Recently, the Republican establishment and its allies in the media have taken to demonizing the Black Lives Matter protesters by casting them as part of a racist movement seeking special treatment and demonizing law enforcement. Some conservatives have taken issue with the name itself, responding with the implicit critique that “All Lives Matter.” This is certainly true, but is misinterpreting the message.
Suppose you were eating dinner with your family, and while everyone else gets a plate of food, you don’t get any. You might say, “I deserve my fair share.” But imagine your mother corrects you. “No,” she says, “everyone deserves their fair share.” She is right of course, but she misses the point. You want to be included with everyone; you’re not seeking special treatment.
This is the meaning of Black Lives Matter.
Nationally, African-Americans are arrested at a rate about three times higher than other races. Black people are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites. In 2012, the poverty rate for black Americans was 28 percent, compared to 16 percent for the U.S. population as a whole. The Black Lives Matter movement specifically emphasizes black lives precisely to highlight these disparities.
The fact remains that some don’t want to talk about systemic racism in the United States (just as some don’t want to talk about gun violence). If anything, the commentators on Fox News like to talk about ways in which white people are supposedly becoming a disenfranchised minority in our country. Unbelievably, they flip the sides and claim that people who protest against racism are the true racists, and that black people who subsist on Medicaid and food stamps are the true beneficiaries of inequality. President Obama is called a racist and “the most divisive president in history” simply for addressing the issues of
de facto racism and inequality.
Surely we can do more to have a productive, rather than antagonistic, conversation.