Addressing Objections and Criticisms of Black Lives Matter

The response to my post about Black Lives Matter has been amazing. Over 50,000 (!!!) views, numerous comments and shares and likes and tweets and reblogs. It’s crazy.

In the midst of all this, I’ve had some pushback and some specific objections to my arguments come up. I want to take a few moments to address those objections in one place.

I intend this as a post that moves this conversation forward in a positive direction, not as an attack on those who criticize or disagree with me. I look forward to continued engagement and discussion with everyone.

Black on Black Crime

The thing that keeps coming up most is this idea that somehow the presence of “black on black” crime negates the purpose of BLM. Proponents of this talking point seem to think that the occurrence of crime against black people by black people somehow “cancels out” the seriousness of the problem that is police brutality.

Blacks kill blacks more for the same reason whites kill whites more: proximity. Our society is still largely a segregated one, and the interactions we have on a daily basis are most likely to be with people who look like us. Crime is just another interaction. As a white person, I am more likely to be victimized by another white person. I am also more likely to have a white person hold the door open for me, or engage in conversation at the store counter. Not because they or I are racist; its because of where I live, where I shop, who I am around, which in turn is a product of a century of zoning laws and redlining. (Read Ta-Nehisi Coates for more on that, specifically his masterful “Case for Reparations”.)

Black on black crime occurs for the same reason. Black people are in general segregated from white populations. So the people they are around look like them, the interactions they have are with other black people, and thus the majority of crime they experience will come at the hands of someone who looks like them. It’s just a simple fact of geography.

In the end, black on black crime is irrelevant to the conversation started by BLM. The occurrence of crime by black people against black people does not reduce the seriousness of the problem of police brutality against black individuals.

White Racism

The next big push back I have experienced is against my statement that White Lives Matter is a racist statement. I continue to stand by this claim.

Prior to the existence of the BLM movement, I never heard the words “White lives matter” or “all lives matter” uttered. Ever. These phrases came into existence, not in a vacuum, or by their own fruition, but in response and in opposition to BLM. That is what makes them racist. They don’t just mean “I think white lives are important.” They mean “I think white lives are more important than black lives, and asserting that point is more important than listening to the struggles of black lives.

We only say words because they have meanings. Meanings come from culture, from history, from context. We cannot separate words from the power of their meanings. White pride carries the baggage of 250+ years of racism and Jim Crow and the KKK and white supremacy. Black pride was simply not allowed.

The nature of white and black in America are not the same. Like it or not, this is reality. As white people, we don’t need to assert our race. It has been asserted for us everyday of our lives by the racist structures and institutions that still hold up our society. To say “white lives matter” or “white pride” isn’t to level the playing field; it is to hoist ourselves on top of black America again, to soak up the sunshine and attention away from an oppressed people.

White people have a greater responsibility around our acknowledgment of race because of the years and decades and centuries of white supremacy not just being asserted, but being wielded and used to oppress black bodies. This isn’t to blame white people today for the actions of our forefathers. But it is to charge us with being adults, with responsibility, with being culturally and historically conscious.

The Deaths of 26 Police Officers in 2015

26 police officers have been killed in 2015, including 8 in the last two weeks.

700+ people have been killed by the police this year.

The death of anyone at the hand of another human being is always tragic. But, by the numbers, police deaths is not a widespread problem. It happens in the line of duty, and it is a terrible occurrence when it does. But this year, 3 people per day have been killed by police. That is a real problem. Something is going wrong.

Black people are more than twice as likely to be killed in encounters with police than white people (1). Can you understand that? That is ridiculous. If you are black, and you run into a police officer today, you’re chances of dying as a result of that encounter are 50% higher than mine!

And people are trying to say there is no problem here?

Michael Brown and Darren Wilson

The Michael Brown case was the straw that broke the camels back, the incident that set off demonstrations in Ferguson and across the country, and birthed BLM.

Yet, we still know so little for certain about what happened that day, even in light of interviews with Darren Wilson, and a grand jury, and a DOJ investigation.

What we do know is that Michael Brown was walking down the street in his neighborhood when Officer Wilson pulled up and cursed at him while telling him to get on the sidewalk.

That right there is a problem in and of itself, one that is indicative of why BLM exists. That kind of disrespect and hostility towards black people by those in authority positions is constant and pervasive in America. Everything that happened from here is a result of this moment. This isn’t to place or remove blame for one or the other. Brown acted in a way that is inappropriate and dangerous, both to him and to Officer Wilson.

But if Darren Wilson never feels the need to pull up to Brown and verbally harass him, what happens here? If Wilson doesn’t feel empowered by the badge he wears and the state that employs him to treat a young black man with less than the respect he deserves as a human being, does anyone die?

This is the issue. There is an overriding culture in America that says black people are worth less than whites, that they aren’t entitled to the same rights and privileges as others, that they can be treated with derision and discarded with impunity. There is a system that says those in power don’t have to be held responsible for their actions in the same way as others, as evidenced by the initial reaction of the Ferguson government to take no action against Darren Wilson.

Every person is entitled by the Constitution to due process and a trial by jury. Police officers are not empowered to waive these rights, to act as judge, jury and executioner. But every time they kill a person, that is exactly what happens.

This is injustice. This is why we must say Black Lives Matter.

Christianity and BLM

Finally, people seem upset with my invocation of faith in my defense of BLM.

This is a blog focused on Christianity and it’s intersection with culture, current events, and politics. I come at everything I comment on with the lens of my faith, and my desire to emulate the liberating and justice-filled life of Jesus.

Support for BLM is absolutely driven by my faith. My faith tells me that injustice is anti-God, that discrimination and oppression and disrespect and death are anti-God. The example of Jesus shows me that the proper way of living is focused on the least of these, on mercy and justice and compassion and love, on a preferential option for the poor and oppressed.

BLM is a movement of the oppressed. My faith demands that I stand alongside people fighting for their own humanity.

Christianity is inherently political. A Christianity that ignores issues like this due to timidity or deference to authority or an unwillingness to rock the boat, is no Christianity at all. Jesus stood with the oppressed, even when those oppressed had broken an earthly law, in the name of God’s justice and mercy. I strive to do the same.

P.S. This tentatively marks the end of me responding to critical comments on the other post, unless a new argument I haven’t seen before is made and I feel like addressing it. I will still leave the thread open for you all, and I will still respond to positive comments and questions, as well as correspondence from the “Contact Me” page.

(1) http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jun/01/black-americans-killed-by-police-analysis

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9 thoughts on “Addressing Objections and Criticisms of Black Lives Matter

  1. Pingback: Why Black Lives Matter is Crucial, All Lives Matter is Unnecessary, and White Lives Matter is just Racist | Justin DaMetz

  2. Jose

    Thank you for your well-articulated responses!

    Black on black crime is also a product of racism. Anyone who’s interested in learning more about the issue should read Jill Levoy’s “Ghettoside: A true story of murder in America”

    Like

  3. T H A N K Y O U! And thank you again and again. This is the most cogent, even-handed, thoroughly and compassionately reasoned explanation of BLM that I have seen. You have put into words everything I know (as a white person who interrogates White Privilege), but had not successfully articulated. I will xerox this and share it with my university students.

    Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Rebecca, for reading and sharing and leaving me some feedback. I’m glad you enjoyed my work, and I’m humbled that you want to share it with your students! Make you sure you don’t miss my main piece on this topic that this is a follow up to. https://justindametz.wordpress.com/2015/08/28/why-black-lives-matter-is-crucial-all-lives-matter-is-unnecessary-and-white-lives-matter-is-just-racist/

      Grace and peace

      Justin DaMetz

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Stalwart Sam

    Justin,

    In the end, it is Truth that matters. Here are the facts that we have on Brown-Wilson. Brown robbed a convenience store prior to the incident. Brown was walking down the middle of the road when Wilson told him to move. My research didn’t confirm Wilson’s tone and content, so I won’t argue what he exactly said one way or another. Wilson then blocked Brown’s path. Brown then attacked Wilson within his vehicle and tried to grab his handgun. Two shots were fired, one missing and the other nicking Brown’s finger. This is proven by Brown’s blood being found on the handgun, on Wilson’s uniform, and in the police cruiser. Brown ran, Wilson pursued. At this point, Brown was not shot. Brown turns around and charges Wilson. Wilson opens fire and kills Brown. We have forensic evidence showing a bullet entry on the top of Brown’s head, only possible if he was charging as opposing to standing straight with his hands up.

    This was not ‘capital punishment’. This was self-defense. Wilson did not execute Brown, Wilson was protecting himself from an attacker. Brown chose to do evil that day, and it ended up costing his life.

    And it is that evil which lies at the root of the Black Lives Matter movement. You say Brown acted inappropriately even as you say we know little of what happened. So, are you actually ignorant of what happened, or do you not care so long as it fits your preconceived idea of what happened? Because your own words show that you consider Wilson to be the worse one.

    For a more thorough review of the evidence (with sources linked) along with a critique of the media’s behavior, I offer Modus Pownen’s post on the subject: https://moduspownens.wordpress.com/2014/11/27/journalists-and-ferguson-an-american-failure-tragedy-and-nightmare/

    I have come to a conclusion. White Lives Matter is indeed racist. But so is Black Lives Matter. Because, by the actions/beliefs of BLM, a Black life means more than the Truth. And I find that unacceptable. The Cause (whatever it may be) does not outweigh Truth.

    Finally, compared to what you said in the other post, this post’s explanation on your stance on combining Christianity with your activism is much more restrained and respectable. I appreciate that.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I think that the “Black Lives Matter” IS Racist and Bigoted! Because they are saying that BLM more than the truth!!!
    If the BLM people would TEACH their people to pay attention in school, and work hard and be productive members of society, (Also PULL UP YOUR PANTS & WEAR PROPERLY FITTING CLOTHES, and stop acting like a gangster hoodlum.) they would find out that the Police are NOT as racist and out of control as they think! Very few police would shoot ANYONE if the actions of the people they were investigating were not threatening or provoking in some way. In general, if you use some common sense and LISTEN & OBEY a Policeman, the chances of being shot by the policeman shrink drastically!
    >>>Remember, SUCCESS ONLY COMES BEFORE WORK IN THE DICTIONARY!!!!<<<
    And DON'T LOOT!!! That only hurts your neighbors, because all the business (and jobs) will go away, then you will be worse off than before!!! And another BIG issue is the lack of Fathers in a LOT of black families! You men need to MAN UP and STOP HAVING SEX with a woman that you are not married to!!! And if you do get a woman pregnant, MAN UP & MARRY HER and TAKE CARE OF YOUR KIDS!!!
    I am NOT saying that there is no police brutality at all, because they are still people, and power corrupts people in different ways. But, I very seriously doubt that ANY policeman wakes up & thinks about shooting someone today…If you listen & obey a policeman, and you think you were not treated fairly, it is better to just obey for now, then find a good lawyer- there are many that would take a case like that for pro-bono or a reduced fee. It is better to live & challenge the policeman in court than to disobey or threaten him and get shot dead…..

    Now, as to the HYPOCRISY of the BLM crowd…You say Black Lives Matter, then you continue to support PLANNED PARENTHOOD,an organization that wants to extinguish as many Black lives as it can…P.P. has killed MORE Black babies than the KKK or ANY other hate group ever could have hoped to…And you STILL think Planned Parenthood is a good outfit????????
    Google Margret Sanger & her Negro Project and see the truth in her own words!!! Margret Sanger started P. P. for the sole purpose of eliminating the Black babies…And you stillsupport the Democrat Party??? They don't care about you, they just lie to you, so you will vote Democrat. What has the Democrat party actually done for the Black Community in the past 50 years??? NOTHING!!! They have designed the welfare system to break up the Black Family, and create single-parent (Mom) families, so they can give you a little bit of free handouts, just enough to keep you poor, and dependant upon the Government for another handout!!!
    You don't believe me? Just OPEN YOUR EYES and do some research about their entitlement programs.
    It should be ALL LIVES MATTER!!!
    And if I have upset anyone, well, don't blame me. I just care enough to speak the TRUTH, and not sugar coat it…
    The ONLY one that can be the answer is JESUS CHRIST!!! We (All of us) need to turn from our sins and get in to the Bible and SEEK JESUS!!!! That's the TRUTH, if you can handle it……

    Like

  6. Pingback: Year in Review: Top Posts of 2015 | Justin DaMetz

  7. kat

    I think you miss the point entirely of “all lives matter”. We are not saying that black lives don’t matter, we are saying that it should not matter what the color of someone’s skin is. Isn’t that what true equality is all about? Considering all equal? You think that because there are some police shootings that appear to be unjustified, it automatically means that blacks are discriminated all across the nation? Are you really that swayed by media slant? How many times in America on a daily basis are police encountered with crime and it results in a shooting? Do you think if a black cop shoots a white person it is okay to automatically assume he did it for no reason other than he hated white people? We know that there are blacks who hate white people (um.. like Micah Johnson for example) so should we just jump to that conclusion any time a black person does something to a white person? Of course no one even reports when a white person gets shot by a black cop because what the media wants is to stir up the black people, create division and keep racism alive, that is what makes for a good story. This isn’t about getting equality, it is about continuing to teach young black kids that blacks are discriminated against by white people. There are groups of people who just really don’t want racism to die, that is why they form various groups of “black” this and “black” that. The only white group I know of is the “white supremacist” group which are a small fraction of the population and a radical group that most whites don’t agree with. The bottom line is that we are tired of the race card being played. We are all people, created by the same God and here in America we all have opportunity, what way we chose to think and do with the opportunity is an individual choice. All lives matter, not just black ones and any police shooting should be scrutinized and reviewed regardless of what color or race either person is because skin color really simply should not matter. Cops should not be considered guilty until it is investigated but we see over and over the outrage as soon as it “appears” to be a bad shooting. It is a crying shame that a thug who is robbing a convenience store gets killed by a cop and we use it to start a campaign to rally all blacks to come together to fight police brutality. Where is the personal responsibility of the thug? Does he not have to be accountable for his poor choice just because he is black? I can guarantee you that white thugs get shot too, but you don’t see a bunch of white people starting a campaign to rally the white people against the police. you said tell me what you think, that is what I think.

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