Letter to the Editor: A new understanding on Black Lives Matter

Several years ago, after intensive training in social justice and her first year teaching in an inner city school, my daughter tried to talk to me about the Black Lives Matter movement.

Not knowing anything about it, I responded the way many of my friends would: “Oh, honey, everybody’s life matters.” Needless to say, our conversation didn’t go well. I simply did not understand then, and my daughter left feeling sad that she couldn’t even convince her own mother about the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement. Little did I know then, that our conversation was only the beginning for me. I didn’t have the experiences my daughter had, never mind the experiences people of color have. In fact, I argued that all people had problems, and as a teacher of students with disabilities, I saw first hand the challenges my students and their parents endured.

It took some time and patience on her part, but now I understand. For those who are thinking what I thought back then, consider the contents of a poster carried by a young protester: “We said: Black Lives Matter. We never said: Only Black Lives Matter. We know All Lives Matter. We just need your help with #blacklivesmatter because black lives are in danger.” 

The popular analogy of the house fire helps, too. If a house in your neighborhood is on fire, the fire department shouldn’t focus on other homes on the street — just the one on fire!

If this is just the beginning for you, I understand. I have a Black Lives Matter sign on my lawn, but what I really want to post on my lawn is this: Tell me why Back lives don’t matter, and I’ll tell you why they do. Finally, to quote someone I don’t know, “All lives can’t matter until Black lives matter.”

Elizabeth Heusser