Weekend Open Thread: “Black Lives Matter”‘s Missing Words


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And let’s remember that the translation of “Black Lives Matter” into Orange Countian is usually “Brown Lives Matter.”

Here’s a story that I’d like you to read about “white liberal racism,” focusing on a bunch of emails from a wealthy and enlightened-seeming school in Seattle that criticized the school for participating in a citywide “Black Lives Matter” day, for which their teachers wore t-shirts with that slogan.  From it I’ll call out the customary three paragraphs:

“As a white person myself, I hear and I know how white people think about race, and I wasn’t surprised to see just a basic lack of understanding of how racism functions,” Harvey said. “This would not be unique to Seattle liberal whites, nor among liberals who didn’t vote for Trump. These kind of sentiments are very deep seated.”

She continued: “What I see when I read these emails is this utter failure to value black life. Because if you value black life you go, ‘Oh my god, even if I don’t understand this, why is it that African-Americans need to have this movement for black lives, and what is it like to be a 10-year-old child who’s black?

“It’s like there’s this total white vortex that just screams out from these emails, whether they are being nasty intentionally or just saying, ‘I don’t get it.’ They make me really sad.”

That piece got me thinking — and that thinking got me writing.  The following initially appeared on my Facebook feed:

Implicit in the phrase “Black Lives Matter” is a fourth word: “Also” or “Too.” “Black Lives Also Matter”; “Black Lives Matter Too.” We don’t use it because it’s too “on the nose.” “Black Lives Matter” is a statement of defiance and pride; “Black Lives Matter Too” sounds plaintive and defensive. But maybe, at least some of the time, it has to be said out loud.

Once one rephrases “Black Lives Matter” as “Black Lives Matter Too,” it becomes immediately apparent why the criticisms of the term are misplaced.

“All Lives Matter Too” is nonsensical. “Blue Lives Matter Too” is unnecessary. “White Lives Matter Too” is, unless someone is talking down to someone who denies it, absurd. These statements do not respond to challenges to their truth. “Black Lives Matter Too” does.

Leaving out the “also” or the “too” in “Black Lives Matter” refashions the message from defensive to positive, but it is also a *kindness* to whites —one that is perhaps counterproductive because it skirts the issue. You see, “Black Lives Matter Too” is itself short for something — and that is this:

“Black Lives Matter Too, but you and your police and your prosecutors, and your judges and juries, *act as if you don’t believe it*.” And even this in turn leaves out a concluding five-word phrase: “and damn you for that.”

That’s too long for a hashtag, so let’s just stick with “Black Lives Matter,” the equivalent to Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I A Woman?”, the Civil Rights Era sign “I AM a man!”, and plenty more besides.

Stop pretending that it is a claim to exclusivity, when you know damned well that it is a statement of pain, of reproach, and of a demand to right injustice. Sometimes, I suppose, we just have to spell it all out.

This is your made-it-just-by-a-whisker Weekend Open Thread, which you can use for the rest of the week or until whenever the next one pops up.  Talk about that, or whatever else you’d like, within reasonable bounds of decorum and discretion.


About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose worker's rights and government accountability attorney, residing in northwest Brea. General Counsel of CATER, the Coalition of Anaheim Taxpayers for Economic Responsibility, a non-partisan group of people sick of local corruption. Deposed as Northern Vice Chair of DPOC in April 2014 when his anti-corruption and pro-consumer work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, who then worked with the lawless and power-mad DPOC Chair to eliminate his internal oversight. Occasionally runs for office to challenge some nasty incumbent who would otherwise run unopposed. (Someday he might pick a fight with the intent to win rather than just dent someone. You'll know it when you see it.) He got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012 and in 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002. None of his pre-putsch writings ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level, nor do they now. A family member co-owns a business offering campaign treasurer services to Democratic candidates and the odd independent. He is very proud of her. He doesn't directly profit from her work and it doesn't affect his coverage. (He does not always favor her clients, though she might hesitate to take one that he truly hated.) He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)