The “Black Lives Matter” movement, the “All Lives Matter” response, and the discussion of it seem to elicit highly emotional reactions, with both sides convinced that the other side is either stupid, evil, or both. I came across this article recently and was surprised by its content:
If you would rather not read it right now, I can sum it up pretty quickly for you. The article says statistics prove that racism is still a huge problem in America today and that anyone who disagrees doesn’t have their head on straight. It argues that saying “all lives matter” is hurtful and seeks to diminish this important movement.
Something that I liked about this article was its reasoned tone. There didn’t seem to be any anger, but rather it seemed that the author was making a sincere effort to persuade the reader to stop doing something that was harmful. Toward the end, it briefly acknowledged that some people who associate themselves with the movement had called for police deaths, but this was dismissed as a fringe group that should not invalidate the entire movement.
What really surprised me about this article was that it didn’t address any of the issues that I see as being the most important ones in this discussion. So let’s discuss them. My hope is to give people on both sides of the issue something to think about.
First, a little history. The BLM
movement started as a simple hashtag on social media back in 2013 after George Zimmerman was acquitted of wrongdoing after shooting Trayvon Martin
. It came to prominence later with the protests following the death of Michael Brown
(as well as the “hands up, don’t shoot” chant) as it was taken up by rioters and looters in Ferguson, Missouri. Since then it has been used by all kinds of groups, some of whom are trying to make a positive difference, and some of whom could easily be classified as terrorists. If you like BLM, you see it as an important movement. If not, it’s probably because you associate it almost exclusively with violence, looting, general trouble-making, and even terrorism. So how can we ever come together? I think it starts with understanding the issue – the real issue, which is the plight of African-Americans in America today and what should be done about it.
Do Statistics Prove Racism?
I think we all agree that there is a serious issue here, easily identifiable in the well-known statistics that black Americans have much more than their fair share of problems. Why is that? If we want to correct the problems, we first need to identify the root cause or causes so that we can address them head-on. What do the statistics say, and is the answer clear? Here are some numbers
from the FBI that show something particularly disturbing – of 5,723 murders committed in 2013, about 48.1% (2,755) were committed by whites and 47.1% (2,698) by blacks, leaving only 4.7% (270) committed by other or unknown race. The vast majority of victims are the same race as the murderer, regardless of race. According to the Census Bureau
, of roughly 310 million Americans, about 75% are white and about 13% are black. According to statistics, if you are black then you are about 5 1/2 times more likely to be a murderer than if you are white. Clearly, there is a huge problem here. Other statistics
such as percentage of births to unwed mothers are also heavily skewed (35.7% of whites and 70.4% of blacks). Just from the repercussions of these statistics we would expect other factors such as poverty rates, incarceration rates, unemployment rates, or almost anything else to be affected, and that’s exactly what we see. In my mind, many of the other statistics are inconclusive because of the huge impact that these two categories have on all kinds of things. So what is causing this? Given the history involved, it’s certain that racism is one of the main factors that has contributed to this culture in the black community. But where is it? Is it still happening? Some say it is, while others say it isn’t significant today even though the statistics haven’t improved much.
If racism is still occurring, what can be done? Racism certainly exists in America and it’s a bad thing, but I contend that most Americans today are not racist. As a matter of public policy, the argument has been won. There are no codified barriers to the success of black people; in fact there are now some codified advantages to being a minority. There are some racist cops, but is that common? What about all of these well-publicized deaths? Two months after the “hands up, don’t shoot” case involving Michael Brown, the US Department of Justice determined that there wasn’t any credible evidence that Officer Wilson behaved improperly, as witnesses had differing accounts and the testimony of witnesses claiming Michael Brown’s innocence conflicted with the physical evidence. If you’re interested in such things, you can read the report
. At any rate, a handful of instances do not prove much of anything, so let’s look at the bigger picture. If you are making the case that police are more likely to kill black people, statistics tell a different story
, and are not a very compelling argument. The percentage of blacks killed by police is almost exactly the same as the percentage of blacks committing violent crimes. So are people making things up to make police look bad? It seems that some are. Consider this article
claiming that an angry driver plowed through a group of BLM protesters that were shutting down an interstate, and not only did the police ignore it, they even filed charges on the protesters for damage to the vehicle. If you watch the 35 minute video, there is a point at around the 11-minute mark where a car starts to nudge some people and then takes off like a shot when they finally get out of the way. There weren’t even any police officers involved. Why would anyone want to make the police look bad? If you ask me, there is a reason George Soros
is so supportive of BLM protests – he made all of his money from a financial crisis. Further, there is a significant element of the black culture that for historical reasons is hostile to law enforcement, even if the officers are black
The Problem with Saying ‘Black Lives Matter’
Ignoring any associations with violence or trouble-making or billionaires trying to cause a crisis, what could possibly be wrong with saying “black lives matter” and organizing protests? Black lives certainly do matter, so what could it hurt? I have a few thoughts on this:
- Whether you believe riots are a significant part of the BLM movement or not, there are a lot of people whose only exposure to the slogan has been through media coverage of riots and looting, usually after a rush to judgement on an event where few facts are known to the public. These people do not believe that racism plays a significant role in the problems within the black community and are actually insulted when BLM insinuates that they think that black lives don’t matter. This slogan is not going to change their minds.
- What is this movement trying to accomplish? I haven’t heard much in the way of policy recommendations from the protesters and their web site doesn’t seem to feature any either. They are doing a good job advocating “respect” and “justice” but I don’t know of many people who disagree with those things. My personal reaction to the slogan is pretty much “Yes they do, nobody said they didn’t. What do you want?”
- Whether racism plays a part or not, it is clear that the culture in the black community needs to change. The murder statistics are just unbelievable to me, and you will have a hard time convincing me that present racism is causing black people to kill each other. You can’t change a group of people – change only occurs when individuals improve their choices, and this movement is doing little to encourage that. In fact, it does the opposite – it focuses on all the things that the black individual has no control over and rejects things that the black individual could do to make things better. For instance, in almost every case of a black man being killed by police, that man was doing something illegal or at the very least ill-advised. Yet when someone suggests that a black man who was killed could have done something different to prevent the situation you get angry responses like this silly rant. Would you rather die by focusing on factors beyond your control, or is it better to live by focusing on things that you have absolute control over? It seems that some people would rather use the past as an excuse to continue to behave badly. It says to the black youth “there is nothing you can do, the deck is stacked against you” and no one seems to be saying “statistics do not define you – they don’t actually make you more likely to be a murderer – you have complete control over that.” It completely ignores the power that an individual has over his/her own life to choose to be respectful, stay in school, abstain from premarital sex, study hard, or anything else. This kind of thinking – that a person’s problems are completely beyond their control – leads to hopelessness, despair, anger, and sometimes even violence. Consider this excerpt from President Obama’s book Dreams from My Father, or just watch him read it yourself starting at about the 8-minute mark:
I had begun to see a new map of the world, one that was frightening in its simplicity, suffocating in its implications. We were always playing on the white man’s court, Ray had told me, by the white man’s rules. If the principal, or the coach, or a teacher, or Kurt, wanted to spit in your face, he could, because he had power and you didn’t. If he decided not to, if he treated you like a man or came to your defense, it was because he knew that the words you spoke, the clothes you wore, the books you read, your ambitions and desires, were already his. Whatever he decided to do, it was his decision to make, not yours, and because of that fundamental power he held over you, because it preceded and would outlast his individual motives and inclinations, any distinction between good and bad whites held negligible meaning.
That to me is so sad – convincing a young black man that he is completely powerless, and that all white people are racist whether they treat you badly or not. He goes on to talk about how black people couldn’t even be sure that the things they liked had been freely chosen, and that the only choice a black person could make on their own was to withdraw into rage. This self-destructive philosophy is not usually stated so plainly, but is preached often by politicians who try to convince black people that they are powerless, so the only thing they can do is vote to give them more power and wait for some future salvation from the government. Sadly, too many of them buy it, and so instead of working to improve themselves and their communities, they’re on a crusade to make everyone else act right while neglecting what they can do themselves.
BLM may have good intentions, but it is actually just part of the problem. Just saying “all lives matter” isn’t going to convey the message at all. We need more leaders (preferably black) who will say the things that need to be said, and encourage people rather than anger them. I have seen some signs of this recently as more and more black people are speaking out. Unfortunately, there will always be another leader denying it for political or financial gain, and there are many black people who seem to think that behaving well is just “acting white” or is somehow subservient. How sad.