It’s a simple phrase that defines a movement that has finally had its moment. Black lives matter.
Ryan Tannehill, the 2019 NFL comeback player of the year, has become the latest white NFL quarterback to declare that three-word truth loudly and clearly, posting the message on social media for all to see. It’s amazing to think that, just two weeks ago, many would have viewed that gesture as controversial, shouting “STICK TO SPORTS!” at best and posting hostile, perhaps threatening responses to it at worst. Now, more and more understand what the phrase truly means.
“Ben & Jerry’s said it best,” Tannehill said in the body of his Instagram post. “We stand with the black community in the fight against systemic racism, police brutality, & oppression. These are long-standing issues that are going to take conversation, understanding, & action. It will not happen overnight but I will fight for change.”
Tannehill urges people to “donate, sign petitions, text/call local leaders, & learn more about these issues,” before quoting at length from a 2016 message from the ice cream manufacturer, crafted at a time when the phrase “black lives matter” prompted from many a reaction that often culminated in the invocation of another three-word phrase: All lives matter.
“All lives do matter,” Ben & Jerry’s said in 2016 and Tannehill reiterated in his own post. “But all lives will not matter until Black lives matter.”
That’s really the point. In theory, especially in light of our nation’s most cherished phrases promising equality for all, all lives matter. In practice, that hasn’t been the case. Shouting “all lives matter” now (especially after the events of the last 13 days) is, quite simply, another device used by those who prefer to remain in their own bubble and not be made uncomfortable by the fact that the ideals of the founding fathers have become perverted and twisted and dishonored by the treatment of black Americans.
Of course, those ideals were perverted and twisted and dishonored from the moment John Hancock badly misjudged the amount of space needed for the rest of the insurrectionists to declare independence in writing from a monarch. And it has taken the nation far too long to recognize that the promise of equality for all has been a bald-faced lie.
It feels like we are finally at the point where the lie is being shifted into the column of truth. Many, based on their words, their actions, and their social-media posts, still don’t want that to happen. Anyone who is or may be in that category needs to look in the mirror and ask themselves a simple question: Why?