Honestly, I was surprised my Black Lives Matter yard sign made it as long as it did. After three months, it finally met its first round of vandalism. You can see in the photos below that someone decided to write the word All all over the word Black with a permanent marker:
Having the Black Lives Matter sign in my yard has been a great experience. I initially expected it to be stolen or that my house would be egged within the first week. Thankfully neither of these happened. The longer it stood in my yard, the more great conversations I got to have. My Lansing, MI neighborhood is multi-racial and on the lesser side of the economic spectrum. Over the past 3 months, I’ve had 4 different sets of people, all African-American, stop to talk while they were walking by and while I happened to be outside. All four occasions, these people stopped to express genuine thanks to me for having the sign in my heart. They loved the sign. It was obvious that a white suburbanite transplant like myself having this sign out meant something significant to them, or they would not have stopped to joyfully tell me about it:
- It meant that they were expecting a different message from a white suburbanite guy. (which they got via my Sharpie-wielding vandal this week — I’ll give you 50:1 odds on what color my vandal’s skin was)
- It meant that the message of the sign is true and needs to be expressed.
- It meant that the message of the sign brings joy, hope, love and unity.
This is not the first time I’ve heard the phrase “All Lives Matter” as a rebuttal to “Black Lives Matter.” I’ve blogged on this before (“4 Essential Points Misunderstood by Whites in the #BlackLivesMatter Movement”). The 4 points I made in that blog article still stand and this vandalism incident shows they need to continue to be explained and proclaimed:
1. The reason that making an extra concerted effort to proclaim that black lives matter is because for most of our history, they haven’t.
2. The lack of prosecution of police officers who kill unarmed black men is the key behind the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
3. Saying that black lives matter in no way implies that police lives don’t or that white lives don’t or that all lives don’t or that police aren’t appreciated.
4. White people tend to see things individualistically and ahistorically, while black people tend to see things communally and with history behind it.
All of those points are thoroughly explained in detail in my previous post, which I encourage you to read.
I found it interesting, striking even, that someone decided in the dead of night they needed to take time out of their schedule to sneak onto my yard with a Sharpie and write “All Lives Matter” on my sign. That takes a lot of nerve. Since my first article on this subject obviously didn’t convince my vandal that black lives do matter, I thought another illustration might help.
Imagine it is the year 1800 and slavery is in full force in the United States. Imagine someone puts a sign in their yard that says, “Slave Lives Matter” on it. What message do you think this person is trying to send? Do you think there was any intent whatsoever in their message that white lives didn’t matter, or that police lives didn’t matter, or even that slave master lives didn’t matter? Of course not. Their message would be very simple: In a world where slave lives are treated like they don’t matter, I hereby declare that they do! The rebuttal to “Slave Lives Matter” is not “All Lives Matter,” that doesn’t make any sense. The rebuttal would be “Slave Lives Don’t Matter.” You can imagine if someone had the guts to put a “Slave Lives Matter” sign in their yard in 1800, they would have heard this exact rebuttal loud and clear!
I’m not saying that blacks today are like black slaves in the 1800’s. Praise God for that. But the semantics of the English language are the same. The point of the Black Lives Matter movement is to reveal and point out the oppression and inequity that black people in American face today.
The Black Lives Matter movement isn’t random. It is in direct response to specific unfair treatment. To refute this phrase by saying “All Lives Matter” is a shrouded way of saying “Black Lives Don’t Matter” in a society where that type of overt racism is no longer accepted.
Nobody ever said “All Lives Don’t Matter.” They are saying let’s get the Black Lives caught up in treatment and value with the rest of the lives.
And to my vandal, some important news for you: dry erase markers have the miraculous ability to remove permanent marker from a plastic surface. In fact, after easily removing your graffiti with a dry erase marker then cleaning it up a little with a Lysol wipe, my sign is actually cleaner and brighter than ever before, so for that, I thank you:
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