I believe that all lives matter, but clearly, many people in this country must not think the lives of the other, those different from us, matter at all. How else can one explain our long history of abuse and mistreatment of the other?
When this nation was founded, the people who were treated as full citizens owned property and were white Christian men. The others — American Indians, blacks, women and white men who didn’t own property — were denied full rights.
Over time, the other has been expanded to include the poor and/or homeless; those who have been incarcerated; many immigrants, especially Hispanics and Muslims; those with severe mental health problems; and the gay community. Women are no longer part of the other, but they still suffer from discrimination. White men who don’t own property, unless they are poor or homeless, have also escaped the other category.
Our nation profited greatly from its two original sins, that is: 1) theft of American Indian land as well as committing genocide against them, and 2) the enslavement of blacks. These sins represent a long and shameful chapter in our history, one that has never been adequately addressed. Regrettably, we still show little compassion for the other.
For example, the abuse of American Indians continues unabated today as the U.S. government and the injustice system still violate treaties with near impunity. In addition, much of American Indians’ remaining land is considered to be a sacrifice zone, that is, land whose soil, water and air can be polluted while valuable resources are extracted from it. Making matters worse, American Indians receive paltry compensation for these resources and almost no reparations for the pollution damage that industry has caused. Today, many American Indian communities are some of the poorest, and we accept this dishonorable situation.
In addition, the abuse and discrimination against black Americans still seems to be taken for granted. They suffered the horrific sin of slavery followed by the appalling Jim Crow laws and practices that supported separate and grossly unequal treatment. Now there is the Drug War that particularly targets blacks. Unequal treatment by the injustice system and blatant murders of unarmed blacks by the police — crimes that most often go unpunished — suggest that black lives don’t matter to the political/judicial system. Is it any wonder that blacks formed a Black Lives Matter movement?
A key tenet of Christianity is compassion for the other, and this message is reinforced by the Good Samaritan parable. We must try to practice these ideals (or humanist ideals) and value all lives, especially black lives today, when they are under constant attack.
The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center’s “Peace Train” runs every Friday in the Colorado Daily.