Black Lives Matter TOO!

I’ve been reluctant to dip my toe into this pond. Many people with greater experience and education than I have written great articles on this topic. However, perhaps some people who haven’t read those articles will take a few minutes to read this post.

We’ve all heard, and maybe said, the response to #BlackLivesMatter: All Lives Matter. Most people I’ve seen commenting on social media don’t seem to realise that everyone places an additional word at the end of that phrase.

Many white people hear “Black Lives Matter” as “Black Lives Matter More” or “Black Lives Matter Most”. So they respond with a phrase (that also contains a silent word) to correct the imbalance they perceive: “All Lives Matter Equally”.

This retort is a true statement.

What these people seem to miss is that the vast majority of people using the phrase “Black Lives Matter” do so while using a silent “Too”: Black Lives Matter Too!

Black Lives Matter 01

Why do they need to make this statement? Are they seeking to be inflammatory or to make trouble?

Those using the phrase “Black Lives Matter” do so because they’re expressing their impression that many in society don’t think they matter. They feel neglected, so they remind each other and the world that they do matter. They do have value. Of course all lives matter, but there are many people made to feel as though they’re insignificant. Sometimes it’s individuals who feel as though no one notices them. Sometimes it’s whole communities.

Did you notice that little feeling of indignation you feel when you see #BlackLivesMatter and think that you’re being overlooked or devalued? That’s a sensation these people experience as a way of life.

Just telling them that “All Lives Matter” doesn’t remove the negative messages these people have heard for so long.

Why would a large portion of the African-Americans community feel a need to remind the world that Black Lives Matter?

  • Because they feel targeted by law enforcement and have seen a disproportionate number of African-Americans killed by police shootings.
  • Because in 2010 blacks accounted for only 13% of the US population they made up 40% of the incarcerated population.
  • Because drug laws are enforced more stringently against blacks than whites.
  • Because the best schools are in white neighbourhoods.
  • Because they have higher rates of unemployment.
  • Because they experience prejudice in their interactions with white Americans.
  • Because ‘white flight’ tells them they’re distasteful.
  • Because of history that, yes, goes all the way back to slavery, and more recently to Jim Crow.
  • Because they have limited opportunities as a result of Jim Crow policies that ensured limited inter-generational wealth transfer within much of the black community.
  • Because no one tells them they matter or are valuable.

These issues are complex. There is no single simple solution. But all these factors and more contribute to why so many in the black community feel a need to remind the world #BlackLivesMatter…Too.


If you’ve read this far, you might also appreciate this article by Michael Hanegan, 9 Reasons Why My Faith Compels Me To Say #BlackLivesMatter.

You may also be encouraged by this short video from Rick Atchley who preaches for The Hills Church in Fort Worth. This was filmed in the days after the shooting of 5 Dallas law enforcement officers.

And I’m sharing this video below because sometimes we just need to be slapped.

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Multicultural Churches Have Better Parties

How does your church party? Or more to the point, when does your church party?

A monocultural church can quickly answer this question by referring to a calendar. What are the national holidays? Which ones do people celebrate privately? Which ones can the church piggyback?

I know churches that host a 4th of July fireworks extravaganza each year. When I worked in the church in Melbourne someone organized an area-wide Anzac Day picnic each April. In fact, I know that these Anzac Day Picnics occur among Churches of Christ in several cities around the country.

I’ve attended churches that hand out flowers to ladies on Mothers’ Day. I’ve seen churches make a beg event out of Halloween. Some turn the Superbowl into a significant Sunday with a special sermon and other events. Some churches emphasise Thanksgiving while others put all their energy into Christmas.

Martin-Luther-King-Day 01I raise this topic at this time because I serve in a church with a large African-American membership and there are significant dates in their community that I haven’t previously given a lot of attention.

  • Some of my members celebrate Kwanzaa, which runs from 26 December to 1 January.
  • On January 1, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln signed the emancipation proclamation.
  • The third Monday in January is Martin Luther King Day.
  • In the United States, March is Black History Month.

I’ve struggled to make these dates significant in the life of my church. It’s something I need to work on. I should expect everyone to celebrate Superbowl Sunday with me if I’m not willing to join by black brothers and sisters in their celebrations.

But these dates are more than just an excuse to have a party. They also tell an important theological redemptive story of justice, equality and love for neighbour. Our churches and world need to hear this message and these dates seem to provide a great opportunity to raise the topic.

Beyond just preaching on these topics or showing a motivational video, I’m very curious whether other churches involve themselves in community celebrations of these events. I know that sometimes members participate, but I wonder how many churches actively promote participation in community organised MLK reconciliation events?

As churches grow more culturally diverse we need to embrace a willingness to expand our celebrations. Hispanic holidays are more difficult to schedule as each country have their own significant days. Which Hispanic holidayIMG_2204s will your church celebrate as the neighbourhood demographics change?

How could your church celebrate Chinese New Year? What message would this send to local international students or migrants?

We have quite a large Indian workforce in Rochester, although no Indian members attending our church. I don’t even know their significant holidays. It seems to me that a significant question would be, “How can the church engage this population if these holidays are all related to Hinduism?”

A couple of years ago I hosted an Australia Day game night at my church. We didn’t have a large turnout, but I greatly appreciated those who turned out on a snowy, January night.

Parties, holidays, and celebrations provide a great indicator of the progress a church has made down the road of cultural integration. These events help us to not only better understand each other, they also help churches build a bridge toward these communities outside the church.

When a multicultural church sits down to plan calendar events for the coming year, it should intentionally ask the question, “Which cultural celebrations do we want to participate in this year?” Far too often we simply participate in those most familiar to us.

I’d love for you to leave a comment describing a cross-cultural celebration you’ve experienced.

Do You Know Your Community?

Race map USA 2010

The above map purports to show each person identified in the USA through the 2010 census. If you click on the map above you’ll go to the original site that allows you to move around and zoom in on your community.

This isn’t really the typical material promoted on this blog, so let me explain.

I suspect that most churches have little concept of the racial makeup of their community. We often function based upon our impressions as we shop and drive through the neighborhood. Perhaps particular parts of our towns and cities have reputations for having a lot of residents from a distinct culture.

The risk with functioning based upon impressions is that appearances can easily deceive us. Yes, the majority of our neighbourhood may well be black or white, but the apartment complex down the road may have a large Indian population. We may not see many Indian restaurants or businesses because while the live in our neighbourhood, they work and shop elsewhere in the city.

Churches can’t serve our communities effectively, if we don’t know who lives in our communities.

Really knowing our community requires research and asking questions. So I submit the map above as a starting point. Zoom in on your city and see if it matches your impression. Did you find any surprises? Please leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Personally, I found a lot more red dots in my city than I expected. (They do seem to stand out more than the green and orange.)