A question worth asking is a question worth answering.
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The goal of our nation is to support communities and families to raise healthy children who grow up to be productive members of society. To such an end, we desire children and also adults to be critical thinkers who ask the relevant questions of their world to further grow as individuals. When society is able to provide a coherent answer to these questions, the current generation is able to progress, having gained a sense of peace and security. In the late half of the 1800’s the question that was asked of a generation was, “Is slavery compatible with the American values professed in the Declaration of Independence?” In the early 1900’s a generation asked, “Do women have rights equal to men?” And Later in the mid-1900’s the question was asked, “Is separate truly equal?”, in reference to the separate but equal racial laws that segregated America. We stand at a time in our nation’s history when a generation is asking a question. It is a question that does not seem to go away, and seems to be growing in the diversity of those asking it. The question that is being asked of our generation is, “Do Black Lives Matter?”.
Some questions are not worth asking and therefore such questions are not worth answering. However a question worth asking is a question worth answering. Some questions can be seen as rhetorical questions in which an answer is not really desired because the goal of asking is to invoke reflection. Other questions are asked with malicious intent and seek to trap the desired respondent. We see such an example in the gospel of Luke chapter 20 verse 8 in which religious leaders were asking Jesus a question to trap him. Perceiving their ill-will, Jesus did not give a response. The verse reads, “And Jesus said unto them, ‘Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.’” Furthermore, other questions are silly in nature and their desired goal is humor, while others are meant to instigate and aim to provoke an impulsive response by manipulating the emotions of the respondent. There are many questions that should not be answered, however a question worth asking is a question worth answering.
It seems that this question being asked, “Do Black Lives Matter?” is one that America has yet to provide a unified answer to the children and adults asking. There are some answers that have been put out into the marketplace of ideas in hopes that society will unified around them and the BLM question will stop being asked. For some in the Black or African American community, the answer given is that for Black lives to matter, African American’s need to first show others that they value their own lives. Some of the dominant community have also echoed this sentiment. Yet and still, another answer shared in attempts to cease the chants is “All Lives Matter”.
For the former answer which holds up the mirror to the African American community and encourages them to reflect upon issues within their community, the goal is likely to emphasize personal responsibility and accountability. For the latter response that declares “All Lives Matter”, the goals may be to promote unity and defuse perceived anger.
There are merits to having the African American community reflect upon the state of their community and to take some personal responsibility for issues within the community. There are merits certainly to encouraging Black men to not complain without action about the school to prison pipeline without also serving as mentors in their communities, such as my brother does. This response to the question being asked emphasizes personal responsibility, and accountability has many merits; however it still does not answer the question. A question worth asking is a question worth answering.
Examining the response, “All Lives Matter”, we find that this also has much merit. The response of All Lives Matter is rooted in the value of unity in which America stares at the face of angry White, Black, Asian, and Latino protestors chanting a slogan of their generation. The hope is to bring together rather than divide. For some the BLM question points towards Black Power, or an excessiveness of Black Pride. For others the answer of All Lives Matters takes the focus away from Black Americans and spreads it across the entire nation to avoid the uncomfortable and possibly increased tension of continuing to deal with racial issues in America. Merits can be found in the response, “All Lives Matter”, however it still does not answer the question. A question worth asking is a question worth answering.
The response that those asking the question are seeking is simply, “Yes your life matters”. When the nation was asked if slavery was compatible with America’s values, the answer that came after the civil war was “no, it is not”. When women and men marched and asked if women had equal rights as men, the answer after the struggle was ,“yes, women do”. When Martin Luther King Jr. and others marched and asked if separate was truly equal, the answer that came after his assassination was, “no, separate and equal for racial equity is a fantasy too difficult to maintain.” Likewise, those asking the question of this generation it would appear simply want America to acknowledge some of the injustices that are happening at a disproportionate ratio in which African American men are being killed (some say murdered) by police officers. They simply want their pain to be acknowledged and for America to stand with them, not for the purpose of absolving the African American community of personal responsibility, and not for the goal of causing hate and discord, but simply to affirm their humanity and dignity by saying, “you too are a part of America, and yes your lives matter”.
Like an abused wife who may have doubts about her security within her marriage, or like an adopted child questioning their value in a new family; the African diaspora in America similarly seems to hold doubts about their security and value in the eyes of America. Like a wife, African Americans have been told that they too are married to the American Dream, however they still have doubts. Like an adopted child(some may say kidnapped), African Americans came to this country in chains against their will from Africa, and now are told by America that they too are children of America with all the rights and privileges, however they still have doubts. When you consider 200 years of slavery, decades of Jim Crow laws, a Supreme Court ruling that upheld that Blacks were less than human, and presently the media’s portrayal of numerous unarmed African American men being shot by police (some while still handcuffed), can anyone reasonably blame the African American community for having doubts about their place in American society? Like the wife illustrated earlier who is having doubts about her marriage may ask the husband, “do you love me?”. The last thing she wants to hear is “honey, I love everybody” or “accept responsibility for your flaws”. Likewise the last thing that the African community desires to hear when asking if their lives matter is, “All lives matter” or “Take responsibility”. They simply want to hear, “yes your lives matter.” And perhaps if America can humble itself to respond as such, the goal of unity as well as empowerment towards personal responsibility will begin.
The question, “Do Black Lives Matter?” is not a rhetorical, malicious, silly, or inflammatory question, it is a question worth asking, and therefore it is a question worth answering with a yes or no.