color they wear. If all lives truly matter, one may no longer deny the other.