There. I’ve said it: All Lives Matter.
Some of us do not pay a lot of attention to political things, and I find that refreshing. I have to take little breaks from time to time in order to regain my sanity. Then I plunge back in and wallow in the insanity of the day again, while these friends remain calmly focused on other things.
A couple of months ago, our retirement community posted a large “Black Lives Matter” banner above a garage door (note: above the garage door of the common people and our employees, not the garage door of our more privileged people, some of whom remain oblivious to this statement of solidarity with the ongoing protests). When a dear friend of long standing first noticed this banner, the reaction was, “WTF, don’t all lives matter?”
Not wanting this friend to come across as ignorant in public, my advice was to never say those words aloud. “But why?” I did my best to explain why “All Lives Matter” is a no-no, but I couldn’t even really convince myself. I know people can’t say that, that they reveal themselves to be “deplorable” if they do. But, in the time that has transpired since then, I’ve slowly decided that we can never be at peace as a society until we can safely say out loud that All Lives Matter.
As cancel culture has evolved into a major thing over the past several years, I’ve been seeking out a variety of voices to try to find words that seem thoughtful and credible to me. I’m finding a bunch of folks worth reading and listening to. Sadly, many of them are left-leaning, but show up in conservative journals or on conservative podcasts or channels because puritanical leftists won’t publish them or invite them to speak.
The purity police have been totally successful in shutting down any voices who claim All Lives Matter. Meanwhile Black Lives Matter protesters have become so emboldened that they now challenge people sitting at outdoor restaurants to raise their fists and join them in BLM chants. Videos of people who resist being surrounded and harassed are part of my motivation for writing this post today.
I’m also tired of watching my city council boast of their commitment to black and brown people, their determination to fund organizations that aim to help black and brown people, and their determination to strip away funds from police who exist to help us all.
So, again, why must all lives matter? My contention is that feelings of compassion and empathy that screen for skin color or other minority designation cannot get us anywhere we need to go. We simply don’t know the details of other people’s lives that are not visible. If the challenges of poverty are more common in some groups than others, that cannot alter the necessity of addressing poverty regardless of skin color in such a wealthy society. If unemployment affects some groups more than others, that cannot alter the necessity of addressing the impact of unemployment on any person who wants to work and cannot find a decent job.
If lack of access to health care affects some groups more than others, we still need to address the need to remove barriers to decent health care for all Americans. I could go on, but I hope you get my point. Our concern for those who are not thriving in our society needs to be colorblind. We don’t need health care for black Americans or brown Americans or Native Americans or disabled Americans. We need health care for all Americans because health care is one element that help people thrive. Same for education. Same for employment.
Yes, of course, there are circumstances that affect certain groups and need to be addressed. We are admonished to address any factors that specifically affect black and brown people, and I have no objection to this. Yet I assert that we must do this within the context of broader colorblind programs that address all factors that keep people down.
Your thoughts might also go to policing; this summer’s protests rest on the assumption that racism is rampant in policing everywhere, that no amount of training can scrub the stain of racism from any police department anywhere, that it’s inherent to the job. I.e., no one would apply to be police officers unless these applicants bring racist assumptions with them. Therefore, social workers can take the place of most police officers. Public safety rarely requires an officer with a gun.
You are certainly entitled to that opinion. But I’m entitled to another opinion. I believe that many police officers are people of good will, people who can, perhaps reluctantly, accept that bias affects them as it affects us all, and who want to learn how to do their jobs without disadvantaging any group of citizens. I believe it is a challenge to recruit those who are willing to learn and adapt, but that it is essential to do so. I also believe it is imperative that we stand up to people who spread the “All Cops Are Bastards” slogan (even when addressing the city council). Why aren’t council members challenging this sort of talk?
I’m going to go further out on a limb here. Although SPD has been very successful in managing even very large protests and marches in the past, this year’s protests have been unique because they have focused so directly on police as the subject of the protest, even when our department has made huge strides under the consent decree. I can’t imagine how disheartening it must be to be attacked locally after a police action in Minneapolis! BLM succeeded immediately, nationwide, in casting aspersions on all police everywhere. And here, where we’d made real progress, there was no acknowledgement of that effort. It was simply ignored by protesters and council alike. If our police need to finesse the art of sorting out miscreants from “legitimate” protesters who chant, “ACAB!” then fine. Learn to finesse.
But seriously, “All Cops Are Bastards!” My response is simply, All Lives Matter.