In light of the events of the last weekend, it’s worth asking a cursory question about this new movement that has grown up over the last few months. Based around the slogan “Black Lives Matter“, rallies to this cause have marched and conducted more… exotic activities in cities throughout the USA. This slogan has been so embraced that its adherents have chastised others for broadening the phrase to “All Lives Matter”. It’s worth asking: do the people involved in this actually believe what they are saying? If so, why have they chosen as martyrs the people they have chosen?
If the point of the movement is to illustrate random violence, or unjust treatment of blacks by police, why hold up Mike Brown and Eric Garner? Whatever tragedy is involved in these cases (and no one should minimize the loss their families have endured), they remain cases where… well, people engaged in conduct that ensured they would have bad interactions with police.
Indeed, if this movement is really about the terrible toll violence is taking on the lives of black Americans, then why are the poster children for it people (that in any rational examination of the facts) that were treated… well, exactly the way anyone would be treated in their circumstances. In neither case was it a surprise that the police intersected Micheal Brown or Eric Garner’s lives: Mike Brown had just robbed a neighborhood store, and while the law Mr. Garner was breaking may be a stupid, paternalistic law, Mr. Garner was very clearly breaking it.
It’s not my place to know the nature of Mike Brown’s soul, but we can say with fair certainty that he crammed more crimes into his last 30 minutes of life then most of us will ever even contemplate. Eric Garner’s crimes may have been picayune, but they were crimes he habitually committed. Mr. Garner had over two-dozen arrests, including previous arrests for this specific crime (of selling single cigarettes).
If, on the other hand, the point is to draw attention to the terrible toll that violence takes on the black community, and the indifference many have to it, are there not many better examples? Consider the tragic case of India Williams (above): a 7 year old girl shot with a stray bullet during a running gun-battle. Ms. Williams survived her injuries but is paralyzed from the waist down. Or Demario Bailey (below)? Mr. Bailey “was shot to death while coming to the aid of his twin brother when the two were robbed on their way to basketball practice, police said.”
Each of these cases cries out for greater attention, yet Ms. Williams and Mr. Bailey’s stories have received little more then regional attention, and aroused dramatically less public outcry then the deaths of Mr. Brown and Mr. Garner. How can this be squared with the message that #BlackLivesMatter?
Sadly, the obvious conclusion is difficult to avoid: that to organizers of these movements, Black Lives don’t Matter. The Ms. Williams and Mr. Bailey have all of the elements we are told should make for compelling media narratives: attractive and sympathetic subjects, compelling narratives and, most importantly, relatable situations. The fear for a child playing senselessly injured, or siblings being victimized even when doing the right thing, these stories strike at the heartstrings. Mr. Brown and Mr. Garner, by way of contrast…
While there is no doubt that many people marching and demonstrating in favor of this cause are sincere and motivated by a deep feeling of injustice. But it’s hard to avoid noticing that the only lives the movement’s organizers seem to find worthy of mourning are… black men killed by the police.
It’s entirely too pat, too trite, to reduce the people marching in cities all across the USA to dupes or frauds. At the same time, it’s worth asking what this movement is really intended to accomplish other then the aggrandizement of the truly execrable Al Sharpton and the enrichment of his National Action Network. When one of the movers and shakers of a protest is the ANSWER Coalition (or, as Jonah Goldberg termed them, “a slime of Stalinism”), a little bit of suspicion is called for.