1/17/2018 06:45

Black Lives Matter

Yeseterday I had the opportunity to respond to "All Lives Matter". I hadn't been thinking about that much just recently, but when I last gave attention to the topic my habitual association with youth caused me to run through a number of explanations and arguments, some of which I was still able to dredge up without excessive fumbling.

The student had said, more or less, "I can't stand it when people say, 'Black Lives Matter.' All lives matter." I instantly panicked, thinking, "Oh, I had a good response to that a few months ago but I can't remember what it was." So I said, "You're right, of course; all lives do matter," and that gave me time to think.

Agreeing where you can is probably a good overall strategy. I'm not particularly agreeable, strategically or otherwise, but when I pull it off it seems to work.

In any case, I continued by pointing out that Black Lives Matter is intended to raise the truth that black people have been killed at a disproportionate rate. I must have been clear enough to communicate something of value. It helped a lot that this kid is older and more mature than he was a year ago.

Over the night I've been pondering how to be even more clear. The best I came up with was being more wordy. There is relevance to wordiness, though; the problem with the phrase "Black Lives Matter" is that it is an abbreviation of what people are trying to say, leaving the statement open to intentional or inadvertent misinterpretation. The full statement would be more like this: "All human lives matter equally, but currently in our country the evidence shows that some categories of lives are being treated unequally. In particular, black people are being killed off at a rate much higher than white people, suggesting that in practice black lives are treated as if they don't matter quite as much. We need to make changes in how we treat people, changes which demonstrate that Black Lives Matter just as much as any other lives."

But you can't really chant that while marching.