Tag Archives: Michael Brown

Why “Black Lives Matter” Matters

So, the other day, I saw a banner posted in front of a church or a school that said “Black Lives Matter”. It had been vandalized, spray painted to replace the word Black with All, which appeared on other spots on the banner.

Now, I’m white, so I lack the understanding born of experience for what a black person goes through in a typical American lifetime. One could even argue that I have no horse in this race whatsoever. But seeing that vandalism, hearing the “All Lives Matter” thing irks me a bit. And I want to try to explain why.

Fair warning, though… I lack knowledge and experience about these matters and am really just trying to piece together gut reactions to these events, so I may say something silly or fail to explain myself very well. But bear with me.

Seeing the vandalism of the banner made me realize that my biggest issue with “All Lives Matter” is that it denies that black lives matter at all.

Do all lives matter? Every person born into this world should have a shot at living it, and their lives have value until their actions rescind that value (such as murder or some other such egregious crime). Even then, no one should be gunned down in the street unless it is to immediately protect people from imminent threats. Even mass murderers deserve trials and the justice of the law. Whether that justice leads to death or not is a whole different argument. The point is, you won’t find many, and hopefully any, sane people disagreeing with the statement “all lives matter.”

But in America, all lives are not currently suffering systemic and violent injustices.

“Black Lives Matter” started because the black community is tired of seeing the government, via its law enforcement agencies that are intended to serve and protect Americans, kill its members, both young and old, when said members were of no threat or danger. Sure, go ahead, argue about Michael Brown. His death may have started the movement, but his is not the only grievance. Even if you think Officer Darren Wilson was justified in killing Brown, it would be EXTREMELY difficult to argue that the killings of Tamir Rice, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner or many others made any sense.

Feel free to argue that it’s not systemic, they’re just well publicized occurrences across many separate areas that are simply coincidental. Feel free to argue that cops shoot unarmed white people and people of other races, too. Feel free to disagree with their tactics or what happened with Bernie Sanders. Feel free to talk about how blacks have a higher statistic of homicide and how gang violence is a much bigger issue and blah blah blah blah blah. I don’t really care about those arguments. This isn’t about those things. This isn’t about whether or not “Black Lives Matter” is “right” or “logical” or “efficient” or “inappropriate” or whatever. You can have your opinion on those matters. My problem is the desire to force their movement to be quiet and/or change.

Seeing that vandalized banner made me realize why I really have an issue with “All Lives Matter” other than the immensely condescending and hateful way I’ve heard SO MANY PEOPLE say it in. The black community in America, by and large, feels this is an issue for them that deserves to be addressed. Good for them. It’s an issue that may help everyone by bringing to light over-militarization of police forces, poor training, aggression and psychological issues in the police force at large, etc. “Black Lives Matter” may indeed be a positive force for all lives. But the real issue I have is that crossing out black and replacing it with all is basically saying that they’re wrong.

Black lives don’t matter. Your suffering isn’t special. Your shared grief means nothing. Don’t pretend you’re better.

That’s what it feels like to me. Some will argue, “It’s about equality!” But “Black Lives Matter” is about justice. And those are two different things. There’s a picture I’ve seen on Facebook that shows three different sized people – one short, one average, one tall – all looking over a fence at a ball game. Equality gives everyone a single box to stand on… which means the short person cannot see over the fence to the game. Justice takes the box the tall person doesn’t need and gives it to the short person so everyone can view the game equally. Changing “Black Lives Matter” from an argument of justice to one of equality completely throws their grievances out the window.

We don’t ask people raising awareness for breast cancer to say “All cancers matter!” Or raising awareness for ALS to say “All diseases and debilitating conditions matter!” Again, you won’t find a sane person that says they don’t, by and large. It’s about a cause, pushing for a cause, finding justice for a cause and seeking solutions for that cause.

Black people aren’t saying they’re better than you when they say “Black Lives Matter.” They’re saying they want to live in a world where they don’t feel the need to remind people that they matter.

We should all be able to agree. Black lives do matter. Every human life matters. But right now, “Black Lives Matter” matters. Taking that away and trying to change it is telling them to shut up. And if you can’t see why that’s wrong, then you’re one of the reasons “Black Lives Matter” is sticking around.

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The Good, the Bad, the Ferguson

America’s pretty messed up right now.

We’ve got vitriolic divisions on racial lines, political lines, ideological lines, religious/non-religious lines… We’re divided on so many fronts, I still find myself unable to pledge allegiance to the flag. Why should I? It’s not true. One nation? Sure, even if a lot of people want to secede. Under God? Well, that’s definitely questionable. Indivisible? The only way we as a country could be indivisible right now is if we’ve already divided ourselves so much that we can no longer be divided. And we seem to be nearly there. With liberty and justice for all? That statement seems almost as laughable as “indivisible,” especially in the light of the events of Ferguson, Mo.

If you have no idea what events I’m talking about, go ye forth and seek ye a friggin’ newspaper and a house that isn’t under 6 miles of rock. The problems in Ferguson are so layered and numerous and ridiculous that one would THINK, as a nation, we could finally see eye-to-eye on something with only a few freak outliers in the data. I mean, we’ve got excessive, militarized police blowing responses out of proportion. We’ve got an unarmed, non-violent (at LEAST in that moment) person WHOSE SKIN COLOR OR CRIMINAL RECORD SHOULDN’T MATTER dead without a good explanation. If he was a criminal, he was executed without due process, a Constitutional right. We’ve got the freedom of assembly and the freedom of the press getting hampered by cops, not to mention the violations of the 4th, 5th and 6th amendments. And you’d better believe that 2nd amendment wouldn’t get upheld if a Ferguson protestor legally had a gun. We’ve got proof of this sort of activity happening all over the country for YEARS without appropriate punishments. We’ve got scientific data showing a decrease in police brutality and harassment claims anywhere cameras are required to be in cop cars or on their person. We KNOW, without a doubt, that there needs to be change. Race shouldn’t even be an issue.

But, no. Nothing’s ever that simple. See, too much has happened. There have been riots and looting. Those are bad, so Michael Brown deserved it. He may or may not have stolen cigars. Therefore, he deserved it. Oh, and he’s black. Which makes a difference. Because when you’re black, if you’re not an honors student planning to attend Harvard with a spotless record, a 4.0+ GPA and have never smoked, drank, had sex, owned a gun or hung out with another person of color who is less “perfect” than you, then you’re going to be demonized. This guy says all of this much more poignantly than I can, so I suggest you read it.

I was born extremely lucky. I reached into the lotto bowls of race and gender and got white male. As a man, I will tend to get preferential treatment over women when it comes to being hired and paid. I have a far lesser fear of sexual assault and rape. As a white person, I don’t have to worry about being treated as a stereotype. I don’t worry about being frisked. If I were to commit a crime, I’m likely to spend far less time in jail than a non-white person. And if I get randomly killed by police, at least I won’t get my name dragged through the dirt postmortem.

But do you know what the worst part of this all is? Nothing will really change. People will pretend it’s an isolated incident, like Eric Garner choked to death in New York, like Rodney King in California, like Trayvon Martin in Florida, like Matthew Shepard in Wyoming, like Michael Bell in Wisconsin. It was a fluke. It wasn’t a symbol of larger problems. They weren’t perfect people, so they deserved it. They goaded the cops. For goodness sake, we’ve got a crowdfunding campaign in support of Officer Darren Wilson, the man who shot Brown, and you can see how many people are apparently GLAD the boy got shot. Because blacks kill blacks and no one complains? Because he was a thug anyway? Excuse after excuse after excuse.

Nothing will change because we allow it to stay the same. Because we choose to see people as different and lesser than the rest of us.

America is going to be one of the most disastrously failed experiments if we let this keep happening, but there’s too much pride, ego and ignorance blinding people to that fact. Hopefully, I’m wrong. Hopefully, Brown’s death will ignite a spark of change for the better. Because we desperately need it before we burn.

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On Aid Privatization And Disaster Politicization

So, this hurricane thing… it’s been happening, and it hasn’t been grand. Hurricane Sandy has wreaked quite a bit of havoc on both New Jersey and New York City, with power still out in many areas of both places.

It used to be, it seemed, that when a big disaster occurred, be it natural or man-made (I will include terrorist attacks in this category), Americans could pull together to figure out what to do to fix things, at least for a while. Pearl Harbor brought the nation’s furious wrath into World War II, a war it had no true intention of entering before. 9/11 brought Americans together to aid New York City as much as possible and, for a few months at least, it seemed, brought petty partisan politics and hate to a standstill… well, except for some unfortunate xenophobia and Islamaphobia. Truth be told, we did the same thing to the Japanese-American population after Pearl Harbor.

…so, America doesn’t have the best track record on FULL unity and cooperation and support after massive attacks from a foreign entity… but when the tornadoes ripped through Alabama, severely damaging Tuscaloosa in particular, the nation turned to help. Same for Joplin, Mo. Neighboring states took in refugees after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. When the federal government failed to mobilize responsibly, local and private interest groups stepped in to pick up the slack.

But, apparently, that togetherness disappears a week before elections.

See, when the tornado hit Tuscaloosa, President Barack Obama came into town to view the damage. Obama walked with Mayor Walt Maddox, Republican Governor Robert Bentley and several Congresspeople, many who were also Republicans. During that event, in April 2011 before the real meaty parts of the reelection process began, no one thought anything of it. It was the president doing his job, surveying damage with local government officials, discussing strategies for aid and pledging support. Didn’t matter who was what political party.

But, now, here we are with Hurricane Sandy. Obama has done the same thing he did with Tuscaloosa. He left the campaign trail to focus fully on his duties as president and try to preserve as much life and livelihood as possible. He mobilized FEMA. He called New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie the night of the storm hitting the coast. He came to New Jersey and surveyed the damage. Pledged support. Discussed strategies for aid. Gov. Christie has praised Obama for his speedy and efficient support in the matter, and it can be noted that Christie, a Mitt Romney supporter, has had some less than glowing words about Obama even within the past week or so. When “Fox and Friends” tried to ask Christie about whether he thought Romney would do the same thing, Christie said, “If you think right now I give a damn about presidential politics, then you don’t know me.” You can see it here on this “Daily Show” clip about the hurricane.

Of course, Republicans are crying foul over Christie’s words. Human waste pile Rush Limbaugh thinks Christie’s gay for Obama. The Daily Caller columnist Matt Lewis is wondering if Christie could find a way to not look like a prop for Obama’s reelection. And President George W. Bush’s FEMA director during the Hurricane Katrina debacle Michael Brown decided to criticize Obama for reacting to the destruction too quickly.

Yes, there is some political discussion that could be had. For example, what is the benefit of government-assisted disaster relief? Should FEMA be cut or privatized? Those are the conversations that can be had. After we focus on helping those in need, those affected by the disaster.

Yes, Romney suggested cutting FEMA, letting the states handle it entirely. Yes, that would likely leave New Jersey in trouble right now with how it’s been affected. And, yes, Romney has now changed his position on FEMA, saying it plays a key role in disaster relief. So, yeah, we’ve got another flip-flop from Romney, and yeah, the conversation about federal disaster relief v. state disaster relief v. privatized disaster relief is one that we can have, and perhaps should have. I plan to go into it myself at a later time when discussing the desire to have states with more government power than the federal government.

But can we not, for this moment now, just stop playing politics and just help people? Seriously.

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