By Sharon Jones
I can’t always agree with the tactics that the Black Lives Matter movement has employed but the tactic of negating them with the statement All Lives Matter is detestable. Yes, all lives do matter and that is something that people can agree on as a universal tenant. To say that only some lives matter would be completely asinine. So yes, all lives do matter.
The point of Black Lives Matter was to highlight the injustice and inequity in the current system. No one would or should argue that if you ask a Black Lives Matter member if all lives matter, they would say yes. That some people utilized the statement All Lives Matter in the first place, was a move to discount the very important point of Black Lives Matter. It was using Fox News logic to attack an important issue.
Again, no one will ever ague that all lives do matter. It is a central tenant to civilized, modern society. No one will even say that one set of lives matter more than another. Those days are gone except among a few detestable individuals that represent the worst of humanity. The Black Lives Matter movement was never a threat or a radical movement, but an appeal to see the disparity in certain aspects of modern race relations. While certain factions would love to believe that racial gaps have been erased or solely exist for the benefit of one political party over another, statistics tell the true story.
Drug usage rates are the same between races but yet arrest and sentencing rates are 4 times higher among African-Americans than whites. They are 2 times higher among Hispanics than whites.
Sentencing in criminal cases also shows the disconnect with black males receiving sentences that are 20 percent longer than their white male counterparts. So not only is a black male 4 times more likely to be arrested for a similar crime, they are likely to serve a 20% longer sentence.
In 2015, black males were also 9 times more likely to be killed by police than any other group. The total was 1,134 deaths over the course of the year. Black Lives Matter was, rightfully, formed as a response to the alarming amount of unarmed African Americans being killed by police.
Fox News and the conservative media crowd has frequently framed inner city violence as a race issue, prevalent only among African-Americans, without the sociological acknowledgement that violence is always higher among economically disadvantaged groups in close quarters. That unemployment since the recession has dramatically impacted African Americans with an unemployment rate that is twice that of whites, has been ignored as a cause of inner city violence. When Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh decry inner city violence as a problem of the breakdown of African American family units, they might want to also admit that it is very hard to maintain families with the amount of black males that find themselves, disproportionately, as a part of the U.S. prison industrial complex. If it is a race issue, it is only in the sense that so much systemic racism and disparity still exists to this day.
The days of high paying manufacturing, auto and postal service jobs that were common sources of lifting African American families into the middle class, have evaporated. What used to be the high paying jobs that enabled the education and advancement of the children of African American laborers, have morphed into low paying service sector positions. A job at McDonald’s that was once a jumping off point for teenagers entering the workforce, is now the long term reality for many African American adults. Add in the extreme inflation seen in higher education over the last several decades, and upward mobility is near impossible for poor African Americans. America has chosen to ignore the disproportionate racial impact of the recession and conservative media has blamed the resulting inequity on race, without acknowledging the real causes of the disparity.
That the rhetoric is borderline racist isn’t wholly unexpected. It is far easier to indict an opposing political party and a race, than systematic disparity. Why not blame it on an African American president you don’t like and the supposed proclivities of a whole race instead of admitting that an entire system is flawed and the gap between have and have nots is growing? That African Americans have fallen behind more than any other race for the last 35 years might show the prevailing theory of trickle down as the failure it truly has been. The trickle down that was meant to lift all Americans up never showed and has disproportionately left black America behind.
And so it is that the use of All Lives Matter was simply a tool to avoid admission of guilt. It was meant to negate the issues that Black Lives Matter tried to draw attention to. The Black Lives Matter movement sometimes utilized means of protest that were counterproductive in the general scheme of things, but the message remains valuable never-the-less. That Fox News and related media wished to downplay an important social issue, shows that deniability of the impacts to a race from economic and social policies matters more than a confession of a country still being racially inequitable. Whether it be due to pure ignorance or a motive to minimize traditional supporters of the Democrats, it is inexcusable either way. In all honesty, smoothing over such important issues, with a statement of pure ignorance, that hamper the prospects and lives of African Americans, is indicative of nothing more than malice and the remains of American racism.
There should never be any doubt that all lives matter. A society that would say otherwise would certainly be morally corrupt. When used as a statement to negate a cry for social equality by a disproportionality affected race, the statement simply becomes an indictment what those that use it really believe, that some lives matter more.
Sharon Jones is a zenruption contributor to our politics and life sections. She knows how to tell it like it is, and for that we love her. None of us wish to take her on in a political debate. Ever.
Feature photo courtesy of Flickr, under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license