Inclusion and Value Matters Most

(originally posted by me on LinkedIn on May 9, 2020)

“All lives can’t matter, until black lives matter.”

Can I be open, honest, and even vulnerable? Especially in context with Ahmaud Arbery? I saw a picture the other day and it has haunted me the last few days…

Photo Credit: “All Lives Can’t Matter, Until Black Lives Matter” – Johnny Silvercloud

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never felt an emotional connection to the “Black Lives Matter movement.” I absolutely think black lives matter. 1,000%! I think my disassociation with BLM is that I felt like it was hijacked by a few radicals that tarnished BLM. I would see the signs from the other extreme such as “Pigs in a Blanket” etc. I don’t want to rehash all of that. But, I want to admit, BLM never resonated with me because it became political and you cannot have a conversation when things become extreme (the “this or that”).

Likewise, I struggled with people (mainly whites) saying “All Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter.” Of course they do. But, it doesn’t need to be a stick in the eye as your counter argument to “Black Lives Matter.”

As a person of faith, I wholeheartedly believe everyone is special, unique, and made in the creator’s image. That the 0.00001% that make us different (skin pigmentation, eye shape, etc.) has no bearing on the person’s value or worth.

But… this image… it is sticking with me and I cannot shake it. “All lives can’t matter, until black lives matter.” WOW. If that doesn’t hit you in the gut, I’m not sure what will. It’s simple. It’s gut wrenching. It’s truth. All lives can’t matter, until black lives matter.

When you hear and see stories like Ahmaud Arbery, a 25 yr old young black male that was just jogging through the neighborhood, being targeted and followed and then murdered, it demands each of us to take a pause. What is it going to take for each of us to start looking at each other as humans? As a person with feelings? As a child, a mom, a dad… as a person that has value and worth?

What if that had been me? What if I was a young, black man going for my jog. I see a truck pass me, then stop, and then 2 people demanding me to stop and talk to them. I then notice that they are armed. One with a noticeable shotgun. The fear would come over me instantly. It’s in the middle of the day. Why would 2 armed people be coming towards me aggressively unless they want to harm me. I would immediately think about my mom and my family. What do I do? I’m not armed to protect myself. Do I run? I can’t outrun a gun if they want to shoot? Do I stop and pretend I’m not scared out of my mind? Do I try and grab the gun as they get closer? I’m about to crap and piss my pants. I can barely talk because I’ve been running and now I’m scared senseless. Maybe I grab the shotgun to make sure it isn’t pointed at me. Pop… “mom”… Pop… “what the hell”… Pop… I have to get away… I am in great pain… I’m scared… “mom, I’m sorry”… I’m bleeding… I’m gasping for air… I collapse… “mom, I love you.”

I pray and hope that one day all of the hate, all of the pain, all of the fear, can be eliminated. I don’t know what it is like to be black or a person of color. I can tell you my heart truly breaks when I see stories like Ahmaud. It tears me up inside; especially since I don’t know how to fix it.

Until we can look in the eyes of another to think about what life is like for that person (i.e. walk in their shoes), I’m afraid it won’t get any better. But, it has to get better. It has to… simply for the humanity of it.

Don’t let Ahmaud just be another name that vanishes into thin air. Close your eyes and think about the last moments of his life. Think about what it is like to be a person of color. Think about being a person of color that is a parent. How do you instruct your child in the ways of the world? How do you trust people? Think about your neighbors. Think about your colleagues at work. Do you embrace them? Do you include them? Do you encourage them to speak up? Most importantly, do you value them?

ALL LIVES CAN’T MATTER, UNTIL BLACK LIVES MATTER!

I’m including this 3rd picture from my trip to Kenya as part of Microsoft’s MySkills4Afrika program… where I was the minority but I was surrounded by my colleagues. They ensured I felt safe, loved, and valued during my entire 2 week visit… I will never forget the people, the friendships, the country, and the experience. We need more of that… to feel LOVED and VALUED!

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