Recently at Ohio University, a graffiti wall that had been painted by our Black Student Union with the message “Black Lives Matter” was painted over with a different kind of message, which you can see here. The result has been a resurgence of racial tension, an intensification of discourse around race, and renewed demands that university administrators take action to promote an inclusive community on the campus and in the town.
Predictably, there have been backlash-y reactions to it that highlight the continuing problem of racism in this country (as for example here–although if the “f” word bothers you, this will be a risky click). Much of the backlash revolves around the question, “but don’t ALL lives matter?” To help unpack this conundrum, our campus minister, Rev. Evan Young, offered this explication:
I’m a Unitarian Universalist. And the first principle of Unitarian Universalism is that we “affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person.” So yes, all lives matter. And Unitarian Universalism as a faith community has embraced the#BlackLivesMatter movement, encouraging individuals and congregations to stand with people of color against the systemic and systematic oppression visited on black people in our society. Our actions speak most clearly about what we as a people believe–and our actions as a nation and a society have been saying, for centuries, that black lives matter less. Because I believe that all lives matter, and because I have seen and recognized that our society treats black lives as somehow less valuable, less worthy of respect and equal protection, I must as a person of faith stand with the oppressed, and I must proclaim with them that black lives matter. That’s what justice looks like; that’s what a just community would do in the face of such injustice. So when people say “black lives matter,” the only response I believe can be made with honesty and integrity is “Yes, they do. Let’s start acting that way.”
At UCM, we stand with those who continue to proclaim that Black Lives Matter. And we commit ourselves to building a community, a culture, and a world in which we all act that way.