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.
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.