Their Lives All Matter

Their Lives All Matter

What catching up on missed news brought home to me.

Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter have inadvertently become opposing perspectives on much of the violence in our nation. The former has been around several years, but the reactions in recent weeks to the rising death toll seems to be moving away from peace rather than towards it. Through the circumstances under which I first caught up with the news of recent weeks, I realized the benefit of stepping back and seeing the big picture of our nation's situation and why, unfortunately, the solution of activist groups seems flawed.

I recently spent some time off of the grid— without internet or a phone— and away from the sea of information that comes crashing towards us on a regular basis. Returning from that meant returning to the shocking news that more African Americans had been victims of police violence, that the Black Lives Matter movement had escalated to its current chaotic state and that police officers were being killed on the job.

This came all at once for me, rather than hearing one story at a time. I could not think about the fact that another African American had been killed and react to that before I found out about the largest single day of violence against police since 9/11. All that I had to come to terms with, all at once, was the sheer weight of the number of lives that had been lost unnecessarily. Not just black lives, and not just police lives— American lives and human lives.

I cried, and I prayed. It seemed as though, despite President Obama's words at the NATO summit, all I could see when I looked at America was division. Injustice by a few became the basis on which entire groups of people were and still are being ruthlessly judged. It was hurtful to see that lives had been lost, and it was painful to watch the different responses that only deepen the wounds rather than work towards healing.

Where the Black or Blue Lives Matter movements fail fundamentally in their response to each other is all in the name: they focus on the lines of division rather than on our common humanity. The moment we are equally enraged about the unjust death of our fellow man, we will understand that violence is not an appropriate answer for violence.

The fact is, all lives matter— not just our particularly race, class or political camp. All lives, from the man you don’t know who has a different skin color to the officers who have sworn to protect us to the unborn child who is offered no protection.

The cycle is primed to continue. Anger, frustration and threats of more violence continue even now on both sides. It is hard, as an individual, to know what to do other than cry for the dead and pray for God’s mercy on a nation which is looking more and more divided. Those tears and prayers, however, should be accompanied by the individual choice that we will face every single day. The choice to not be what the doubting world thinks americans are: a person who is taking a side and driving the lines of division even deeper. We can actively choose to love our neighbors and even our enemies.

If things continue to escalate, we may have to step out of our comfort zone more and more to be intentional about creating peace with our words and our actions. Ask yourself who in your friends, your workplace or your school might have been negatively affected by these events, and how can you speak to them in a way that brings you together? Peace will not be forced out of violent reactions and protests, but it can grow out of intentional love for our neighbors.

Cover Image Credit: Joseph C. Phillips

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The Difference Between Equality And Equity

Equality doesn't really mean "equal"

Though most don't realize it, there is a stark contrast between what equality means, and what equity means. Treating everyone exactly the same isn't actually fair all the times. What equal treatment does, in reality, is erase the differences we come it and promote privilege.

Fairness and success really do mean different things when everyone is different. Equity and equality are two strategies we can use in an effort to produce fairness. While Equity is giving everyone what they need to be successful. Equality is treating people the same. Equality aims to promote fairness, but it can only work if everyone starts from the same place and needs the same help. But that's never the case in real life situations. Equity appears unfair, but it actually is just "evening the playing field."

Since everyone is different and we embrace these differences as unique, we must also redefine our basic expectations for fairness and success as dependent upon those individual differences. In the real world, this means that some people will need a language translator when speaking to a government agency and others will not. And it wouldn’t be fair to just provide Spanish translators just because it is the language most people speak. A Spanish translator would give a French speaker the same access to opportunities.

That would be a privilege.

Privilege is when we make decisions that benefit enough people, but not all people. Privilege is allowed to continue when we wrap it up with actions of equality because it ends up justifying privilege

On the outside, everything appears fair, because how can we argue against equal treatment? We need to recognize our differences as unique, rather than reach for one definition of “success.” By utilizing just one definition of success, we erase our differences.

Often times, decisions are made to benefit the majority of people without paying attention to individual needs. Privilege is a tricky thing. I don't know about you, but I’m not aware of my privilege on a daily basis, no one is. I don’t feel a bit of my privilege when I sit in an hour-long lecture or have 3 meals a day even though a lot of people don't have those same privileges as me. Usually, I'm just unaware of my own privilege, because the system generally works in my favor.

Now the next question is can we change the whole system? Rarely. What we can do, however, is be advocates for equitable practices in order to promote fairness. We can't keep relying on practices of equality just because they seem to be fair, because, in reality, they're not. Our actions actually do have to be just and equitable.

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A School Shouldn't Be A Shooting Ground

I want to feel safe with my brother and sister entering school doors.

Imagine sitting in your classroom, going through your day to day routine of listening to the teachers go on and on about a subject. You can't stop looking at the clock, hoping for the school day to end.

You suddenly hear a fire alarm and even though it's the second one of the day, you just suppose it's nothing too out of the ordinary.

So you walk out of that classroom following other students and then you hear it.

You feel it.

You hear ear-deafening screams. You hear gunshots.

You feel people pushing towards you, trying to run away.

You see blood. You see a body, lying on the floor.

Your throat tightens up, you can't breathe. There is no way that there is a shooter here.

Someone who is killing all of these people you know and some that you have grown up with. You run as fast as you can away from the shots that resonate against the walls.

Pushing yourself against other students to find a classroom, where you find a place to hide.

Tears are streaming down your face. This can't be real.

You are confined in a closet along with a girl you knew from chemistry class. Both of you are breathing heavily, unable to comprehend what is going on.

All you hear is screaming, bullets hitting people, bullets hitting the ground.

This was supposed to be a place where we would be the safest. A place built on the foundations of learning and safety.

A school shouldn't be a shooting ground.

This was the reality for the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. They lost friends, teachers, fellow students, and their security.

No longer would they ever feel safe and secure at a school or even a public place. This horrific incident will follow them throughout their life. It will scar them in ways we wouldn't understand.

It's during this absolutely horrendous time that we need to make a change.

The victims of this massacre have already spoken out and are actively making changes. We can take our part by supporting them, whether it's through social media or joining "The March Of Our Lives" on March 24th or the "National School Walkout" on March 14th.

It's time for there to be changes made to our system whether it's making mandatory background checks or requiring mental health records.

We need some form of gun control.

Yes, I believe that people have the right to bear arms and protect themselves in situations. But I do not believe that a nineteen-year-old should be able to buy an AR-15 rifle along with nine other weapons.

School shootings are becoming so prevalent. This was one of the deadliest mass shootings in the United States.

We are only two months into the new year and there have been a total of 30 mass shootings since.

How far are we willing to allow this to go on for?

There is obviously a problem. We have the power to solve it or at least make things better than they are right now.

Go to your local legislator, write a letter to the mayor, or even the president. You may not think that it can make a change, but every single action counts.

Cover Image Credit: USA Today

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