Jon K. Rust

Jon K. Rust is publisher of the Southeast Missourian and co-president of Rust Communications.


Say it with love: Black lives matter

Cierra Mills holds up a sign at Freedom Corner in Cape Girardeau on Sunday, May 31. The small letters on the side of the placard spell out: "Black lives matter ... Treat people with kindness."
Submitted photo by Eden Browne

Many people have already written in these pages with much more poignant and powerful messages than I could about the heartbreaking and disgraceful tragedy of George Floyd's death. Among them: Adrienne Ross, Kathryn Lopez and Southeast Missouri State University basketball coach Rekha Patterson.

But I want to extend something Patterson said. In a social media post, transcribed in the Southeast Missourian Tuesday, Patterson encouraged coaches to "Say the words, not type, SAY the words: 'Black. Lives. Matter.'

" ... Say it to yourself every day.

"Say it to your family, your friends, your co-workers, bosses, neighbors.

"If you find yourself struggling to say these words, say them every day until it is no longer difficult. And then, when it is no longer difficult, act.

"Act like my life, and all black lives, matter.

"May God bless us all."

Patterson's message is important because too many people deflect from a message that needs to be clear. They say, "But all lives matter." And, yes, that is correct. All lives matter. But this is not the immediate question before us, after a black man is dead in a horrifying act of police brutality, following the killing of a black jogger involving a retired police officer, after the police shooting of an innocent Kentucky woman in her apartment, or the off-duty police officer's killing of an innocent Dallas man in his, and this list goes on. Black lives matter, because they do. Not only when they're part of a larger group -- part of "all" -- but because each God-given life is precious. And each one of us has dignity and deserves to be respected. Black lives matter.

The other deflection is that, "But BLM is a political slogan, misused at times to railroad opposition." And, yes, that is true, too, sometimes. But the words also have meaning in themselves, separate from politics. And our brothers and sisters who are black deserve to hear: "You matter. You are important. You are loved. Your pain is felt and suffered in my heart." Not because of politics. Despite the politics. Because this is bigger and so much more important than politics, and because it is true.

Saying "Black lives matter" does not mean you have to vote any specific way (although some would wrongly and shortsightedly suggest it). It certainly does not mean you support violence. People who loot, break windows and set cars, buildings and businesses on fire are breaking the law, and supporters of any cause discredit themselves by excusing such malign actions (let alone justifying them). But these corrosive acts should not distract from the original pain of injustice and the love that needs to be shared. Just as the corrosive acts of some police officers should not diminish our recognition of the overall heroism of most police officers.

I briefly attended the Black Lives Matter rally at Freedom Corner on Sunday in Cape Girardeau and handed out face masks. I wish people were more socially distanced, though almost all wore masks by the time I left. (Unfortunately, that wasn't the case throughout the day.) But I was proud of the citizens of our town for how they peacefully came together, expressed their anger, voiced their hurt, revealed their vulnerabilities, shared their compassion, and gave spirit to their hopes.

Black lives matter.

Black. Lives. Matter.

This is an America to celebrate, striving passionately, peacefully, respectfully. Even ... lovingly.

Jon K. Rust is publisher of the Southeast Missourian.