Friday, August 14, 2015

"All Lives Matter" is not a good response to "Black Lives Matter"

"Black Lives Matter" began as a verbal response to the multiple unjustified killings of unarmed, black men by police -- which added to the impression that blacks are not treated equally by our justice system.    It is about recognition.

And now it has grown into a nationwide political force, with protests at political rallies of both Democrats and Republicans.   It began as a plea;   now it is a demand.

Some white people feel accused and respond defensively, saying "All Lives Matter" -- or, unfortunately, much worse.   But put that aside for the moment, and let's just focus on "All Lives Matter."

At first, depending on the tone, it sounds inclusive.   But it doesn't sound that way to black people.   It misses the point, because it does not recognize what it comes from in their experience.  

One white man does get it.   The owner of a St. Louis bookstore commemorated the anniversary of Michael Brown's death on the streets of Ferguson by putting signs in his store window proclaiming "Black Lives Matter."  An upset customer blamed him for being "divisive."   Here's the store owner's response:
What I wish I could convey – white person to white person – is that Black Lives Matter does not mean White People are Bad.  It never did.  Saying someone matters does not mean that nobody else matters.  

It just says to someone who feels invisible, “I see you and I value you.”
That is the point.  They are simply asking for recognition as equal citizens with equal rights.  Not just on the law books, but in the streets and in the justice system. 


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