I am an unapologetic liberal. I have always believed that everyone is deserving of love, no matter what the color of their skin or the person they choose to love. I worked hard to ensure that my children were raised to judge people on their actions, not their skin color, national heritage or religion. This message has never been more important than it is today. In a country that seems to be so racially divided, we need people to challenge racist views.
I recently had the incredible privilege to visit the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis Tennessee. Walking through the museum with my daughter was such a moving experience. The story of racism in a divided America is not a new story. The museum exhibits provide a tangible demonstration of the dangers of intolerance. I was looking at the burned up shell of the Freedom Riders bus and the jail cell where Dr. King spent time for his challenges to segregation laws and I was struck with such a sense of frustration and a resolve to challenge the racism that seems to persist in this country.
In what can only be seen as a perfect example of ironic timing, I had reserved a room at the famed Peabody Hotel in downtown Memphis. My girls loved the story of the Peabody ducks when they were younger and I thought it would be such a fun experience to see the duck march in person. As my daughter and I sat in the luxurious lobby, we started a conversation about the lack of diversity among the hotel guests, and the concept of what white privilege actually means. It seemed so appropriate that the day after our museum visit, there was a large Black Lives Matter demonstration march in Memphis. I heard the protesters as they marched right past our hotel. My daughter and I went outside to cheer on the marchers. We met some wonderful people, and we felt so energized by the marchers.
I have heard many misinformed but well-intentioned friends discard the Black Lives Matter movement, using the "All Lives Matter" slogan. I really believe that many of these individuals truly do not understand the dismissive and racist nature of using #AllLivesMatter. There is no question that all lives do indeed matter, but that has absolutely nothing to do with the #BlackLivesMatter movement. The BLM movement is trying to address the significant disparities in how people of color have been and are still being treated in this country, very much like the protests led by Dr. King.
I read a wonderful and simple explanation for people who do not understand this message. If your house was on fire and you called the fire department, imagine if they sprayed water on your neighbor’s house instead of the flames in your house. You yell to the firemen and scream “But my house is on fire” and the firefighter responds “But all houses matter”. It would seem like an absurd response – because obviously not all houses have the same need at that moment. The Black Lives Matter movement is a clear message that the African American community is feeling marginalized and disenfranchised, and there are some very real challenges to deal with. Being dismissive of the movement does not address any of these issues.
As we continue to deal with the most divisive election in this century, it is important to remember the lessons of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Dr. King gave his life in pursuit of true equality for all Americans. Standing at the Lorriane motel in Memphis, looking at the exact location where a murderer took the life of Dr. King, the message and the meaning of Black Lives Matter has never been more important.