All Lives Do NOT Matter

The reaction of white America to the Black Lives Matter campaign is more than disappointing. The reaction of the right wing, however, strains credulity. It takes a special kind of crazy to categorize a movement that is tired of racial profiling and police brutality as a national attack on cops. If a couple of people chanting about barbequing pigs defines the Black Lives Matter protest, then by the same logic, all police are guilty of the crimes committed against black men by “rogue cops.” The fact that assaults against police are at an all-time low doesn’t seem to alter the conservative kneejerk reaction. Why deal in facts when you can distribute fear? Couldn’t the BLM protest also be responsible for the decline in violence against police? One false causality is as good as another.

Part of the pushback is from those who claim there isn’t a problem, that cops treat everyone the same regardless of skin color. They also seem to believe that anyone who is beaten or shot by the police deserved it. I certainly would not argue against the fact that the police have a tough and dangerous job. True, accidents are bound to happen. But there is more than enough credible evidence that there are police who act in unprofessional manner with tragic results. The issue is that these cops almost always get away with it. This lack of accountability leads to deep divisions between the police and the community, which actually makes a policeman’s job more difficult.

White people, ask your black friends about their encounters with police. If you don’t have any black friends, go to the mall where minorities shop and hold up a sign asking for stories about DWB (driving while black) traffic stops. I guarantee that you will hear enough stories about unfair treatment to convince you that BLM is a reaction to and not a provocation for police misconduct. You will either believe that DWB is a real thing or you will decide that melanin makes people lie.

Another group that is reacting poorly to the BLM campaign calls it racist and that All Lives Matter. On that front, I call BS. All lives do NOT matter, especially in this country, and even less so to the sanctimonious twits who proclaim it. Exhibit A is that Americans in general, and the media in particular, grieve for the dead Parisians who were killed by scumbag terrorists. This is all well and good. The attacks in Paris are an abomination that all people of good will should condemn. But what about the thousands of people who have died in ISIS attacks in Iraq, Turkey, and Lebanon in 2015? Boko Haram alone has killed more people in Nigeria and Chad this year than ISIS has. Where are the candlelight vigils, flowers, and declarations of solidarity for dark-skinned people who suffer at the hands of these modern monsters?

Even worse than the media that perpetuate the “us vs. them” narrative are those who seek cheap political gain by attacking the millions of Muslims who are fleeing the hell that their home countries have become. America has a long sordid history of demonizing immigrants (even those forced to come here). But it is beyond my comprehension that sons of immigrants can stand on the world stage and revive the fear-based demagoguery that led to thousands of Jews being turned away from the safety of America and back to the ovens of Auschwitz. And no one in the audience calls them out on it. They are not only willing but openly pledge to turn their backs on orphaned children at the same time that they tout their Christian credentials. Their hubris and lack of shame should sicken anyone with a conscience.

I admit to having a personal interest in all of this, partly because my father-in-law is first generation Syrian. His family came here fleeing the Ottoman Turks who were slaughtering Christians at the turn of the century. My own family came here fleeing the Franco-Prussian war. Both families faced hostility from “real Americans” who resented dirty immigrants. And both families made significant contributions to the success of their adopted home.

I do not understand why it is so hard for so many Americans to empathize with those who are fleeing the violence in the Middle East and Africa. Why is it so hard to believe that 99% of refugees are just like the rest of humanity? They want to feed their families in peace and safety. They want their children to go to school and have a better life. Those who wish us harm are not mingling with the refugees. They are fighting, plundering, and seeking easy targets in the lands they wish to control. But Americans, fearful of their own safety, turn their backs on this human tragedy.

All Lives Matter? No they don’t. While prolife folks attack Planned Parenthood (whose rationale has always been preventing pregnancy), a child dies and dozens more are wounded every day from gun violence. Why are the unborn worthy of protection while toddlers are killed in their beds by guns obtained by means of legal loopholes the NRA prevents from being closed? Where is the outrage over this? Tens of thousands have died at the hands of narco-terrorists in Mexico, Central America, and South America. And this drug trade is fueled by a failed American drug policy that has turned medical and social problems into political and economic ones. Our response is presidential candidates who want to build a wall. Yeah right. Ask the Chinese and Russians how well that wall thingie worked out for them.

The fact is that most people, Americans included, worry more about the well-being of people they identify with than with people they don’t. It doesn’t matter that I think the deaths and degradation of any human diminish us all. I believe that all humans are related and that tribalism is a useless relic from the past. Ultimately, perhaps my belief doesn’t matter, but can white people stop being hypocritical about the Black Lives Matter campaign? Blacks are just trying to protect members of their tribe. It is a most human of inclinations even if it’s antiquated. To deny them that right is to rob them of their humanity. And I think white America has done enough of that already.