Why We Proclaim Black Lives Matter
The deaths of Ahmaud Aubrey, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd in the spring of 2020 have caused a significant national moment of reckoning regarding race. Each of these deaths has become one more indication of a pattern of injustice towards our black brothers and sisters that has persisted long before cell phone cameras started capturing them.
These killings and the public outcry around them have prompted our church to look at what has been a too-normal part of American life. While not part of any political organization, we join the many churches, businesses, private citizens, and institutions that have chosen to place Black Lives Matter signs on our property.
These acts of conscience and free speech have not gone unchallenged. Often the critique has come in the form of the retort that “All Lives Matter.” Indeed, our church’s guiding principle–a belief in the inherent worth and dignity of all people–seems to suggest that seemingly inclusive refrain. Of course, technically, “All Lives Matter.” ALM is a statement so obvious as to be impossible to critique. However, your Minister and Board of Trustees believe that too often, for too long, and for too many individuals and institutions, Black Lives haven’t truly mattered much, if at all.
When we look at the history of slavery, mass incarceration, Jim Crow laws, lynchings, redlining, voter suppression, and scores of injustices over the past 400 years, we feel that the message “Black Lives Matter” matters. If 2020 is nothing else, it is a poignant moment of reflection about our role in the past and our path moving forward. It is a unique chance to say that we are no longer going to accept the racism that has so long been a systemic part of what our country thinks of as normal.
We hung our first Black Lives Matter sign on June 26th, around the time local protests began to occur around us. The sign was placed very close to the street, parallel to the sidewalk on Montemalaga Drive. That sign was cut down from its rudimentary frame, but not taken. On June 29th, just a few days later, we rehung the same sign. On July 9th, roughly ten days later, that same sign was again vandalized. More specifically, the word “BLACK” was spray painted over.
That same sign was fixed, the word “Black” replaced, and rehung. On July 11th that sign was stolen, and in the process of the theft the frame that held it was damaged. On July 30th, after some deliberation about what our next steps should be, the board decided that we would not be dissuaded from exercising our conscience and the sign was rehung. This time, in order to be in view of our security cameras, it was hung under the eve of our building, well off the street.
Concerned that very few would see it, and that potential vandalism might damage the building, on August 1st, we moved the sign to the center of the parking lot facing the street. The sign hung untouched in a new and improved frame for about a month. We believe the sign likely remained untouched because we had an RV stationed in our parking lot for most of that month. On September 1st, the RV gone, our second sign was stolen and then immediately replaced by a newly purchased one. On September 3rd, our third sign was stolen and the person who took it was caught carefully folding it up on our security camera. On September 8th, our 4th sign was hung in the framework where, as of September 10th , it still hangs . Reports have been filed with the sheriff’s station.
We at Pacific Unitarian display “Black Lives Matter” signs, because this is a time too ripe for change, too potent a moment for America to reflect on its legacy of injustice and let it pass unchecked. We will continue to replace our Black Lives Matter signs–whether torn down, stolen, or vandalized–because we want to push that conversation into change. We like to think that our banners are really a statement of hope that good things can come from these challenging times, that redemption and right can finally come after so many wrongs.
Rev. Steve Wilson
& Board of Trustees
Pacific Unitarian Universalist Church