Following the high profile deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner the #blacklivesmatter movement arose to say, “Hey, white police officers shouldn’t try to arrest black criminals or defend themselves.” On its face the statement that black lives matter seems racist; like shouldn’t all lives matter regardless of race? Apparently not. Luckily we have a guilty white guy to explain why only black lives are worth saving.
Writing for The Huffington Post, super-empathizer Christian Piatt tells us that whites, Asians, and Latinos should have no expectation of their lives mattering in these troubling times for blacks:
The responses have been largely peaceful, amplifying messages like “Hands, up, don’t shoot,” and “Black lives matter.” But despite these nonviolent responses to such unnecessary losses of life, some (in my experience, all white) people raise objections…Rather than “Black lives matter,” they argue, we should say “All lives matter.” So why is this inappropriate? There are a number of reasons, actually.
So all white people are racist and saying “all lives matter” is inappropriate. Got it. Now explain:
First, these cries are direct responses to the loss of black lives. It’s a nonviolent corporate response to power that was wielded violently. It’s a response to a judicial system that historically incarcerates black men at a rate staggeringly higher than their white counterparts, for the same crimes. It’s a response of a community conditioned to fear the very ones sworn to protect them. Such grief, despair and helplessness demands a response from within us. WE MATTER is a call to be recognized, valued and cared for.
You know, police in this country stop, arrest, and even kill more whites than blacks every year. The only difference is, when a white scumbag is killed for attacking a cop, white people don’t try to turn him into a hero.
Second, there is no implication in the phrase “Black lives matter” that they matter any more than any other lives. Rather, it’s a response to a societal phenomenon that seems, if without words, to say those black lives matter less. It’s a call to nonviolent resistance, in the spirit of King, Gandhi, and even Jesus.
There absolutely is the implication that they matter more in the phrase “black lives matter.” Try this: “white lives matter.” Sounds pretty racist to most people, doesn’t it? Equality means everyone is treated equally.
Third, the co-opting of “Black lives matter” into “All lives matter” touches a deep historical nerve, of which those with racial privilege may not be aware. But as the old saying goes, ignorance is no excuse. Granted, the practice of slavery by means of force is no longer legal in our culture, but it has not stopped the dominant culture from taking valuable contributions to American society and co-opting it, adapting it and quite often profiting greatly from it. From science and literature to the arts and entertainment, the pattern is well established.
Oh, I get it now. This is like how black people get pissed off when Miley Cyrus twerks or Iggy Azalea raps. White people aren’t allowed to co-opt black culture. My only question is, are black people allowed to co-opt white culture or is this another racial one-way street?
Piatt knows he has made a less-than-compelling argument here, but none of that matters because…white privilege:
Rather than resisting or trying to change such cries, there is an opportunity for those of us in historically privileged and powerful positions in the culture to listen, learn and better understand the longing behind the words.
I’m still not convinced. I don’t understand how we can ever be an equal society when there are different rules for different people. Either all lives matter or none of them do.