By Sister Sharon Havelak, OSF
Since early June, a little group has gathered at the corner of our property for our own mini-demonstration to support the call for racial justice. We expanded from a group of about six Sisters to a gathering of up to 10 or 12 Sisters, Associates and friends. We meet twice a week, Mondays and Wednesdays, from 12:15 – 12:30.
Standing on a corner with a sign is always a lesson in human psychology. This experience is no different. Many of the passersby are supportive. The greatest negative reaction seems to be to the large, bold Black Live Matter signs. Nearly every time we gather at least one person vehemently corrects us: All lives matter!
The problem with standing on street corners is that there’s little opportunity for any conversation. There’s no time to respond as people drive by, and often people stopped at the light don’t say anything until they start driving away. Every one of us on the corner believes that all lives matter, that’s why we stand there.
Part of me would love to respond: Would this be less offensive if I crossed off the word only from the sign? Obviously, the word isn’t there, but it seems like that’s the interpretation of many. But the reality is that until black lives matter (and Hispanic, women’s, children’s, …), all lives are in jeopardy; everyone’s rights are fragile. When one is diminished, it opens the possibility for more loss.
Another part of me wants to reassure them: If you are ever in jeopardy, I will stand for you also. Over my forty-some years of work on justice and peace issues, we’ve taken many stands: on human rights, prison reform, migrants, to name a few. We’ve spoken on behalf of civilians in war-torn countries, those who have been tortured, victims of human trafficking, endangered children. We will stand for you.
There’s a sign on a friend’s office door that best puts it in perspective: “Equal justice for all doesn’t mean fewer rights for you. It’s not a pie.” Justice, it seems to me, is a lot like love. The more it’s practiced, the more it grows; the more it’s shared, the more there is.
I understand the fears of those who dislike the Black Lives Matter organization. But I’m not a member, as are most who carry the signs. The Black Lives Matter movement simply asks us to accept all as equal. I have to stand with them because I take God seriously. If we, indeed, are all created in the image of God, a God who sees all that was created as good, a God who loves all that is created, a God who loves diversity (Why on Earth 800,000 species of beetles?), then I need to stand with my sisters and brothers.