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Do I Support Black Lives Matter?
Thanks to the history of the phrase and the actions and stances of some who use it today, the answer is more complicated than it probably should be. Also, Do All Black Lives Matter?
Welcome to this issue of Self-Evident. Today, I discuss the hot-button issue of the last few weeks, #BlackLivesMatter. Hopefully, I can thread the needle of honest analysis without really ticking anyone off (though these days, sometimes the best you can hope for is just to tick everyone off equally).
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Do I support Black Lives Matter?
Taken at face value, the answer is: of course!
In the Latter-day Saint tradition, there are many stories about our first modern prophet, “Brother Joseph,” that have endeared him to members of our faith. One such story takes place during the severe persecution our ancestors faced in Missouri.
Joseph Smith had been captured and placed in irons, along with several others. Their captors began gloating of the crimes they had committed against “the Mormons.” The story goes that they bragged of killing and raping Mormons who they called good for nothing, until Joseph stood up and rebuked them, silencing his captors even while still chained and afterward told those imprisoned with him that the worth of every soul is great in the eyes of God.
Both the teachings of my faith and my political philosophy lead unequivocally to the belief that every individual has worth and deserves dignity and respect. Anyone who treats someone differently based on color, creed, or gender has not only violated fundamental civic virtue, but has sinned against God.
This is doubly the case for anyone placed in a position of trust who engages in unrighteous dominion and exercises power unjustly over another.
So yes, black lives most definitely matter. Each African American is a child of God, no different than any other. They have unalienable rights and deserve respect and dignity equal to everyone else.
All of that being said, the Black Lives Matter movement has not always purported goals nor engaged in actions that I can fully support. Specifically, its origins in Fergeson are attached to falsehoods that are circulated even today, despite being provably fact-checked (Michael Brown never had his hands up, and the full circumstances of the situation lead to a reliable conclusion that Darren Wilson would have died that day if he hadn’t defended himself).
Further, the actual organization Black Lives Matter is extremely radical with links to Anarcho-Communism (including Antifa) and has overtly stated a goal to “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure.” This tear-it down response only further damages America’s institutions, including the all-too-important sense of family whose strengthening, not weakening, is necessary to truly help black lives.
I have also been disturbed with the unwillingness of many on the Left to condemn violence and criminal behavior because “black lives matter.” There is simply no call for any behavior that turns a peaceful protest into an unlawful assembly, and using a phrase in a way that attempts to silence and shame those who desire peace in our cities and on our streets is wrong and mean-spirited.
There has also, unfortunately, been a theme of anti-American actions and symbolism associated with the phrase Black Lives Matter. Through the demonstrations of Colin Kaepernick, simple respect and veneration of our flag, a symbol that should unite us, has become an inflection point of anger and hostility.
Once more, we are told to “take a knee” to demonstrate that “black lives matter.” But many of us do not feel we should have to engage in an action we deem as disrespectful of the flag worn by our soldiers into battle to be able to say that black lives matter. But the nuance is lost on many making the demand, who view the reticence of citizens and police alike to “take a knee” as a merely a sign that we are racist.
The anti-American theme is compounded when we see vocal supporters of Black Lives Matter, such as Kaepernick, call earlier versions of the American flag, such as the Betsy Ross Flag, racist symbols, and place pressure on companies to remove products bearing the flags from store shelves. It’s compounded when we see an “autonomous zone” established in Seattle, blazoned with signs that say, “You are now leaving the USA,” all while local political leaders call those illegally occupying city space and essentially seceding from America the “true patriots.”
It is my greatest hope and desire that the phrase Black Lives Matter can grow into a slogan for the joint effort of all Americans to help lift African Americans out of poverty and to fight discrimination and prejudice wherever it remains. But this cannot be done if political correctness, virtue signaling, and a militant sense of wokeness allow the phrase to give cover to extreme elements who are hostile to the nation and whose goals would further disrupt the fabric of our society.
This moment is far too important to allow extreme elements to run away with it. We need healing and reconciliation in our country. I fear there are forces hiding under the banner of Black Lives Matter who will only tear us apart and create more distrust and resentment.
Do all black lives matter?
There is no doubt that there is an epidemic of crime and death in the inner-cities where a majority of African-Americans live. But, contrary to the predominant narrative, altercations with the police are from the only challenge facing the black community, and, quite frankly, there are even more significant concerns.
The numbers don’t lie. In 2015, 258 African Americans were killed by officers. Yet, in the previous year, there were 6,095 African American homicides. How can such a shocking number be so easily ignored? I can’t help but wonder why the headlines push a certain narrative while the realities of the inner-city that are responsible for the crime and death in African American communities go ignored.
There is no doubt that all black lives matter. If we are going to take this moment to find ways to improve the lives of African American citizens, we owe it to them to do so from a comprehensive perspective. This perspective includes recognizing the far more systemic reality of rampant crime and violence in the inner-cities, the breakdown of the nuclear family in America’s communities in general, and the poor education choices generally afforded low-income neighborhoods.
And, part of this broader perspective is understanding that healthy, equitable, and well-trained law enforcement agencies play a crucial role in fixing impoverished communities. This “defund the police” nonsense is exactly the opposite of what’s needed to fix the broader problems of the African American community.
In a rare moment of agreeing with Bernie Sanders, I concur that we need well-educated, well-trained, well-paid professionals in our law enforcement agencies. And, we can’t accomplish that by attacking and degrading the few brave men and women who are willing to put their lives on the line to combat the obvious oppression of criminal activity, who are not represented by and should not be judged for the heinous crimes of those who dishonor their uniform.
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