Members of a church in Chicago’s Beverly community wanted to get folks talking about race relations when they posted a “Black Lives Matter” message on the electronic sign outside the church.
They achieved their goal, and then some.
Because of harsh negative responses — including some threats of physical harm to the church’s children — on its Facebook page, the Beverly Unitarian Church on Wednesday removed the week-old message, replacing it with a more generic one — “Life Matters, Risk Loving Everyone.”
Church Trustee Linda Cooper, a church member since 1977, said the original message “was supposed to start a conversation here, and I guess we succeeded. We were quite surprised. We did receive some positive responses on Facebook as well as some extremely nasty ones as well as some threats.”
She said the positive messages were outnumbered by those that considered “Black Lives Matter” as racist and promoting an anti-police message.
That could not be further from the truth, Cooper said. She said the church’s national association in June voted to use the slogan as a way to affirm the work of the “Black Lives Matter” movement, which draws attention to violence against blacks.
“It didn’t mean that other lives didn’t matter. It means exactly the opposite, that all lives matter,” Cooper said. “Some people framed the message as being anti-white or anti-police. That was not our message at all. So that’s unfortunate.
“It does make you wonder what’s going on, especially in a (community) like ours where people of different races live together and where we have a large number of police officers living. It’s an interesting dynamic.”
Ald. Matt O’Shea, 19th Ward, said he was appalled by the hateful comments that were posted about the church’s sign and believes most of them did not come from Beverly residents. He pointed out that the church, 10244 S. Longwood Drive, has been in Beverly for 75 years.
“They were calling attention to an issue they believe in, and it somehow got turned into a negative,” O’Shea said. “It’s unfortunate. It’s one thing to disagree with something, but when you start making threats, that’s a whole different area. I assure you the 22nd Police District is taking those threats seriously.”
He acknowledged that it may be difficult to identify those who made the threats given the anonymity provided by social media.
“Cowards,” he said, “typically raise their heads in darkness.”
Source: Chicago Tribune | Steve Metsch