BY BOB BEARDEN
Black Lives Matter. Yes they do, as all lives should matter. But the problems lie in the fact that 50 years after signing of the Civil Rights Act, black lives, brown lives and the lives of people of color do not matter to our politicians as much as white lives. Too often to politicians running for office not all lives matter equally! And that is what is wrong in our nation today.
At a time when we should be celebrating the melting pot our nation should have become by now, we still find politicians, often solely for the purpose of their election, courting hate groups who want and seek to perpetuate their myths that white lives are more important, that white lives are somehow superior to the lives of people of color.
And we even have Supreme Court justices and elected leaders helping to perpetuate that myth.
Of course we are a free speech country, but there is – and always has been – a limit to the freedom of speech that reasonable people and people of reason should not and most do not go beyond. And therein lies the problem we face in ensuring that all lives matter equally whether, white, black, yellow or brown.
We can’t just stifle free speech, but we as reasonable people need not give our blessings to people who abuse their right to speak freely. And politicians often not only court people who make outrageous statements that are racist and bigoted in nature, they sometimes agree with them and even make them themselves. And they often try to play the race card in reverse to justify their own racism or bigotry.
We must quit giving in to racism and bigotry by remaining mute and saying and doing nothing when we see it raise its ugly head.
Freedom of speech is one thing, but there should be no free ride for those who spout racist and bigoted words and ideas. They have a right to their opinions and they also have a right to speak their minds, but they don’t have, nor do they deserve, the right to put their thoughts or their words into action.
As Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “Freedom of speech does not extend to yelling fire in a crowded theater.” If responsible politicians will not speak up and speak out against bigotry and racism, in whatever form it comes in, then we the people must do it for them.
The best way to do it for them is to put these people out of office. If we are ever to really take true action to make our nation the melting pot that was envisioned by our founders, then we must be truly committed to ending racism and bigotry in all of its forms.
Black Lives Matter, because all lives must matter. Or as my minister, Dr. Robin Meyers, has said many times from his pulpit, “Either all of us matter or none of us do!” As Dr. King said, “We can only be free as a nation, when all of us are free!”
Marginalizing segments of our society is not the way to make us free. Stand up and be counted, and love one another – every single other – because Black Lives Matter, and they must matter in exactly the same way as all lives matter.
– Bob Bearden is a trustee with the Central Oklahoma Labor Federation and a member of Mayflower Congregational Church, UCC