All Lives Matter Doesn’t Make Sense

Picture this scenario – Anytown, U.S.A., which has a small population of Black and Brown people who generally try to live by the same rules and regulations that everyone else around them abides by. These are folks who go to work, pay their taxes, try their best with parenting, and even participate in their community. By and large, these are people any community would be lucky to have.

Black and Brown community members are regularly harassed and dismissed (simultaneously!), however, by the white people around them. The same people who are solidly doing their jobs and being good citizens remain in constant fear that some event will befall them that ends their life prospects, their economic future, or their lives themselves for no other reason than being Black or Brown. Some of it is because there are stereotypes associated with being a person of color, such as being historically made out to be a threat or a menace. Some of it is because of pure, irrational racism that drives home unfounded (and normally proven to be untrue) assumptions and beliefs about people of color ranging from them being international terrorists associated with Al-Qaeda to being domestic terrorists associated with the Crips. These Black and Brown folks have become accustomed with this manner of living, with a regular worry that something needlessly oppressive will occur and that they will have no recourse to avenge any wrongs or injustices.

Over time, there was a buildup of these injustices and no reckoning. Black and Brown people (and even some white ones) noticed the pattern of injustice, who it continued to follow and negatively effect, and the policies enacted to maintain and protect oppressive institutions. Rather than remain resigned in their collective disappointment of their local government and community, they decided to engage the public at-large via massive demonstrations and a media campaign to re-educate the masses regarding the plight of Black and Brown people. The best method of quickly explaining that mantle, they decided, was to scream out with all of their souls, “Black Lives Matter!” They were met with a heavy police presence despite the largely peaceful protesting (an oxymoron in itself), something considered appropriate since there were a lot of Black and Brown people who were (justifiably) angry at the continued oppressive state they lived under. Quite frankly, when Black people get mad, white people get nervous.

One way they responded to the nervousness was to claim that “All Lives Matter” in defiance of “Black Lives Matter.” Fortunately, in Anytown, U.S.A., bad things can happen to anybody, and a young white woman met her unfortunate demise in Anytown as a result of police misconduct – she was gunned down needlessly while unarmed and not resisting or posing any danger. One might expect that there would be a response, since she was a victim of injustice. Perhaps a march down Main Street shouting, “All Lives Matter,” holding signs with pictures of her. But in Anytown, U.S.A., there was no march down Main Street. There were no signs with this young woman’s picture on it. There was a news report and a quiet firing of the officer, with rumors of a civil suit emerging in the aftermath. Anytown continued with business as usual, unconcerned with lives mattering as justice has been done (to some degree).

Business as usual in Anytown included regular dismissal and hostility towards homeless people and the poor. It included dismissals of women’s claims of sexual abuse. It, of course, included regular discussions behind closed doors regarding the problems of Black culture and ways to capitalize off of it. But this young woman’s death ended up a quiet nonstory in Anytown, a simple reminder that All Lives Matter only when people yell out Black Lives Matter.

At a recent Democratic Presidential debate, a fan question came in that asked, “Do Black Lives Matter or All Lives Matter?” The candidates responded, some saying the former, others the latter. Nobody stopped to address the elephant in the room – doesn’t this question sound like it has to be one or the other, not both? Is it impossible for Black lives to matter…precisely because all lives matter? Better yet, doesn’t all lives matter sound trivially true and practically false? Let me explain what I mean.

All lives matters seems to be obviously true. Everybody matters. Everybody’s special. Everybody’s got a place in the world, right? That really all hinges on what we mean by “matters.” What it means to matter can go a number of different ways based on what kind of criteria it takes for a life to matter, and what kind of mattering is being discussed. Here are a few examples of ways you could matter: to your family, to God, to your community, including your country, with respect to rights, and with respect to justice. This list isn’t meant to be exhaustive, but should give a pretty good example of the many ways we all could matter in some respect. Some of these collapse upon each other, since rights are usually conferred or protected by governments – so if you matter to your country, the protection of your rights matters as well, being one of the ways a country can show that someone matters to it.

Let’s assume that in matters of justice in the United States, all lives matter. Then Black lives have to matter in terms of acquiring justice when confronted by something unjust, such as voter suppression tactics (which intimidate Blacks from using one major application of being a citizen and participating in the democratic process), a mass incarceration program that is directed towards Blacks (which, again, limits their ability to vote among other rights), and institutional racism that prevents many Blacks from accessing the resources and opportunities needed to flourish. There’s no way to slice it – if all lives matter in terms of justice, then Black lives (which HAVE to be a subset of all lives) matter with regards to the injustices that have happened and rectifying the injustices that have occurred. This claim doesn’t hold up if you have a different view of what All Lives Matter means.

Giving a charitable read of the All Lives Matter argument, I’ve come up with something like this:
1) Everybody deserves justice.
2) By focusing on the perceived plight of Blacks, it ignores that everybody deserves justice.
3) By focusing on the perceived plight of Blacks, it ignores that everyone is the same – color and race don’t matter in terms of justice.
4) Since everyone deserves justice and color and race don’t matter, Black Lives Matter doesn’t make sense.
Conclusion: All Lives Matter, not Black Lives Matter.

If this is the view, then Black Lives Matter doesn’t work at all for a number of reasons, chief among them its divisiveness in a country that is beyond color and race politics. This assumes that this is a country beyond race, which seems to be patently false. The call to be beyond race is often made by those who would stand to benefit from the end of race because it ends any form of historical guilt or those who think they will benefit from the end of race because it ends any form of contemporary discrimination. But if All Lives Matter, even from this particular stance, why hasn’t there been any marches for the dead white woman? Because from this particular viewpoint, there isn’t any systemic problem of police violence, it was one bad agent who happened to be a police officer. This is how any issue such as racism or sexism is viewed – one bad actor who may be in a position of authority.

Crucially, All Lives Matter is a position of critique and, in and of itself, critique isn’t a bad thing. It’s necessary to refine crude ideas into diamonds that our culture live by. Critique done with the purpose of undermining a status quo shaking position, however, doesn’t serve to strengthen our culture…unless you believe strongly that the status quo is effective. As many say, America is the greatest country on Earth, which assumes that because you’re the “best” that you’re not above improvement or that you don’t have to improve until the competition improves. LeBron developed a three, after all.

Here’s another problem with saying All Lives Matter – do mosquitos lives matter? Or the cow and pig that we ate today, do their lives matter? Plants are alive – do their lives matter? It strikes me that if their lives matter, they matter only relationally to ours. Plants should be afforded independent lives as long as their existence is needed or if we can turn them into paper. Bees’ lives matter only because of their relative importance to pollination and creating honey. All lives on this planet don’t matter, even if we said strictly human lives, as there would be much more concern for global politics and deplorable living conditions. All lives certainly still don’t matter if we say humans in the US, as the local homeless person you step over does not matter in terms of their justice claims. These latter two problems can be viewed without a racial lens, which prompts the question: do All Lives Matter or Some Lives Matter?

Without a question, some lives matter. It’s much less illegal to say you’ll kill me rather than saying you’ll kill the mayor of whatever city you reside in because political figures matter more to the community than Joe Schmo’s like me. Rich people’s lives, presumably because of their necessary existence for the success of the capitalist market, matter more than poor people’s lives, who suck on the teat of the rich for their existence according to some. A less abrasive example would be your interest in justice for your loved one or friend if he or she were a victim of an injustice compared to your interest in a stranger across the country being a victim of injustice. Some lives hold more perceived value than others; our decisions regarding who deserves justice are informed by their perceived value to us, our community, or our culture. Assuming this, hollering Black Lives Matter actually makes sense as a program to change the negative perceived value of Black lives. Hollering All Lives Matter is more like yelling, “The world is flat,” something that seems trivially true and yet actually false.

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On Voting While Black, or Why Obamamania Must Continue

The Force is strong with him. Resign yourself to your fate and bow down to the master and ruler of the world.

I’ve written about Obamamania following his 2008 election, particularly how it rose the bar for Black men across the country (in both positive as well as unrealistic ways).  This election shouldn’t be close – for every legitimate attack that has been made by the Romney/Ryan campaign regarding President Obama’s economic policies (which, is also up for debate – the policies or the ineffectiveness of being able to implement them, which doesn’t necessarily reflect on the President or his policies), they take two steps back with regard to social responsibility, civil rights, women’s rights, and I jokingly tweeted that “If Romney gets elected, all those abortions we’re relying on for when you don’t make it out in time/have equipment malfunction are gone,” there’s no doubt in anybody’s mind that we are on a fast track to contraceptive rights going back 50 years with the new Supreme Court addition on the horizon.  Moreover, I watched all 3 debates and concur with most analyses – Romney came out fists-of-fire in Round 1 and stunned Obama; Obama defended and came on the rebound in a physical Round 2; Obama with a 3rd round KO…but Romney supporters still think the challenger put up a great match ala Rocky, and could still be a great champion.  What was evident is that, while Mitt Romney is passionate about America, loves this country and he likely is a solid, decent human being, I cannot seem to trust him to save my life.

This could be in part because I’m Black.  Truthfully, I carry a background of mistrust of white men, especially older white men.  Thanks to being born in the late 80s, I wasn’t alive 20 years earlier to verify whether or not every white person, especially white men, called everybody Black a nigger, coon, jungle bunny, pickaninny (sp?), porch monkey or some such other racial epithet.  I can’t verify that all white people treated Black people like shit.  What I believe is that there was a culture that considered these actions permissible or even an appropriate way to treat other members of the society such that I can’t don’t believe or trust many older white guys.  They come off as, still, unable to handle the magnitude of the reality that Black people are still in America AND are free.

Yep, I can’t shake the idea that old white people are either private (as opposed to formerly public, or at least without fear of cultural reproach) racists or they just had to take it on the chin and not just learn, but accept that these formerly inferior people are and now have been for a snippet of time, equals in all essential means (and plenty fight having to accept that).  It’s a new social ontology of how white people are situated, with their top dog position in much greater flux than it’s ever been.   Is it such a leap that in a country that has arguably the worst recent history (call it 200 years) of racial…harmony, if we were to go back into 1963 and had me, the brown skinned intellectual, walking around Birmingham, AL, that many of the angry, reddened faces at my presumptive air of knowledge would be white and the thoughts and/or words emanating from them wouldn’t be trying to kill me with kindness?  With all of that said, I struggle to believe that when older white people (and because older white people raise younger white people, white people in general) tell me they have everybody’s best interest at heart, that they don’t mean the traditional “everybody” that excludes minorities, gays and lesbians, the socially disadvantaged, the economically disadvantaged (and not the nebulous middle class, of which there is a class beneath them that receives virtually no attention beyond Medicare/Medicaid), and basically those who aren’t in power or even near power.

Now, this doesn’t have anything to do with Mitt Romney or Barack Obama – this is a belief that is held and one that informs my politics and my voting, much in the same way that Paul Ryan’s Catholic faith and belief in Ayn Rand informs his politics, much in the same way that many in the Bible Belt look for Christian values in their candidate of choice because those beliefs inform their politics and worldview, and being Black and what that means to me plays a hefty role in my politics because being Black in a purportedly post-racial world that still carries the inarguable reality of race gives me pause to be sure that my interests and the interests of those who have to suffer through the same reality of being raced are at least being taken seriously and admitted into the purview of general American interests.  I don’t have the actual power to do that, so taking what it is to be Black in America into my political considerations is how I’m able to.  It’s how any of us are able to make our voice heard, share our opinion, essentially participate in government at the most basic level – voting with our beliefs and interests of ourselves and our compatriots in mind.

This is why Obamamania should continue.

For 3 very basic reasons, I voted for President Obama.  I was ecstatic at being able to choose a LEGIT (note: not a failed Al Sharpton or Jesse “I’ll Cut Your Nuts Off” Jackson bid for President, but a candidate with the backing of an entire party) African-American President in 2008.  The simple fact that we did created a watershed moment for this country, and the world, as somebody who didn’t look like the other 43 guys, didn’t have a similar background or even a similar heritage as them, got voted in.  That aside, he represented a fundamentally different approach to governing, one that appreciated the whole of America rather than just a part; one that wanted to extend assistance to those who need it while helping entrepreneurs who could help build more companies for the future; and one that could repair the world’s view of America by being more in touch with diplomacy and the current culture of the time.  He gave us the best chance to do these things, but admittedly, I was going to vote for the qualified Black guy.  It was like awarding a scholarship to two equally qualified guys, one Black and one white.  This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody but I’ll choose the Black guy basically because he hasn’t gotten the chance historically, he wouldn’t get the chance to prove the expected critics wrong without having the job for a moment (nobody can work well with a noose around their neck), and because all things being equal, it’s a good thing to help another Black person be able to succeed when possible.  This reason still stands, and that’s because…

4 years later, he’s a more experienced leader who has had his successes and his failures, but his path has been unwavering and his resolve has stayed the course.  He’s now the experienced, legitimately qualified candidate.  The job didn’t change the guy that we voted in for change, and by and large, change in many ways has come.  While not every measure he attempted ended up fruitful, Obamacare will likely redefine how citizens are able to access healthcare going forward, he killed Osama bin Laden, and he’s committed to ending the decade long wars overseas.  More could have happened, but on the social agenda front he ended Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and came out in support of gay marriage.  He’s in tune with contemporary times, which can’t be said for ThatMittIDon’tLike.  While he doesn’t represent the candidate of hope and change from 2008, Obama does represent a future for America that I can trust and believe in, and that’s what we vote for as citizens.

Finally, I voted for President Obama because the other option appears worrisome.  Again, Mitt Romney strikes me as a guy who isn’t a bad man, but enjoys power and any strong businessman has a cutthroat tendency toward the most expendable at the first drop of problems in order to save himself and his business.  While wise for a business (and not totally ethical), it’s an unwise approach to leading the nation.  Invoking my Black principles that I’m voting on (much like the Christian values and the economy and the like are the principles and issues at play when others vote), me and the people who look like me still are undervalued and the threat of a post-racial nation would be made real with a Romney election.  He represents the values of a post-racial society; one in which the raced realities of people (and what follows from them) are ignored; where the value of a person is inextricably linked to one’s income; where the institutional problems that barricade minorities from advancement go untreated like a cancerous spot on the country’s skin; and where ultimately, the same problems that arise from a raced society – where white men win and everybody else is playing catch up – come back to haunt us from using the same system with a different name.

So for 4 more years (you too, white people), let’s let the Obamamania run wild again.  If Hulkamania, littered with steroids, sex scandals, the biggest turn in the history of professional wrestling and a reality show on VH1, can run wild again and again and again, Obamamania should get one more call to perform.

A Rant on White People (but no, you shouldn’t be offended)

If ever there was a post that might get me into hot water, it’s this one.  I’ve done a Twitter rant that I posted on here before regarding the influx of music talking about getting women pregnant, but this one came the other day when Raekwon’s “House of Flying Daggers” came on my shuffle.  Maybe I was already in a slightly militaristic mindset coming into it, but for some reason that song put me in a mode.  And I used Twitter as the release.  I’m already expecting that I won’t get a job thanks to this blog, my Facebook (which doesn’t have anything all that bad on there but I anticipate anyway), and more than likely my Twitter.  The joys of the amalgamation of social networking sites and a desire to put things to paper.  Anyhow, I’ll let my tweets do most of the talking but I’ll also wrap it up afterwards with some thoughts about my stance.  And no, this isn’t meant to offend.  It’s just a stance I’ve had for a long time that doesn’t implicate any individual person.  And (I’ll go into more detail later), I recognize that the stance is prime for a slippery slope.  But let’s see what can be made of it.  Enjoy the Twitter rant.

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Theres some music that pops up on my shuffle that lends itself to bein blasted as I go on a crusade against white people. #yeahisaidit.

I’d be lying if I said I havent been an angry young black man for nearly 8 years probably. I’ve channeled it to other things but fact…

is that my stance on white people has been – I dont like em. I dont like the group. I dont like the power thats come, the commodification…

of Blacks thats come by way of them. With that said, I dont hold it against white persons. I like many white persons. Dont like the group…

but I like some members of the group. Like not liking Republicans but liking some Republicans. Or Democrats. But thats my stance…

Admittedly its been shifted after 4 years of all Black. But I had this stance in HS surrounded by white people. Many wield their whiteness..

Like a child with a loaded gun. I choose to carry my Blackness like theres someone trespassing-I might shoot first but I’ll be safe.

I know I got white followers. They might opt to unfollow cuz my stance appears militaristic. We aint post-racial. We aint brownin the US…

and I maintain that white people (the group) just aint been that great for Black folk. But many white persons have been. Anger expressed.

————–

So that was the first half.  This has more or less been my stance regarding white people I meet.  I’m not going think you’re racist, I’m not going to think ill of you, I’m not going to mistreat you – you’re a person, same as I.  But I’m not forgetting the historical context in which we live.  I’m not going to forget the historical context in which the race relations in this country (and elsewhere) have setup serious class disparities that oddly enough, run the color lines pretty well (gee, irony?).  I’m not going to forget that to this very damn day, there are white people out here who want to “save the Black people.”  And the closest analogy I could come up with is not liking Republican party ideology but liking some Republicans, for whatever reason it may be.  I recognize it’s a potential slippery slope, where you have “white people who are cool/not like those other white people” and “those other white people.”  Look, I’m not going to make a value judgment on you.  Those white folks who want to “save the Black people,” (a great thread here is that “if I can teach them to think like me, they’ll be fine!  Little do they realize it’s that same Eurocentric imperialist mentality that help create the system we’re in now!) generally do have good intentions, seeing (at least on the surface) that there’s a problem here.  And that’s the best method they might know to try to rectify the problem.  So no, I’m not saying that all white people are bad, or that all white people are the devil – just that the group itself has profited, and continues to profit from Black and Brown peoples across the globe, exploit Blacks in the US, and are the beneficiaries of the commodification, dehumanization, and institutionalization of the inferiority of non-whites.  And I don’t think I should have to abandon that.

Some might say, “We’re in a post racial society!”  Hell no we aren’t in any damn post-racial society.  What does post-racial mean?  Absolve the oppressors for the centuries of oppression?  Forget about the creation of race now that it’s possibly advantageous to remove it now?  I’m sorry, that won’t work.  And for those who believe in “The Browning of America,” I firmly believe you’ve cast your ballot in the wrong box.  Discrimination finds a way.  If they could find a color chart to determine what percentage Black you were (octaroon, anybody?), then I’m pretty certain that shades of brown won’t be hard to get over.  India had a caste system too, remember.  But my biggest fear here is that the whole “beyond race” concept will get over.  That people will buy into it, which might end up meaning that everybody’s white.  Let’s be honest – I don’t know of many white people who would want to be black.  If there was a choice, I bet you hear a lot of, “I’ll be Oprah/Obama/LeBron/Michael Jordan/Denzel.”  But the average Black person?  Nah, I don’t see many white people salivating for that option.  And I can’t say I’d blame them.  So if we go post-racial, does this mean that everybody ends up being white?  Sorry, but “white” has dominated the cultural landscape already and it’s nearly institutionalized, this would effectively institute the “white paradigm” as another feature of progress – except this time, it’s racial progress.  Doesn’t add up to me.

So here’s part 2 of the Twitter rant, which features a cameo from @AdamMSays:

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Damn I think my little rant might have scared the white people. I better start coonin to get em back! *Sambos off*

I guess it was bound to happen though. I said I’m an angry black man. I stand by it. I got mad at society long ago, got mad at capitalism…

And am thoroughly dissatisfied with this world. Shits disgusting everywhere. And I’m powerless. The recognition of powerlessness will make..

anybody angry. Powerlessness should piss you off. Thats why I’m a Marxist. The power structure is unbalanced and institutionalized.

But we take small victories like theyre big ones. If a foot’s been on your neck for 4 years, an inch of room is a big win for you. But not…

a big loss for the person who got their foot on your neck. I’m tired of bein happy with the damn inch. I want REAL FUCKING ACTION.

You know what, I’m done. I’m already blackballed cuz of my social/political affiliation, now I’m gon be called militaristic/separatist…

but you know what, I’m no Garvey – I’m much closer to A. Philip Randolph anyway. No need to separate-its already been institutionalized.

I’m going to stop here. I’m sure I’ve filled a few timelines and they go “oh its just Torrey the angry guy” but the real shit? I’m right.

And I know I’m right. Might need tweaking. And yall can pass me off as the angry nigga or whatever you want. But I got no reason to lie.

@AdamMSays – like the FSA that reduced the crack to cocaine ratio from 100-to-1 to 18-to1..they say it’s a victory, but there is still a discrepancy. They still put thousands of black and brown people in jail where they can legally enslave them (via the 13th amendment.)

@mrphilosopher3 – exactly. Those in power masquerade like its a win. And the powerless take their word for it. Everybody celebrates while the norm continues and those who were gettin fucked in the ass continue to be fucked in their ass. Might be graphic but its true.

@AdamMSays – True that bruh. Sometimes you have to be graphic to be real and stress the importance.

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So in the second part of this rant, it’s clear I’m displaying dissatisfaction with the present conditions and the response to those conditions.  If my last post didn’t display my dislike of apathy, then this finish to the rant probably did.  We’re so damn snowed that we think something has happened to the oppressor when the oppressor decides to remove his foot from our necks a tiny bit.  We rejoice it as a major victory – relax, it’s one small battle.  There should be a push for more.  Enjoy that the battle was won, but until you’re standing up and the oppressor cannot keep you down, there’s still more work to be done.

But the major thing that strikes me after putting it down a second time and looking is that powerlessness is a central theme.  And more must be explored about it.  There’s a feeling that we have power – but we don’t.  It merely appears that we have power.  That’s the nature of an oppressor/oppressed, master/slave, and in many ways white/Black relationship (and here I’m not referring to interracial dating).  The oppressed look for ways to exhort their autonomy and assert some power, while the oppressor doesn’t have to look – he just has to continue doing what he’s been doing.  So in my mind, the feeling of being empowered is a farce if that feeling comes as a result of your relationship to your oppressor.  Empowerment doesn’t feel like true empowerment when those who took your power originally are no bestowing it upon you (or so you feel).  If it can happen once, it can happen twice, which means that anything (person, entity, business, institution, system, government) that takes power and then later on restores it back to you knows more about the situation than we do.  That power might have been tweaked.  The oppressor might have enough power that what power he gave back pales in comparison to the current level of power he has.  But always ask, what reason does an oppressor have to give power back to those he’s oppressed?  Some sort of humanistic charge?  If you’re on top, why would you lower your bar or make it easier for someone else to unseat you?  I’m sorry, but I’ve got a distrust there.

I know I’ve kind of gone all over the place with this, but this should also show us that race, race theory, and race relations are not simple things to figure out.  They aren’t things we should take lightly.  They are definitely more than just theory.  I personally will declare, that if I hang out with you, deal with you, care about you, whatever – it’s at a personal level.  There will be commonalities that may or may not include race (a very good friend of mine is a Black male but race and race issues never really was our sticking point.  We had similar humor and enjoyed playing Mario Kart 64).  I suppose my stance is a little startling, especially considering how taboo it is to say you don’t like a certain group.  It’s the oppressor/oppressed relation, and I’m in the shoes of the oppressed.  I want that relation to disappear, but not at some costs that some of us appear willing to give up.  Thoughts and criticisms are welcome here, and I’m always happy to explain my stance in more detail (and tweak it).