Black lives matter. I believe that wholeheartedly and I’m ashamed for anyone who finds controversy in that statement. I also see the popular response of “all lives matter” as a rhetorical lie meant to suggest that the value of black life comes at the expense of other life, particularly white life. All lives matter is a fundamentally racist response to the statement black lives matter. In fact, the only way it really makes sense is by relating it to the legacy of a master/slave relationship, as if recognizing the value of a former slave’s life is contemptible for the opportunity costs to the former master. So we shouldn’t let it go unchallenged when someone responds to Black Lives Matter with “all lives matter,” and we’d do well to educate those who’ve yet to see the light. I believe these things.
Yet I find myself frustrated with the dominate protest discourse, which frames police violence as an exclusively racist phenomenon and demands that white people surrender any conceptual value in their perspective. I’m frustrated even as I concede without hesitation that policing is, in fact, rooted in racism. My concern is that I don’t think it’s well enough acknowledged that as the US state has expressed racism less explicitly over time, systems of repression have become more inclusive. That current discourse, I contend, is at risk of fostering a critique which, by excluding perspectives on the basis of demographic, overlooks structural failures in law that are racially inclusive. For instance, while it’s clear that minority communities still bear the greatest burden, it’s no less clear that the poor of any race are not safe while the police hold guard. Below a certain income level we’re all potential inputs for the production of “justice” products, which ostensibly “keep us safe,” though it’s unclear what “safe” means in this context.
Policing is a reliable refuge for racism due to shortcomings in the Rule of Law. This is a categorical truth because if the Rule of Law were healthy, racist police would be held accountable. Of course, for white people it’s tempting to think the law’s suffered a backward slide since Civil Rights in ’64 but black folks, I expect, would be quick to point out that the law’s always been hostile to them. So, insofar as I can occupy the mind of a black person, I imagine this is why black people are so adamant about protecting the ongoing conversation from white people, because at the head of the economic pack, white people are prone to be lazy about the integrity of law. But categorically devaluing any good-faith insight risks alienating people working towards the same goal from a different place in perspective. If we’re to be successful as a movement, we need our goals covered from as many different perspectives as possible.
My great fear is that pressing a shrewd hack like Durkan on racism will allow the masters too much leeway to dictate the structure of reform. Instead of framing our discourse around the problem, we should be widely distributing actionable solutions. Durkan’s invested in All Lives Matter, whether she admits it or not, and her goal is to reduce our sledgehammer to a sheet of sandpaper. We cannot allow this to happen as our goal is not meager concession but, rather, complete transformation. Policing as we know it must end and nothing less is acceptable. We have data, we’re informed and the Truth is on our side. But to accomplish our goals we need an inclusive language that unifies perspective around specific, calculated reforms that are well articulated in a legal vernacular, so we can press hard while the fire’s still hot.
To conclude, as we continue to press for reform, I believe it’s appropriate for me, as a white dude, to do more listening than speaking. But I still need to feel like I’d be heard and acknowledged if I had something useful to contribute. Not for the sake of my fragile ego, but for the potential of a movement to which I am an unequivocal ally. We should always greet each other under the assumption that everyone carries the right to be right, until they prove themselves unworthy. This is a passive defense against cointelpro2, which wants to subvert our cooperation and disrupt the healthy exchange of perspective, to undermine our potential and high-jack control. So instead of using the bullhorn to broadcast emotional testaments, we ought to be using it to educate and rally the crowd on specific, actionable objectives. Otherwise, how will the crowd know when it’s really won?
Original post edited for clarity