Living in our majority-minority county where a third of us are immigrants, it’s understandable why some ask about the point of “Black Lives Matter.” On the surface, there’s a preference for “All Lives Matter.” So, when I hear of another banner having “Black” cut or marked out, I wonder whether it was an act of hatred or a call to respect others in need of reassurance. (Photo shows River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation’s second vandalized “Black Lives Matter” sign. It was replaced with a third, which vandals removed completely.)
It is natural for immigrants to feel like strangers and to be anxious about being accepted as equals, even in a land of immigrants. History discloses that every immigrant community has faced prejudice, and the process of assimilation includes struggle. This is among the reasons for having the Office of Community Partnerships and why I serve as the interfaith community liaison. We want to make Montgomery County the most welcoming in America and create Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s ideal of the Beloved Community where we actively care for one another as sisters and brothers.
I’m grateful for all who are working toward this goal. Yet, in response to where we are today, I must say to my tragically misunderstood Muslim sisters and brothers, Muslim Lives Matter! To my Latino sisters and brothers living with discrimination and fear, I must say, Latino Lives Matter! To my Jewish sisters and brothers aware of growing anti-Semitism around the world and feeling vulnerable at home, I must say, Jewish Lives Matter! To my sisters and brothers in LGBTQ communities who are painfully rejected, I must say, Gay Lives Matter! To my African, Asian, Caribbean, Middle Eastern sisters and brothers, and everyone else, I must say, All Lives Matter!
At the same time, I not only say Black Lives Matter, but I make it a priority because of American history and my belief that facing our racism will humanize us all. It may be helpful, particularly for our first-generation immigrants, but also for the rest of us, who were never taught the history of racism, to understand it. As an example, check out this timeline of racial injustice during the 1940s.
I encourage you to also view the video This is Our Selma, which describes the movement, 50 years after the passage of the Voting Rights Bill, to resist voter suppression laws in 15 states. To bring our history lesson further up to date, read the many news reports about the deaths of Freddie Gray, Eric Gardner, Walter Scott, Sam DuBose, Michael Brown, and Sandra Bland.
I believe greater awareness of American history and facing the reality of institutional racism today will help us understand and support the Black Lives Matter movement. As we work together to defeat racism, we will be creating the beloved community in which All Lives Matter.