Perhaps you have seen this Speak for Yourself video about the NBA’s decision to paint “Black Lives Matter” on the basketball courts in Orlando. I saw this video last week, as it was sent to me by a handful of family and friends. It’s worth watching, especially the first section with Marcellus Wiley. Here’s the core of what he had to say (You can find a transcript of Wiley’s whole statement here):
I don’t know how many people really look into the mission statement of Black Lives Matter, but I did. And when you look into it, there’s a couple of things that jump out to me. And I’m a black man who has been black and my life has mattered since 1974. And this organization was founded in 2013 and I’m proud of you but I’ve been fighting this fight for me and for others a lot longer.
Two things: My family structure is so vitally important to me. Not only the one I grew up in but the one I am trying to create right now. Being a father and a husband, that’s my mission in life right now. How do I reconcile that with this, the mission statement that says, “We dismantle the patriarchal practice. We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement.”
When I know statistics, when I know my reality, forget statistics, I knew this before I even went to Columbia and saw these same statistics that I’m going to read to you right now.
Children from single-parent homes versus two-parent homes. The children from the single-parent homes — this was in 1995 I was reading this — five times more likely to commit suicide. Six times more likely to be in poverty. Nine times more likely to drop out of high school. Ten times more likely to abuse chemical substances. Fourteen times more likely to commit rape, 20 times more likely to end up in prison, and 32 times more likely to run away from home.
I knew that. You know why I knew it? Because a lot of my friends didn’t have family structures that were nuclear like mine, and they found themselves outside of their dreams and goals and aspirations. So when I see that as a mission statement for Black Lives Matter, it makes me scratch my head.
The irony in this statement is thick. Not only does it bring to the forefront the difference between affirming the statement, “black lives matter,” and rejecting the organization Black Lives Matter, a distinction Albert Mohler has helpfully noted. But Wiley’s point also gets at one of the chief aims of the organization, which is to “disrupt” the family and “dismantle” the place of fathers leading in their homes. In this concern, along with others, Black Lives Matter sets forth objectives which have proven devastating to families in and out of the black community.
Clearly, those led by biblical convictions cannot endorse this organization; neither can those aware of the fact that human flourishing is protected and promoted by structures provided by an intact family, as Wiley notes. That being said, the irony of BLM’s harmful beliefs was compounded for me when I watched the video, not because of what Wiley said, but because of what was being said in my own living room at the same moment.
A Tragic Irony: Reading the Present in Light of the Past
As I watched this video, my wife read a book about slavery to my daughter. In our home school curriculum, we want to teach our children the history of our country and that history must include the horrific of race-based slavery. To that end, we have many books on American history, including those on slavery.
Leading up to this reading session, my three year old daughter had found a new book and in it a page depicting a mother and daughter at the auction block. Not surprisingly, this image confused her and she wanted an explanation. She kept asking for my wife to find and explain the “sad page.”
In my estimation, beyond the dehumanizing violence done to slaves, the intentional separation of families in the Antebellum South was the worst atrocity of slavery. God created man in his own image and he created husbands and wives to hold fast to one another in marriage and to be fruitful and multiply. Anything and anyone, in the past or the present, who stands against God’s design for the family, stands against God himself and does incalculable harm to the families they break up.
This is the point that Marcellus Wiley illustrates with his comments, that the nuclear family is an invaluable source of blessing and prosperity, while the absence of a father and the fracturing of families does incalculable damage. Yet, it is this absence of a father and the disruption of the family that Black Lives Matter seeks to pursue.
There is tragic irony in this pursuit. For in connecting today’s pursuit of racial justice with our country’s history of racial injustice, the founders of Black Lives Matter are actually seeking dismantle family structures in a manner that is not altogether different from the white slave traders in the Antebellum South.
Let that sink in.
Today, in the name of improving the conditions of blacks, this organization embraces an ideology that would do as much damage to the family as those who would seek to separate families by slavery. As many know, the effects of slavery did not end with the 13th Amendment. And part of the ongoing effects of slavery is not what occurred in the nineteenth century; the effects continue because of events and ideas that continue in the twenty-first century. With largely undetected irony, the organization Black Lives Matter is one of those event-generating institutions.
In the name of disrupting the nuclear family and dismantling the God-given role of fathers, Black Lives Matter is promoting a way of life that will not liberate people but enslave them further. At the same time, it steals from those who follow their thinking, in that the destruction of the nuclear family God’s greatest institution for blessing, security, and prosperity is lost.
Many may miss this connection between the aims of Black Lives Matters and its effects, just as they missed the devastating effects of separating families on the auction blocks. I would have missed this connection, had it not been for the bold words of Marcellus Wiley and the remarkable timing (read: providential timing) of his video and my daughter’s desire to understand the “sad page.”
In sum, as we navigate the difficulties of our fallen world and strive for genuine racial justice, we must keep an eye on the sad pages of history, because in them we learn how to see injustices in our day—even those injustices that are promoted by purveyors of justice. Sadly, what the world thinks of as injustice and what injustice actually is may not be the same. And we must, by God’s grace, learn to distinguish the difference and declare that in our day, “black lives matter,” even when that means opposing an organization who goes by that very name.
Soli Deo Gloria, ds