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Column

EYE ON ILLINOIS: You said ‘Black Lives Matter,’ now make those words have meaning

I’m a white guy. The great majority of my audience is white.

This week I’ve seen a dramatic increase of people willing to simply state “Black Lives Matter,” an indictment of both the lack of diversity amongst the company I keep as well as a reminder of how many years have gone by with plenty of ignored opportunities to embrace three simple words.

Miss me with your “All Lives Matter” retort, please, especially if you’re following the same Jesus I’ve known my whole life. You might as well say “We’ve all got problems and I’ve got no interest in helping anyone else.” Which commandment is that again?

But, fellow white folks, saying Black Lives Matter is the easy part. Living it requires sacrifice. It means, according to the actual BLM movement itself, becoming “committed to struggling together and to imagining and creating a world free of anti-Blackness, where every Black person has the social, economic and political power to thrive.”

From this perspective, there is no neutrality. There is either working to improve or tolerating the status quo. Being content with our own comforts can’t be good enough when someone else is lacking.

So if you see a video of a police officer strangling a black man, and that moves you to say Black Lives Matter, that’s step one. But truly committing to change means Black Lives Matter not just when it comes to criminal justice. Black Lives Matter when it comes to our public education. Black Lives Matter when it comes to health infrastructure. Black Lives Matter in terms of hiring practices and pay structures. Black Lives Matter in the halls of power.

This is where the sacrifice enters. My kids go to fantastic schools. Why can’t everyone? Because building good schools and training and hiring good teachers costs money. Our property taxes are high to fund good schools, which in turn prop up our property values. Students perform better when their needs are met at home. Raising up others comes at a cost, especially without pushing anyone down, but anything else is a commitment to inequality.

Layer that same logic across parks or sidewalks or water and sewer systems. We all have a quality standard we’re willing to accept for ourselves, and the way we allocate resources shows if we feel others should accept less. This is not a race issue alone, as income inequality crosses many demographics. But it’s a reminder that Black Lives Matter means more than just taking one knee off one neck.

The deprived owe the privileged nothing. Unjust, inequal systems only truly change when the powerful permit and promote balance. If you believe in that goal, what steps will you take toward achievement?

• Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.

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