In my social circles I would venture to guess that the racial makeup of my closest friends is probably 50% black and 50% white; I might even lean a little more towards a higher percentage of black and never have I heard any of them say, "Black Lives Matter" in a way that implies white lives or cops’ lives don't.
The fact that so many people address the issue as “choosing one side or another”, fills my heart with more sadness than I can possibly express. There are people on both sides of the issue that associate the term of “black lives matter” with the mentality of “screw the police” or they put an imaginary “only” in front of that statement. Others view “back the blue” as code for “screw the black people”. That incredible ignorance born out of the absence of honest, open and intensely uncomfortable dialogue is without question our biggest obstacle in beginning to take the “bandage off the wound” that is race relations.
A few days ago I posted a five-year-old picture of my biracial son, Max, standing with the help of his canes. Just overnight the picture received more than 200 likes on social media. There is a massive community of people all over country that love my son dearly, but if you were to combine all of their love for him and weigh it against my love for him, I would still undoubtedly outweigh their love.
I say that to say this - Philano Castile was someone's Max. Treyvon Martin was someone's Max. Eric Gardner was someone's Max. Mike Brown was someone's Max. Sandra Bland was someone's Max. Travares McGill was someone's Max. Tamir Rice was someone's Max. Kimanni Gray was someone's Max. Aiyana Stanley was someone's Max. Amadou Diallo was someone's Max. And....... MAX'S LIFE MATTERS!
Those are just a small portion of the list of African-Americans who have been either killed by police or died in police custody in recent years. Am I saying that all police are bad? Absolutely not! I have tremendous respect for anyone who risks their life daily in service of strangers. But, am I also realistic enough to realize that there are bad people in every profession and that even sometimes there are horrific mistakes that are made that result in laws and civil liberties being violated and should sometimes warrant prosecution and conviction? That is exactly what I'm saying. Out of the names listed above there were NO CONVICTIONS.... None.
So, when African-American people are looking at the news and see the face of the most recent person added to this list and they say, "They look like my cousin/my brother/my aunt/me", then the issue feels intensely personal and extremely passionate. That passion is also fueled by the realization that no one was held accountable for that death as though that human life never even mattered.
I have no idea what it feels like to be black in America, but what I do know is that human history has taught all of us that when someone feels marginalized, victimized and tread upon for an extended period of time, the only recourse they have is to stand up and be counted either democratically or through a revolution.
Humans should not feel inclined to remind people they matter because the actions of those around them make them feel as though they don't believe those things to be true about them. The people listed above were human beings, Americans, our brothers and sisters, and they were someone's Max; and they MATTERED.