Julian A. Huckabee, Argo Staff Writer –
The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the South Jersey Shore (UUCSJS), the church just across Pomona Road from Stockton’s North Lot, experienced another pitiful act of vandalism towards their “Black Lives Matter” sign. Stop me if you’ve heard this before.
The sign had previously been defaced with spray paint in early September. It was taken down, cleaned, and replaced soon afterwards and was accompanied with added security. This time, however, the whole sign was seemingly removed from its post and was found on the ground nearby the day before Thanksgiving, the morning of November 25th. Just like the first vandalism, the sign was promptly repaired and put back up within two hours. Make no mistake, this was without question a deliberate act of intimidation; the weather was not nearly foul enough to rip a sign from its screws.
It’s becoming very clear that the Black Lives Matter movement is making a difference as well as making some (groups of) people very unhappy. The pushback has happened not once, but twice now in the span of a few months. If the movement were only advertised vocally, it would be no more than an idea and the only retaliation against it would be more words. But since it has grown from an idea to a full blown movement, the pushback has become more violent – a physical sign is being displayed to the public and the retaliation has become equally as tangible. The anger the movement causes has to find some kind of expression, and has once again come to fruition through uncivilized vandalism.
I once again interviewed Reverend Cynthia Cain of the UUCSJS to discuss her thoughts on the recurrent vandalism. Although she was not surprised that the sign was once again vandalized, she told me the act of pushing a sign from its post is more aggressive than simply spraying paint over it (and cheaper to fix, too).
To prepare for a longer-term minister (Rev. Cain herself is the interim minister), her congregation was surveyed before the sign was pushed over about their demographics – income, beliefs, etc. A question about the congregation’s opinion of the sign was included, asking if there were any doubts about it before it was defaced. Roughly 20-25% of the congregation confirmed they had some qualms, not about the Black Lives Matter movement, but about displaying the sign on church property. That number was reduced by roughly one half when the congregation was asked if they had any qualms about the sign after it was defaced. Evidently, they felt more strongly about putting the sign back up rather than giving in to intimidation. That shift in opinion was not influenced by one of the Reverend’s sermons – she was in Kentucky at the time.
Cain did not hesitate to fit the sign and other recent events into her Sunday morning messages. Going with the theme of addiction and mentioning Ta-Nehisi Coates’ recently published Between the World and Me, she preaches the dangers of being addicted to living an ignorant, entitled lifestyle. She thinks (and Coates talks about in his book) that people can create a “cognitive dissonance” in their mind about what America is. Whites especially are more likely to live in this blissful ignorance given the fact that they have had more chances to succeed throughout history.
Those who wonder why they should care or have to know about the unrest in black communities as a result of disproportionate police brutality are the very definition of white privilege. They fail to understand the stigma that comes with being born with darker skin pigmentation. Those who proclaim “All Lives Matter” point to an ideal, not unlike saying “We should live in a crime-free society.” Obviously, all lives matter and we should live in a society without crime. They mentally separate themselves from reality by constructing an unrealistic and misguided worldview, and unfortunately, that’s not the reality we live in.