In the last few months, I think we have all experienced new things. 2020 has been a tough year for most of us, if not all of us. First, with Covid-19 and now the racial tension that culminated with the brutal death of George Floyd. For this blog, I want to focus not on his death specifically, but instead on aftermath and response to his death.
First of all, I must say that for the last couple of weeks I have been grieving. Perhaps not in the way you might think, but still grieving nonetheless. When I saw the video of the murder of George Floyd, I felt sick. In my gut, I could feel it was wrong. I could feel that it was an attack on the fact that he was made in the Image of God. I have grieved his death, but I have also grieved as a man who had no answers, and as someone who felt hopeless. Not long after these feelings, the protests started and then the riots. As a result, I saw many strong opinions from people on social media who were fighting with one another over who was right. I saw division and continue to see division like I never have in my lifetime. The division is heartbreaking, and I continue to lament the fact that our nation is so divided.
In the midst of this, I have found myself reflecting as well as praying that God would help me to know how to respond. I could stay silent and act like nothing is happening, but that did not seem right. I could blast other people for having a differing opinion than me, but I have never seen someone adopt my opinion simply because I told them how wrong they were. The only thing I could do was repent of my sin, evaluate the situation for myself, and speak to these issues theologically and from my own experience.
As I reflected, I knew that killing anyone of any race was wrong. That was an easy one. People are created in the Image of God; therefore, every life is sacred. For anyone promoting the fact that all lives matter, I agree, and I think the vast majority of people would agree. However, I do not feel this is the point of contention for people who claim “black lives matter.” The point of contention is people who claim black lives matter believe that black lives do not matter (in the opinion of too many people), and they would like that to change. So much so that they are willing to protest and even riot.
Now, I want to be clear. I do not agree with rioting or violence. This is sinful, and it must be addressed as such. But when many of us see the rioting, we lose focus on the point of contention because we are against riots. When many of us see “black lives matter”, we lose focus on the point of contention because we believe “all lives matter.” This is what we must recognize if we are ever going to understand each other and stop talking past one another.
Our Debating Flaws
For this reason, I want to address what I think are two major flaws in our debates:
1. The “you too” fallacy
2. The negative inference fallacy
The “You Too” Fallacy
The “you too” fallacy means that the point of contention is not addressed, but the one responding to the point of contention simply finds something wrong with the other side and addresses that instead. This takes the focus off the one having to defend their argument and instead shifts the focus back to the one making the criticism.
For example, I may say to my son, “Your room is a mess! Can you clean it, please?” To which he would respond, “Your room is also a mess. How come you don’t have to clean yours?”
In this example, my son does not address the issue at hand; he deflects and tells me I have the same problem. Now, I might have the same problem (and probably do!), but the point of contention (my son’s room is a mess) goes ignored because now the focus is shifted to my room instead. If the emphasis continues being deflected, the room never gets clean.
I have seen a similar response from many people when they hear or see “black lives matter.” When people say that there is a racism problem in America, and black people are being treated differently by police as well as others, people might respond with “Yeah but how many black people have killed police officers?” or “how many black people have killed other black people?” or “Rioting is also killing innocent people”. We could pull statistics all day and see what the numbers are, but the truth of the matter is that when we respond with the “you too” fallacy, we fail to address the point of contention. If we do that, we will never understand each other, and our nation will never heal. In Romans 12, the Apostle Paul tells us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” So if someone is hurting, hurt with them. If someone is grieving, grieve with them. Ask them why they feel the way they do. Enter in with them and feel deeply with them. Maybe you won’t agree with everything they say, but I bet you will have a better understanding of them after you do this. There is always a reason why someone feels and acts the way they do. Find out why and empathize with them as Christ has empathized with you.
The Negative Inference Fallacy
This fallacy teaches that if proposition A is true, it must automatically mean that the opposite or opposing proposition (B) is not true. But that cannot be a true statement. Proposition A being true does not necessarily mean that Proposition B is false. For example, If I say that I love chocolate pie, it does not mean that I do not love pecan pie. I might not like pecan pie, but the fact that I love chocolate pie does not equal hate or dislike for pecan pie.
Similarly, if I say “black lives matter,” it does not automatically mean that white lives or all lives do not matter. It does mean, however, that people feel that black lives do not seem to matter as much as the lives of others, and change is needed.
So, in this case, I think a proper response to “black lives matter” is actually humility and seeking to understand why someone would say “black lives matter.”
I do not pretend to have all of the answers to this. The more answers I have, the more questions I seem to have. I do know that our background and experiences weigh heavily in determining our worldviews.
Throughout my life, I have had the opportunity to have many black friends, teammates, co-workers, and mentors. I am honored to know them and call them my brothers and sisters. I want them to know that I stand with them and seek to listen more than I talk. Perhaps humility can lead to healing and change in this nation and throughout this world.