I wrote about some local people who aren’t black but who put up BLM signs. That seemed to really strike a chord with readers. Here's a sampling.
We need to talk some more about the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Last week I wrote about some local people who aren’t black, but who put up BLM signs to spur conversations and as visible support for racial equality.
Some readers applauded those efforts, and even asked about getting their own signs. Some had questions, concerns or critiques, and I want to address some of those emails.
The movement name prompted questions.
“Do you think the group would have been more effective and less divisive if they’d called themselves Black Lives Matter Too? I feel like the name they chose is similar to the president’s refusal to say “radical Islamic terrorist” … it doesn’t really help who it’s meant to help but provides a whole lot of unintended firepower to the opposition.”
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And another reader suggested, “Perhaps the signs would be less controversial and more thought provoking if they simply asked, ‘Shouldn’t black lives matter just as much?’”
Well, that wouldn’t make a very catchy slogan. The “too” is implied in the name, which started with a longer tweet and was shortened to a hashtag before it was adopted by people around the country who have been protesting the shootings of black men by police, and the failure of government to prosecute in cases that cry out for accountability.
Police shoot more white people, but when population size is taken into account, police shoot black and Latino men at a much higher rate. Doing the math shows there is a problem.
David in Hood River, Ore., wrote about the negative reaction to BLM signs:
“The reaction of some white people to a BLM sign is the reason the statement is necessary. It does NOT say that white lives don’t matter, but we can talk more about that after black armed police officers start killing unarmed white people with their hands in the air or running away or reaching for their driver’s license. Anyone see that happen recently? Nope. Ever? Probably not.
“All of us white people need to face the reality that is right in front of us. (Former King County Executive) Ron Sims getting stopped 8 times in his car and then asked ‘Where are you going?’ That happen routinely to us white people? Nope. Ever? I doubt it. I can’t even imagine it happening to me. I guess it’s part of the privilege of being white.”
Polls show a majority of black Americans say they support the movement, and so do a majority of white Democrats, but overall only 40 percent of the white population is supportive.
The movement has focused on police shootings, but it is about ongoing bias and institutional racism in all areas of life, from education to housing to employment. And there is a lot of diversity within the movement, which means it doesn’t always speak with one voice.
Two readers said the movement was anti-Israeli. One wrote, “Your support for BLM now means that you are supporting an avowed anti-Semitic organization aimed at the destruction of Israel, BDS.”
BDS stands for boycott, disinvestment, sanctions, which is a separate movement to change Israeli policy toward Palestinians. There’s nothing about that on the original BLM website, and nothing about Israel in the Campaign Zero agenda issued last year. The groups that produced the agenda released last week call themselves the Movement for Black Lives.
A couple of readers said black people should concern ourselves with violence by black people against black people. There is an odd belief that black folks aren’t concerned about crime in largely black communities. No one wants to be a victim of crime by anyone of any color.
Ninety percent of black homicide victims are killed by black people and 82 percent of white homicide victims are killed by other white people. The only thing that tells us is that there is still a lot of residential segregation.
Black community organizations have long been fighting crime in black communities, but state-sanctioned violence is something different. Fighting it requires institutional changes and voices have to be raised before we get there. Our government’s concern for the lives of its citizens should include black citizens, too.