Thursday, August 20, 2015

Black Lives Matter

“Black Lives Matter.” Yup, good slogan. Slogans need to be succinct. Good slogan.

But like all slogans, along with concision comes simplification. There is more than one issue here. There is police racism, treating people of color differently from so-called white people. There is general racism, which means that society allows the police racism to continue.

But isn't there more? Does BLM imply that police treat white people just fine, but not black people? Doesn't BLM imply “Black Lives Matter, too?” I think so.

Would that stand scrutiny, do you think? Seems to me that police actions against the underclass whites can be pretty brutal in themselves – and even non-underclass whites. How many times have cops stormed an apartment, knocking down the doors, coming in full force, and then said, “Whoops! Wrong apartment!” And then left without cleaning up anything for recompensing anyone for their mayhem? When the Stockton police shot 600 rounds for a bank robbery and killed an innocent lady making a deposit recently, it wasn't race, it was poor leadership and probably poor training, and who knows what personal “weaknesses” in the police. Didn't hear much about BLM after this outrage.

And of course, generalizing to “police” is a pretty broad indictment. Show of force is often necessary; it's a tough job. Probably 10% are “bad cops,” varying from place to place. And place matters; some police forces are pretty good, although we know that Ferguson is clearly a place with a bad police force and bad racist government. Same in Cleveland, and Baltimore. LA seems to have cleaned up its act considerably since the bad old days of Darryl Gates. It varies.

When some politicians respond that “All Lives Matter,” it is another compacted statement. ALM might imply that maybe it's not so much racism as police actions in general. Of course there are political ramifications to saying ALM – need the white vote, after all, can't be captured by the militants, and ALM is a lot weaker than BLM, so ALM is a way for politicians to convey agreement with the general thrust and yet not be so accusatory. Opposition to the militarization of police has garnered pretty wide support.

So of course Black Lives Matter, and of course All Lives Matter. Let both of the slogans lie out there, and then let the DOJ and others work the problem day after day, demilitarize, consciousness raise, purge some departments actively, have civilian review – and most importantly long range, open up education and economic opportunity so that the underclass becomes the middle class as much as possible. 

Sorry to be so anodyne, but there it is.

Budd Shenkin

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