Offended at Black Lives Matter
“Black Lives Matter, Too” technically would have been a more accurate slogan, but it’s a bit of a marketing mouthful.
As the trial of George Floyd murderer Derek Chauvin enters week two, it’s a good time to reflect on why this simple phrase remains as important as ever. But even after the deaths of Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others, the phrase still causes angst for many White Americans.
You would think that the straightforward phrase “Black Lives Matter” would roll off the tongue smoothly. Yet the second it was chosen as the new phrase to advance the plight of Black and Brown people, the typical chorus of naysayers got worked up and offended.
The irony of it all is the same people who are so offended by the mere utter of the phrase Black Lives Matter are often the ones who keep telling the rest of us to stop getting so offended by everything.
To be sure, the phrase Black Lives Matter doesn’t even proclaim that Black people deserve equality, although they obviously do. The phrase doesn’t state that people of color deserve equity, although that’s long overdue as well. The phrase wasn’t like the LGBTQ community asking for equal rights — to be treated the same as straight folk.
Mattering is far simpler and more basic than that.
Black and Brown people just want to matter. Do you hear that? To matter. That’s the starting point. Black. Lives. Matter.
Of course, the civil rights movement of today unequivocally seeks to achieve equity and equality for people of color. It’s naïve to suggest that everyone would be satisfied with just mattering. But we still need to start with fundamentally just mattering.
In 2013, when Black Lives Matter started as an official movement to, in BLM co-founder Alicia Garza’s words, “build the kind of society where Black people can live with dignity and respect,” the response was that resounding “How dare you! All Lives Matter!”
Never mind that nobody claims all buildings matter when we say “Never forget about the Twin Towers” on 9/11. As Michael Che reminded us, nobody responds to a lover’s question “Do you love me?” with “Of course, I love everyone.” Forget that on July Fourth, we celebrate our independence even though all countries matter.
Black Lives Matter does not and has never meant that nobody else matters.
The BLM antagonists ultimately understood that, so they changed direction.
Realizing that opposing the desire of Black people to matter and to live with dignity and respect was a bit of a, well, overkill, opponents turned to the whopping hundreds of people who destroyed property while yelling Black Lives Matter (note, many were White). That guy with a BLM T-shirt who they didn’t like shouting on TV. BLM opponents turned to the two dozen Black Lives Matter folks who want a fully Marxist country. They turned to the few loud dozen BLM “leaders” in the movement who improperly conflate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with race issues in America.
For those who oppose BLM, these are effective distractions.
Most Americans indeed don’t want property destroyed. Most shudder at the word socialism — clean air, inspected chickens, hormone-free milk, Medicaid, corporate bailouts, and roads aside. Most of us know that the sad nationalism conflict in the Middle East isn’t related to our race problems in America.
Oh, you got ’em. Down with Black Lives Matter.
But wait. I thought the discussion was about Black lives just mattering. About dignity and respect. You certainly wouldn’t let a few distractions mean that Black lives don’t matter, would you?
Settle down, sensitive offended White folks. I have a simple question for you.
Do you believe at the most fundamental level that Black lives matter?
Just answer. No tricks here. Don’t overthink it.
What’s that? Yes, you do?
Great! You’ve made it to level two.
Now say the magic words. Black Lives Matter. You know, just to be consistent with your answer above.
So there’s no confusion, Black Lives Matter is much greater than a fictional organization with which you may have policy disagreements. It’s far broader than a pseudo-official BLM leader or two or three whom you dislike. BLM is not a manifesto you can pick apart.
Black Lives Matter is an idea. A movement. It was never one centralized place with a platform of precise solutions.
If we can’t even start with the most basic concept of human dignity — mattering — how on earth can we get to a place where we begin to address inequities in criminal justice, education, health care, and economics?
Recall the killing knee to Floyd’s neck as former Minneapolis police officer Chauvin awaits the consequences of not believing that Floyd’s Black life mattered.
Let’s start with the fundamentals. Black and Brown lives matter.