Many people think Black Lives Matter is a racist organization, and that it really should be changed to All Lives Matter. Too many people, unfortunately.
While it is true that all lives matter, it misses the point that one subset of the group "all" is subjected to police violence and justice system disregard at a rate much greater than that subset represents in the population.
It is that disproportion that gives Black Lives Matter its relevance.
Why Black Lives Matter is Relevant
I could point to the recent killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile by police officers to serve as examples of black people seemingly executed unjustly by overly aggressive cops, but those killings really only serve as examples that racism against black people in America still exists. It has never not existed in this country.
Generations before the United States of America existed, settlers purchased black people to be slaves. They were not considered people with rights. They were considered property.
When Thomas Jefferson wrote that "all men are created equal," he did not mean for black people to be included in that "all" statement. He, himself, was a slave owner.
When the Constitution was written, it included that slaves would be counted as three-fifths of a person for determining representation allocation in the House of Representatives. This clause was not added for slaves to be represented, but, rather, as a compromise to the argument that the far more white populated northern states would be disproportionately represented over the agricultural southern states unless there were some factor included that balanced the disparity between a large plantation owner with many slaves to be represented equally to a northerner who did not possess equal property in the form of land and human chattel.
Abraham Lincoln did not issue the Emancipation Proclamation with the idea that black people were equal citizens. He issued it because he thought it was the best way to preserve the union.
Reconstruction did not create an equality of citizenship, and certainly post-Reconstruction did not. In fact, the settlement of Reconstruction in the election of 1876 merely set the stage for the Jim Crow era that included legal lynching of black people without the right of due process that American citizens are guaranteed in the Constitution.
Bills to ban lynching of black people were introduced at the federal level of Congress several times in the twentieth century. Those bills were defeated each time by those who believed that lynching black people was a states’ rights issue. It was only in the mid-twentieth century that lynching black people became a civil rights violation on the federal level. The right for black people to vote for President in all fifty states came to fruition in time for the 1964 election.
Technology started providing the public with images of black men hanging from trees, signs indicating where black people were not allowed, and civil rights protesters getting beaten for having the audacity to want equal treatment under the law. There were many photographs of unfair treatment, but, finally, a video emerged of a black man named Rodney King getting beaten unmercifully while defenseless and apprehended. Finally there was evidence of harsh police brutality against a man of color that was sufficient to prove these cops used force far in excess of reasonable - in fact, to the point of criminally excessive force.
They were not held accountable for the assault. Riots ensued, but nothing really changed.
A few years ago after the killing by police of a black teenager named Michael Brown, a movement called Black Lives Matter took hold. It is truly a movement and not an organization since it lacks recognized leadership and hierarchy, but protests for this movement are becoming more and more common. It is not a black movement. Protests are attended by people of many heritages who are sympathetic to the cause, just as people of many heritages took part in the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
Detractors of the movement often point out that many of the black people killed by police had criminal backgrounds or might have avoided death had they followed the orders of law officers. They fail to recognize that if any part of the reason a cop kills someone includes a person’s criminal background, or that any killing for failing to follow orders in which the law officer’s life is not in imminent danger, the killing is then unjustified homicide. Another word for unjustified homicide is murder. It is that simple.
Many people, including many in the media, regard the movement as "anti-police." Though it may be true of some people who support the movement, the vast majority of people in the movement know that most police officers are not racist and are highly worthy of the public’s respect. This has been exemplified time and time again, most recently by the families of both Alton Sterling and Philando Castile speaking out against the violence that occurred recently in Dallas, and is now being copied elsewhere. Michael Brown’s family urged protestors over his death to be non-violent. Even Rodney King asked "why can’t we all get along."
The movement is not about revenge against police. It is about justice and civil rights for black citizens.
Racial violence and injustice against black people is not new. The country was founded upon the presumption that black people do not matter. Only the videos documenting the violence and injustice are new.
It has been pointed out long before this article that inherent in the phrase "black lives matter" is the word "too" and not the word "more."
If the set of "all lives matter" is true, then it is true of any "subset" within the set. When one subset is so disproportianatly represented as exceptional in comparison to that subset’s representation in the population, it must be examined for a justifiable flaw in the argument. If the flaw is not justifiable, it is, by definition, unjustifiable.
When that unjustifiable flaw is brought to light, it is relevant. It is that simple.
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