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Every human life matters.

Black lives matter — and need our attention to change attitudes and actions — especially because racism and division are so inherent in our society.

Across the board, statistics show higher rates of poverty and abortion in Black communities and death row convictions of Black men. The numbers are startling and the stories are heart-wrenching.

I’ve been told that it’s racist to say “every life matters” in light of the Black Lives Matter movement. I appreciate the logic that leads to the concern that someone stating that every life matters in light of this racial disparity could appear judgmental and as if one was trying to ignore the systemic racism that runs deep in our society.

However, I truly believe that to confront racism we need to get at the root of the problem: a basic lack of respect for human life.

I like planting perennial plants in my garden where the effort pays off for years to come as a plant takes root, grows, and even multiplies the beauty in my garden. But I’m also a lazy gardener. I hate weeding, even though I know it needs to be done. Weeds are much harder to pull out, sometimes even more than established plants. When I take the lazy way out and just thin the weeds or remove them by the tops — they always grow back at a rate that exceeds the flowers blooming in the garden.

The only way to kill the weeds is to get them by the roots. It takes time, strength, and persistence. I have to dig out the roots if I want any chance of preserving the beauty and saving my garden from being choked out by weeds.

Racism is like weeds that threaten to choke off the beauty of human life. In subtle and not so subtle ways, there are deep and pervasive attitudes that influence our thoughts, conversations, actions, and legislation when it comes to the treatment of others.

Racism devalues life, based on the color of one’s skin.

I am a firm believer in the value of human life from our conception in the womb until natural death. I don’t support abortion, euthanasia, or capital punishment. I am for responsible gun ownership and legislative gun controls. I believe every human being deserves respect and the right to life.

While I’ve never had to deal with racism in my own life, I deal with the prejudices that come from raising a child with disabilities most every day. If you think that we live in an accessible society, try getting a wheelchair or walker into the front door of a restaurant or through the aisles of a store or on uneven sidewalks. It’s hard to access daily life needs for people with disabilities and family caregivers who love them.

In the healthcare environment, disabled adults are often discriminated against when medical professionals overlook advocacy needs to offer support for differences in communication, and in the developmental, emotional, and physical needs of people with disabilities. It affects patient outcomes and the care these people receive.

Throughout this pandemic, we’ve cheered and supported our essential front-line workers in the hospitals — and rightly so, for their sacrifices have been great. While we all are trying to avoid the hospitals and COVID, healthcare workers are laying down their lives to save others.

But we rarely hear about the essential workers in group homes that have been in lockdown since the pandemic started. Most of them are paid minimum wage even though they are essential to keep people with disabilities protected against the virus.
The residents themselves have been separated from families and largely not provided for in the reopening plans.

The alarming rate of COVID death in nursing homes happened in part because of the decisions made to place positive patients back in the environments of the very people we were trying to protect.

These are just some examples of a lack of respect for human life which pervades our society adds to the injustices of prejudices and systemic racism.

Prejudices against Blacks in our justice system is another example of the systemic nature of racism in America. Last week, I watched an excellent movie entitled “Just Mercy” (, which brings to light racism in the justice system in regards to the alarming rate of death row convictions amongst Black men and tells the true-life story of the work of civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson.
These stories are sadly still prevalent today.

While I believe Black lives matter, you won’t see me at any protests because I am avoiding all crowds until we have a proven treatment and/or a vaccine for COVID. I fully support peaceful protesting — with masks and appropriate distancing — because it draws attention to systemic racism we are trying to confront. But I don’t support violence in any form — by law enforcement or by protestors. In my opinion, these horrific actions all point to the root of violence: a lack of respect for human life.

We have a long way to go to combat racism in America and as always it begins in our own hearts, our homes, and in our conversations within our own families.

When we destroy the root — a lack of respect for human life —peace will flourish among all.

Black lives matter because every human life deserves respect.

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Eileen Benthal
Eileen is a writer, speaker and wellness coach with a bachelor’s degree in theology from Franciscan University. She and her husband Steve live in Jamesport and have four young adult children. Email Eileen