Joey Grihalva
Op-Ed

All Lives Matter? Yes and No.

Criticism of Black Lives Matter ignores the history behind the protests.

By - Jul 18th, 2016 11:52 am
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Black Lives Matter. Photo by Tony Webster from Minneapolis, Minnesota (Black Lives Matter Minneapolis) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Black Lives Matter. Photo by Tony Webster from Minneapolis, Minnesota (Black Lives Matter Minneapolis) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Last week at the MLB All-Star Game Canadian singer Remigio Pereira found himself in hot water because he altered the Canadian national anthem and held up a sign in support of “All Lives Matter.”

Meanwhile, members of the WNBA Champion Minnesota Lynx wore t-shirts and spoke out in support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement one week after police killed Philando Castile in suburban St. Paul.

Here in Milwaukee, Bucks star Jabari Parker came out in support of BLM via his Instagram account. Meanwhile, in Dallas and in Baton Rouge, police officers have been killed by lone black shooters.

While the recent murders of both black men and police officers have made many feel the need to take sides, as Urban Milwaukee editor Bruce Murphy has pointed out it’s imperative to move past the emotions, consider the facts and understand the historical and political context of these movements.

Yes, all lives matter. Of course they do. As a general, philosophical statement, all human life is precious. At the end of the day we all bleed red. To hold one subset of humanity in higher regard than another is incongruous with nature.

That being said, all lives have not mattered equally throughout history. When America was being built black lives mattered very little. African slaves were legally considered three-fifths of a person. Families were torn apart as mothers went to work on one plantation, children were sent to work on another, and their fathers to yet another. Racism was not merely an attitude, it was codified into law and promoted through cultural propaganda.

The byproduct of this legacy is institutional racism, which hangs over American society like an insidious cloud. It is there whether or not we see or experience it. Study upon study confirms that racial injustice is a reality that non-white Americans deal with every day. No recent testimony has illuminated this more poignantly than that of the surgeon in Dallas who treated the wounded police officers.

I want Dallas police also to see me, a black man, and understand that I support you, I will defend you and I will care for you. That doesn’t mean that I do not fear you,” said Dr. Brian Williams at a press conference.

Faced with a rash of police killings of innocent African American men and women these past few years, concerned citizens have organized around the BLM movement. BLM is the latest in a long tradition of social movements fighting for racial justice in America, which dates back to slavery. These movements have not been exclusively black, as many non-black supporters have lent their voice and energy to the struggle for justice.

By no means is BLM arguing that black lives matter more than any other lives. There is profound irony in the assertion that BLM is “not promoting inclusivity,” considering BLM is a response to the fact that police officers continue to kill innocent African Americans. As Whittier law professor Patricia Leary wrote in response to student complaints about wearing a BLM t-shirt, “When people are receiving messages from the culture in which they live that their lives are less important than other lives, it is a cruel distortion of reality to scold them for not being inclusive enough.”

As has been the case with every movement fighting for racial justice in America, a regressive, counter movement has emerged to discredit and derail its opponent. In the case of BLM it is “All Lives Matter,” a seemingly innocuous phrase. The “All Lives Matter” camp has asserted that BLM is “racist,” while BLM has labeled “All Lives Matter” as the same. Calling BLM “racist” is disingenuous, and accusing “All Lives Matter” of “racism” is counterintuitive. More accurately, “All Lives Matter” is ignorant, whether willfully or not, of the historical and political context of BLM, as outlined above.

In his apology video posted to Facebook last week, Pereira claimed to not be a racist, primarily because he grew up in a multicultural environment, his best friend was black, and he has a biracial daughter. Those credentials might give him a pass for being non-racist, but it does not excuse his ignorance of the connotation that “All Lives Matter” holds in light of the BLM movement.

Another half-baked claim that aims to discredit BLM is that “police brutality against black people has gotten worse under America’s first black president.” This statement also lacks context. Police brutality against black people was much, much worse in the 20th Century, but there were very limited ways to expose it. Only during Obama’s Presidency has it become the norm that almost everyone has a video camera capable of live streaming in their pocket, with the ability to instantly share that video through social media.

The Minnesota Lynx players and Jabari Parker should be applauded for their support of BLM, considering professional sports organizations would rather their athletes live in a fantasy world devoid of political and historical context. As a spokesperson for the importance of good attendance in Milwaukee Public Schools, Parker is using his celebrity to inspire change. After all, education is the most effective weapon in the fight for justice.

March in Honor of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling

Categories: Op-Ed, Politics

26 thoughts on “Op-Ed: All Lives Matter? Yes and No.”

  1. AG says:

    Unfortunately, the way the BLM movement operates it makes it very difficult for any moderate person to support. By jumping to conclusions without all the information, demonizing officers in many situations where it later comes out that they did everything properly, and because of a contingent that make police in general the bad guy, I can support the ideals they strive for but I can’t support the movement itself.

    There are real cases of racist cops, real cases of cops making bad decisions that take lives, and there are real cases of injustice. However, by jumping on any situation where a black person is shot by police, regardless of the actual facts of what happened, those situations get watered down and lost in a sea of general protest that is much easier to dismiss.

    I think we want the cops to see people as the individuals they are, not to judge anyone as a criminal or fear them based on their race or any particular group they belong to. But we should also be doing that for police officers and for the individual cases of police shootings that are brought to light.

  2. Tonia Andersen says:

    All Lives Matter, we all human beings.

  3. Vincent Hanna says:

    What do you mean the way BLM operates AG? They have denounced violence as exactly what they are working to stop and had no association with the killers in Dallas and Baton Rouge (both of whom were ex-military, for the record). I know many moderate people who support BLM, so please explain your problem with them.

  4. AG says:

    Vincent, I already said what my issues mainly revolve around… which is that they jump to martyr every black man shot by a cop without knowing the details of what actually took place.

    I know not to judge the entire movement on a few fringe elements that call for or commit violence against police… just as I don’t judge all law enforcement officers on the actions of a few.

  5. Jason says:

    You would think all facets of government could do a better job in Milwaukee in relocating government jobs to the North side and or south side. Why must so many government jobs be committed to downtown? Why could.n’t the street car be placed in an area wear transit is truly needed such as Fond du lac Avenue. Give people hope and jobs and there will be less marching and shouting. Kudos to business that are providing jobs in and around the city. Kudos to companies like Sendik’s for leaving Whitefish bay for the north side of Milwaukee and creating hundreds of jobs with a new warehouse. Smart business recognize a need for untapped labor.

  6. Vincent Hanna says:

    “The vehicle’s driver failed to follow police commands, prompting Ortiz to fire his gun and strike Davis, according to police.” http://www.jsonline.com/news/wisconsin/no-charges-against-deputy-in-shooting-death-of-christopher-davis-b99764319z1-387487741.html

    Is that justifiable use of force, to shoot a driver not because they are armed but because they don’t do what you say? There are no other details about what happened, but that description indicates excessive force.

  7. JB says:

    “… which is that they jump to martyr every black man shot by a cop without knowing the details of what actually took place.”

    Dictionary definition of a straw man argument right there. People taking to the streets because they are upset with the current justice system has nothing to do with “martyring.” The way you contradict yourself in your second sentence is fascinating. “I know not to judge the entire movement on a few fringe elements”, please reread the the first quote, repeat out it out loud if you have to.

  8. Vincent Hanna says:

    JB is right AG. You are way off with your comments. They have no basis in reality. BLM is calling for an end to violence. A few minutes ago I saw a picture of them posing with Cleveland police officers. They are not about making victims into martyrs. You sound like a callous jerk in that comment, and you are wrong.

    Also, your second comment here is a complete and total contradiction of your first. Make up your mind.

  9. AG says:

    Claims of straw man are thrown around quite loosely around here. The fact that they martyr any black man shot by cops is in fact one of the main reasons that many people take issue with the movement. There’s no straw man there. If you think that’s not an issue, then you don’t understand one of the main tenants for many who oppose the BLM movement. Vincent gives us a great example of this being done by citing one sentence of a JSonline story and concludes it must have been excessive force. He knows no details of what commands weren’t followed, what the person shot was doing at the moment he was shot, etc.

    And where is the contradiction? Do I somehow judge an entire group for the actions of only a few? Do only a few people jump to protest at any black person being shot regardless of any evidence? From what I see, that’s standard operating procedure, not something a fringe offshoot does.

  10. M says:

    As the latest phase of the movement for civil rights and social justice, Black Lives Matter has galvanized attention around many issues beyond victims of excessive force. That may not seem relevant to everyone, including some white people, but it is compelling for many others.

    As even Pres. Obama has noted, overt and covert expressions of racism far exceed the use of the N-word or other outright bias.

    Joey, thanks for placing this growing movement in a relevant context.

  11. AG says:

    Talk about straw man… no one here said BLM advocates violence.

  12. Joe says:

    The article says that police are killing innocent black men. Who are these innocents that have died. Minnesota and South Carolina are the only ones I am aware of.

  13. A Bus Driver says:

    @ Joe your comments are a prime example. BLACK LIVES MATTER. You think only 2 people killed by law enforcement are innocent. Your comment & comments like yours says that if a black person is not totally innocent then they aren’t worth anything & deserve to die without due process. The police are judge, jury & executioner. But, I’m willing to bet if this was happening to your white son,brother,sister,mother, father family & friends you would outraged.

  14. Vincent Hanna says:

    AG not every instance of a black man being shot and killed by police is immediately and ferociously protested by BLM. Otherwise there would be 100+ large-scale protests taking place nationwide. You make sweeping generalizations about BLM that are simply not true. You act like you don’t judge a few bad apples but basically you dismiss BLM because of its fringe. The movement itself does not claim every black man shot & killed by police is a martyr.

    Many claim BLM advocates violence. Also, I clearly said that incident sounds like excessive force based on the details made public. I still feel that way. Other officers present did not shoot. Why did the shooter make a different choice? Is is justifiable to shoot and kill someone because they are trying to drive away from you?

  15. AG says:

    Bus Driver, how can you say anything about due process when BLM jumps to the cause of any black man shot regardless of any due process or any real information being known? There is no due process for the cops before people are blocking the freeways in protest and calling the incident an injustice and calling for the cops personal information.

    Do you hold the shooting of Michael Brown and Walter Scott to the same level? One was fighting the cop while the other was simply fleeing.

    How about Derrick Williams? A mentally unstable person who attacked a cop. That gets sticky…

    How about Matthew Sheridan? A white guy who was spitting on the cops and died when they put the wrong hood over his head to stop him.

    All situations are different, yet people are so quick to protest any “unarmed” black man regardless of the circumstances behind it that are generally unknown at the time.

  16. Vincent Hanna says:

    Not all shootings are exactly the same, and in general in this country now there is a tendency to frequently make snap judgments (the wrong man was identified as the Dallas shooter, etc.). I think a lot of people feel frustration about frequent incidents of black men being shot and killed by police officers and officers never going to prison for it. It feels like there is no justice and that their lives aren’t as valuable. That’s legitimate and I don’t blame BLM for feeling that way. I can’t imagine anyone believes that not one officer shooting a black male has been unjustified. Other than David Clarke.

  17. AG says:

    Vincent, can you give me any examples where BLM didn’t protest a shooting before we had all the information?

    Besides, many people disagree with you. James Causey specifically stated that the BLM movement shouldn’t wait to hear all the information because it can take too long to find out. So due process, according to him, only goes one way.

  18. Vincent Hanna says:

    Yes both of us can find people who disagree with us. Hopefully we can agree on that.

    More than 100 black men have been killed by police officers this year AG. Are you claiming that every single one resulted in a BLM protest before we had all the information?

  19. AG says:

    yes, people will disagree with us. But since my point is that BLM protests without all relevant information on situations, and a civic leader of the movement agrees with my statement and is also backed up by their actions… that’s my point.

    Any time there’s a shooting and we don’t have all the information, yes there is a protest.

  20. Vincent Hanna says:

    How do you know that? Have you researched every single instance of a police officer shooting a black man this year? Again, there have been more than 100. I seriously doubt you’ve investigated all of them.

    Are any protests acceptable without all of the information, like say an effort to bring attention to the shooting and put pressure on law enforcement to investigate?

  21. AG says:

    Go to the database here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/police-shootings-2016/

    I spot checked, and every single “unarmed” black man shot had protests in their name. Of the spot check I did for armed, many of those did too. The only people I saw who didn’t have a protest march were the ones that had a very public gun fight/exchange with cops. By no means did I check them all, but give it a gander yourself and see.

  22. Vincent Hanna says:

    Why is unarmed in quotes? Were all those protests organized by BLM? Did they all unfairly target police actions?
    Are any protests acceptable without all of the information, like say an effort to bring attention to the shooting and put pressure on law enforcement to investigate?

  23. AG says:

    Unarmed was in quotes because you can see some of them labeled as unarmed still used a vehicle, trying to get officers weapon, or were otherwise using physical means to attack cops or others. As far as I could tell, BLM slogan was used at all I pulled up. Some did, which is my point…

    As I said, many protests are unreasonable because they demonize the cop’s actions without knowing what happened. If you know of any point where I said all protests were unacceptable please let me know.

    Obviously though the narrative that cops are gunning down innocent black kids in the street across this country is pretty inflated. We want zero deaths, especially unjustified ones… but 12 unarmed black people shot in the first half of the year when the cops had literally tens of millions of citizen interactions already? Hardly an epidemic. If you want to have effective protests to bring attention and put pressure on law enforcement to investigate… try and pick the worthy incidences to draw attention to.

  24. Vincent Hanna says:

    I didn’t claim you said all protests are unacceptable. I was trying to figure out how you are defining protest and if you think some are acceptable even if not all information is available.

    I can’t speak for BLM, but I think the frustration stems from the fact that a police officer is rarely if ever charged for shooting and killing black men. Epidemic or not, it’s hardly unreasonable for people to protest when an unarmed black male is shot and killed, hoping that it’s taken seriously and investigated thoroughly. I think it also brings necessary attention to police use of force (and what’s appropriate) and police training. For example an officer I know said based on what happened in St. Paul, it sure seemed like the officer who shot wasn’t properly trained.

  25. A Bus Driver says:

    There clearly is a lack of proper training. I know several retired & current police officers & of the ones I asked(15) only 2 said that the had drawn their weapons on duty & neither fired their weapon. They have all said poor training,the racial profiling, & apparently screening of the officers before hiring & while training. If you are “fearing for your life” on a regular you need to find a different job.

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