Store windows were smashed. Merchandise was stolen. Black people were blamed. “This won’t help their cause,” white people said. “I support Black Lives Matter, I’m against looting, and I support good cops,” white people said. “When will this chaos be over?” white people said.
We white people always have a way of twisting things around to blame Black people. When property is destroyed, we blame Black people. When Black people protest, we blame Black people. When Black people respond with anger to the underfunding, overpolicing, and targeting of their communities, we blame Black people.
But in fact, the destruction of property and the stealing of merchandise have no bearing on whether Black lives matter. Any crimes committed by Black people have no bearing on whether Black lives matter. The state of Black communities has no bearing on whether Black lives matter. Our evaluation of the Black Lives Matter movement should not depend on the actions or inactions of any Black person or group of Black people.
Black lives matter because they are human lives. The value of human lives does not change based on the actions of one or more humans. They have inherent value because of their humanity.
Black people, white people, Latinx people, Asian people, Indigenous people, Middle Eastern people…all of us have assets and deficits. And each racial group has people who participate in creative and destructive activities. None of those qualities change the importance of our individual and collective lives. And yet this society, as many societies around the world, puts a particular deficit lens on Black lives and Black culture.
This is the lens I have seen many white people apply to property destruction in Chicago and around this country. We need to turn our lens from deficits to assets. We need to refocus, rethink, and relearn. Black Lives Matter is not a slogan for or about white people. But it is an opportunity for us to be different. It is an opportunity for us to learn about the inherent value of Black life as well as the assets Black people and Black culture bring into spaces.
Unfortunately, there is a strong temptation for us to stop at learning, celebrating, and posting. Instead of stopping there, we need to continue on to concrete actions that shift the conditions in our nation. We need to defund police and the military and fully fund education, healthcare, and social safety nets. When we collectively learn and collectively act, that is when the property destruction and chaos will end. But more importantly, that is when people of every racial group will move towards equal outcomes in education, health, income, and wealth.
When we have learned, when we have acted, and when outcomes are equal, that is when we will no longer need to shout that Black Lives Matter, because that is when it will be true for all of us.
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