posted in: Justice | 9

#AllLivesMatter is the insensible cry of a body that has grown numb to its own self.

A healthy body is one in conversation with itself. The different parts of our body are constantly talking to each other, a conversation routed in part through the more than 100 trillion neural connections in the brain. When that conversation is interrupted — when we lose feeling in a limb, or when there is a short-circuit in our central nervous system — bad things happen.

The other day I imagined a man who thoughtlessly placed his right hand on the red-hot surface of a stove.

“Hey, something’s wrong here,” the right hand said to the rest of the body. “Please remove me from this stove. #RightHandsMatter.”

When the left hand heard this, it waved itself dismissively. “#AllHandsMatter,” it said.

“This is getting too hot,” said the right hand, a little louder this time. “#RightHandsMatter!”

The left hand scoffed, offended. “Whoa, whoa, whoa. #AllHandsMatter. Why are you asking for special treatment?”

“Because I’m the one being held to the stove, and I can’t take it much longer! #RightHandsMatter!”

The metaphor isn’t a perfect one, in part because there is an extent to which the left hand (white privilege) is actually holding the right hand (people of color) to the fire. But it reminds me of one of the images the Apostle Paul used to describe the Body of Christ:

“Your body has many parts — limbs, organs, cells — but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body. It’s exactly the same with Christ. By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything.” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13)

The story of the left and right hands also reminds me that passively accepting the violence against our black brothers and sisters is tantamount to committing it. (This is me looking in the mirror. I don’t think I’ve written about this topic before. I certainly haven’t been in the streets over it.)

It reminds me of one of the most chilling quotes from Dr. King: “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”

And it reminds me that it is unreasonable to expect the “right hand” to “take it” much longer. The body doesn’t seem to be getting the message. Can we blame our brothers and sisters for speaking with increased urgency? Their very lives are depending on it.

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9 Responses

  1. Scott Davies
    | Reply

    John: Your articles are always thought provoking. I don’t often agree with you but you always make me think.

    • John
      | Reply

      You’re right that we sometimes disagree, Uncle Scott, but I’ve always appreciated your willingness to thoughtfully engage.

  2. Hilary Dumitrescu
    | Reply

    Beautiful analogy, John.

  3. Jessie Newton
    | Reply

    Thank you for this thoughtful metaphor. The words “a body that has grown numb to itself,” are reverberating in my mind.

  4. Tracy Wilson
    | Reply

    After reading this, I immediately turned to Erin and told her that I thought this to be very poignant. I have read many things trying to explain or remind us of the importance of #blacklivesmatter and the potential detriment of #alllivesmatter as an alternative, but your analogy hit home in a unique way. Thank you.

  5. Susan Spurgeon
    | Reply

    Very powerful and a great analogy. So glad to have heard you and Chris and connect with you.

  6. Victor Madge
    | Reply

    The bottom line for me is that we are all the same. We need to educate our children to understand this basic tenet. The Dalai Lama says it best, in that we are all suffering, and we all wish to be enlightened. We must hope that all of the suffering of all mankind is eliminated, and that we all find enlightenment. He says that we should approach ever person we meet as our mother in a past life. Whether or not that resonates with each of us, it is a beautiful way to approach all of our relationships. If we looked at everyone we meet with the love we hold for our mothers, there is no doubt the world would change.

    There would no longer be any enemies. There would be only love. That is a world I wish for, and one that I will promote, relentlessly, the rest of my days.

  7. […] that actually deflects from the key issue of inequality based on race. #AllLivesMatter is the , “insensible cry of a body that has grown numb to its self“ Counter protesting BLM (or let’s say Occupy before them) with a red herring argument […]

  8. […] Slow Church had the most helpful analogy that I’ve read as a way forward on #BlackLivesMatter […]

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