This evening (Sunday), I was driving around and could not help but notice blue lives matter flags hanging proudly next to the American flag. Whenever I see a blue lives matter slogan somewhere, it makes me cringe. I might even make a facial expression. With that said, I am, for lack of a better term, pro-police. But this is probably only because I am white. If I had darker skin, it might be a different story.
15 years ago, I probably would have been on board with the whole blue lives matter bandwagon. However, I have become much more enlightened over the years and have a better appreciation for the many plights of my dark-skinned brothers and sisters. What’s more, I have a much better understanding of why certain things are racist (this took me a long time to understand).
Supporting Anything other than “Black Lives Matter” is Racist
You may be wondering how having an appreciation for police officers or all people in the case of #AllLivesMatter is racist. Certainly, in the case of all lives matter their slogan was meant to incorporate all people including African Americans. Therefore, it can’t be racist, can it? Yes, yes it can!
In order to understand why certain things that seem good like all lives matter are racist you have to have to know a little history about the cultural development of the African American community and that relationship to white America.
White people have been the power brokers in America since its formation. Nothing demonstrated that power more than their dominion over African slaves. You see in our whitewashed history we are taught that slavery was primarily about economics. And although it is true that economics was an important aspect of the American South, it was by no means the primary objective. The primary objective was the acquisition of money and power.
The historical context of African Americans’ distrust of whites, has been rooted in a long history of deception and exploitation. The transatlantic slave trade, which forcibly brought millions of Africans to the Americas, was a prime example of this exploitation. Whites used deceitful tactics to lure Africans into captivity, promising them a better life in the New World. However, upon arrival, these promises were shattered, and Africans were subjected to brutal and inhumane treatment.
Furthermore, during the Reconstruction era, whites promised African Americans freedom and equal rights. However, these promises were not fulfilled, and instead, African Americans were subjected to Jim Crow laws, segregation, and violence. The Tuskegee Experiments, in which African Americans were unknowingly infected with syphilis, further exemplified the lack of trustworthiness of whites towards the black community. We could talk about things like redlining and a host of other ways in which white America has treated African Americans inhumanely.
Given this history, it is understandable why African Americans continue to be skeptical of whites and their intentions. The legacy of deceit and exploitation has left a lasting impact on the black community, and it will take significant efforts to rebuild trust between the two communities.
Many years ago during an African American studies class, I asked my professor the following question: I want to help the African American community so why is there so much resistance in the community to let me help? I mean if they want to be something in society why not build relationships with the white community to help raise their status? I wasn’t trying to be racist I was simply using what I thought was a logical solution to the problem. I have never forgotten the professor’s simple pithy statement to this day: “We don’t need your help! It’s not about you!”
After this statement I began to look around at culture and noticed that racism in this country hasn’t changed as much as I thought, it just looks different than before. We have traded reconstruction attitudes for devaluation. We have traded in segregation for lack of opportunity. We have tried throwing money at the problem not in hopes that it will solve something but in hopes that the problem will just go away.
Then there is law enforcement and the justice system. The thorn in the side of African Americans for at least the last 150 years. Whether you want to admit it or not the law is not black and white and has done great harm to the black community both from a policing perspective as well as legislation. Here is a good website that illustrates some of what I am referring to.
We have all seen the stats. Despite the fact that African Americans make up only 13.4 percent of the population they make up:
- 22% of fatal police shootings
- 47% of wrongful conviction exonerations
- 35% of people executed.
- African Americans are incarcerated at a rate five times greater than whites
Source: American Bar Association
In 2013, a new organization and hashtag emerged following the acquittal of George Zimmerman: #blacklivesmatter. This hashtag quickly gained traction and became a symbol of support for the African American community in response to the widespread police brutality against Black individuals. The hashtag’s popularity sparked the creation of the phrase “All lives matter,” which aimed to promote unity and inclusivity. However, this phrase ultimately failed to acknowledge the specific struggles and experiences of Black individuals and instead negated their experiences of systemic racism and violence.
In the case of police officers, having an appreciation for their work is not inherently racist. However, it becomes problematic when it is used to dismiss or justify instances of police brutality and systemic racism within law enforcement. It is important to recognize the systemic issues within the institution of policing and work toward meaningful change, rather than simply praising individual officers without addressing the larger issues at hand.
A Concluding Thought
While phrases like “All Lives Matter” and appreciation for police officers may seem innocuous on the surface, it is important to understand the context and implications behind them. We must actively work towards dismantling systemic racism and promoting true equality for all individuals. Supporting hashtags like #blacklivesmatter does not exclude police or other individuals. In fact, it’s not about them! And, if you are white, it’s not about you. It’s about the safety and security of African Americans. Anything else is simply a subversive attempt to minimize the struggle this community faces every day.
You can purchase the book UNenlightenment HERE.