In his May Publisher’s letter, John M. Phillips ruminates on the world returning to normal, and how in some ways it shouldn’t.
Lives matter. Yes, that’s true. But adding an adjective or descriptor seems to make people upset or think it’s somehow escalating one life over another. It is not. However, even though (all) lives matter, (all) lives are not treated the same.
The preamble to the Declaration of Independence is easy to believe, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” It sounds nice, but our forefathers didn’t believe it then. Many don’t believe it now. They will say they believe it, and probably believe they believe it.
Some talk about being “color blind.” Even referring back to the Declaration of Independence, Abraham Lincoln later said, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Proposition? Lincoln knew we hadn’t quite gotten there yet. We are now 12 score and five years into this country and still have significant issues. The disadvantage is baked in. It always has been.
No one raises their hand and says, “Yes, I am closed minded.” It’s largely a product of upbringing. It was a product of my own upbringing. I was so tightly rolling around in my bubble believing in the birthright of equality, such that we all had the same opportunity and all were competing from the same starting line. And my sheltered life proved to me that it was true. As a white male, few told me no. Doors weren’t permanently sealed shut. Even though my family fought to stay afloat in the middle class, our bubbles––and privilege––escaped our conscience.
Jordan Davis freed me. Kalil McCoy rescued me. Greg Hill saved me. These families became my family and taught me it’s not good enough to be safe in a bubble. It’s not fulfilling that proposition by being “blind” to color and race. In fact, we must embrace it. We must step into someone else’s bubble.
Atticus Finch, the lawyer from To Kill A Mockingbird tells his daughter, Scout, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
Recently, we all spent nine minutes walking around in George Floyd’s skin, as we watched a knee remain on his neck minute after minute. If you’ve been to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, you can experience walking in the skin of Emmett Till, a black teenager who was brutally killed for whistling at a white woman. His mother demanded an open casket so all could see something that certainly isn’t “self-evident.” All museums matter, but that museum, not unlike the Holocaust Museum, will show why we must lift each other up. We are not, nor have we ever been, treated the same. The systems upon which this country was built are not level. It is not right to stay in a bubble, believing you are blind to color. It strips you of a daily opportunity to actually realize we are beautiful together, but we are even more radiant if we understand that togetherness requires sacrifice and understanding at a level that requires us to be so introspective of something we might not like to see.
When that line was first written, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” it originally said, “We hold these truths to be SACRED and UNDENIABLE, that all men are created equal…” But equality has never been incapable of denial, and it certainly has never been held to the standard of Godliness. That is our mission. That is our calling. Equality must not be subjective. It must be objective. We have a long way to go, but please walk with me, Kalil, Greg, Jordan and so many others who truly need you more than you ever could imagine.