The Problem with #BlackLivesMatter

Inside: Getting things off my chest; Pigs in a blanket, fry them like bacon

DISCLAIMER BY ANALOGY

I’m always amazed by the number of women who have been harassed, abused, assaulted, sexually assaulted, stalked, molested and/or raped. This includes people that I know, love, and care about.

Each time I find out or I’m told, it’s the same sensation: shock, sadness, anger, rage, righteous fury. I want to murder someone with my bare hands, or with something small and dull, or with something heavy and blunt. But … I’m powerless; it already happened. There’s nothing I can do to prevent what’s already happened and there’s nothing I can say that’s adequate.

It never crosses my mind to tell someone when and where they should feel safe. I wouldn’t suggest that they don’t know the difference between harassment and a compliment. I never doubt them and I never believe it was their fault. I would never tell them to get over it. I wouldn’t in a million years call them a slut or think less of them or question how they dress.

On an interpersonal level, all I can do is listen. All I can do is try to understand their world and how their experiences shape their world. There may be an appropriate time to talk about the whys. Why are we sometimes drawn to people that abuse and exploit us, for example? How can we escape addiction? How can we escape dysfunctional people and relationships?

There’s a time for conversations, questions, sharing world views, challenging them and learning. Sometimes their personal history in addition to human history leads to very negative and even hostile views of men.

I’m a man. The fact that I’m a man doesn’t hinder my ability to see the evil that men do even if I have no idea what to do about it. Even if I have qualms about the phraseology of the conversation I don’t want to be dismissive or condescending because I haven’t lived what they’ve lived so I don’t know what they know. 

I recognize that I don’t know. So I listen. I respect even if I disagree on a point, and I always have to remember that I don’t have the data that they do.

BRAND MANAGEMENT

The thing about activists? They’re driven. They’re reactionary. They don’t back down.

The slogan “Black lives matter” is like the brand name of the Chevy Nova, a car model in the 80’s. A nova is a star burst, essentially. What an inspiring visual. This isn’t just a car; it’s a cosmic event. It’s brilliant marketing. Unfortunately, in Spanish “no va” means “no go”, more or less. Oops. Different societal context, completely different message. Sales weren’t great south of the border.

If #BlackLivesMatter was, instead, “BlackLivesMatterToo”, it would be accurate. The “too” is implicit: black lives matter also. But here’s the rub. It requires America (I’ll say white America for lack of a better phrase) to admit that there’s unequal treatment in the first place. Thus, the backlash.

And that’s exactly why activists double down. It’s in their nature. “Black lives matter” becomes a challenge. “Accept this statement without editing it because editing it demonstrates a willful denial of inequities that are right in front of your face; here’s a video, and another, and another, and one more.”

Black people, other minorities, and the disenfranchised (homeless, mentally ill, undocumented, children who are wards of the state, the incarcerated) have been shouting for help for years, decades, and centuries with regard to law enforcement and the justice system.

Frankly, we’ve been dismissed and patronized. I mean, if you haven’t lived it (even vicariously), how can you possibly know? How can you know when you don’t want to know?

Black Lives Matter isn’t one thing. It’s not an organization, but I think there may be an official one. Maybe? It’s a hashtag. It’s a loose collective. It’s a disjointed collective. It’s an idea. It’s like the Occupy Movement in that sense. “This isn’t your parents’ revolution.”

No leaders. Multiple agendas. Infighting. Great at getting attention and getting in people’s faces — but then what?

Unfortunately, some protesters  did an ill-conceived chant a few weeks ago: “Pigs in a blanket. Fry them like bacon.”

I think it was in Minneapolis? Tragically, they did it hours after the policeman was senselessly gunned down in Texas. I don’t know if they knew about it. I would hope not. But if you’re a national movement, or aspiring to be one, you have to get your s— right. You know everything you say or do is under a microscope and there are forces that will do their best to discredit you and dismantle your movement and your cause.

When Dylann Roof murdered nine black people in a church with white supremacy as a clearly stated motive, there were people saying that the fiery rhetoric of certain conservative politicians contributed to the atmosphere, possibly indirectly pushing Roof over the edge. Well, if that’s the case — if that’s true — you at least have to be prepared for the accusation that you’re creating the atmosphere that contributed to that officer’s murder. In fact, you know that you (and the President for some reason) are going to be blamed for any aggression against law enforcement.

There’s no one central BLM office telling people what to say or holding protesters accountable somehow. There’s no cohesive talking point memo and such. That’s a strength and a weakness.

Whatever the case, activists don’t retreat. They can’t lose face. They don’t admit mistakes or clumsiness. They rationalize, justify, and keep moving.

BLACK AND BLUE TRIBALISM

As a black man, it’s about time that black people have a voice being heard on the national level and are being acknowledged. Awesome. Keep speaking. Keep working. Keep educating. Keep learning. Keep collaborating. Keep reaching out. Keep accepting when others reach out to you.

But this kind of cynical victim mentality that I see all over social media — and occasionally in the real world — is some bulls#@!

BLACK

The “black people can’t do anything now without being shot” mentality. It makes for pointed memes, but it’s self defeating.

If you even can get an activitist or pundit to acknowledge the tragic rate at which black people are killing each other, many of them will artfully redirect the conversation to racism, systemic racism, gentrification, the economy, the proliferation of guns, the war on drugs, etc. And all of that is true. There are many factors that contribute to poor people killing and exploiting each other at alarming rates, and occasionally targeting non-poor people, which is when society suddenly cares. This is true.

Black activists will not accept any criticism of black people, though, at least not in public.

I heard one guy say that black people aren’t responsible for killing each other  because they aren’t in control of the system that caused the conditions of poverty, no jobs, unequal treatment, etc.

That is defeatist nonsense. It’s basically saying that we, black people, are incapable of being functional and making good choices — until racism ends.

I reject the notion that black people are so weak that they can’t make good choices even under harsh, oppressive conditions. A sub-culture that glorifies fighting and killing each other over beefs, how someone looked at you, what block you live on, or whatever is f—ed up. Period. A sub-culture where children, teenagers, are carrying guns like it’s the Wild West is self-genocidal. It’s like the damn Klingons. I don’t care if it’s black dudes, Italian mob wars, early 20th century Irish gangs, Irish Catholics vs. Protestants, the Hatfields and McCoys, or soccer hooligans. It’s messed up.

It’s like … how some black people believe that you have to defend your honor and pride no matter the consequences — fatal machismo. If someone calls you nigger or nigga in a racist context you fight. Period. Here’s the problem with that. It means you’re weak because you have no control of your actions. It means that someone else’s actions dictates and controls what you do, regardless of the consequences.

That means if I have ill will toward you — let’s say I’m a truly racist cop, KKK membership and all — all I have to do is call you nigger and then arrest you or shoot you when you come out swinging.

You can’t control what other people do or say. All you can do is choose how you react. You can’t change America’s past. You can’t change your own past. Good and bad things and people will happen to you. You only have dominion over yourself. Of course, some people never get a glimpse of a world outside of their own microcosm. Until they do they don’t realize that they have options.

Anyway, try to talk about the ills or urban poverty with activists and you won’t get far because they see it as a distraction tactic. They see it as a distraction tactic because it’s used as one.

“Why are you complaining about cops when black people kill more black people a LOT more often?”

“But it’s both. Both things are a problem and we need the one to address the other. And one of those groups is sworn to uphold the law.”

BLUE

And you notice how anyone with a close relative who’s a cop will also not allow any kind of criticism of the police? Oh man. It’s like you spit on Jesus or something.

There’s no subtlety, no allowing for human nature, no gray areas, no admittance of less-than-perfection, whether individual or structural. Law enforcement officers are unblemished heroes of the highest caliber and beyond reproach (when someone is defending how minorities are treated and policed). On the other hand, let’s arm ourselves with assault weapons and face off with law enforcement trying to collect taxes or enforce court orders.

What??

I can show someone the most egregious video of law enforcement at their worst. I can show them a video or cops beating a homeless guy to death where the video proves that they lied about the event and wrote false reports.

The person in question will say (has said), I agree that they went a little overboard but the homeless guy should have listened and obeyed orders in the first place. Stuff happens.

Or the “one bad apple” defense. There’s no such thing as one bad apple in an organization. In order for a cop to misbehave another one has to cover for him/her. So that’s two bad apples. What about the others who were at the scene? What about those who allow the bad apples to be bad apples? What kind of apples are they?

I’ve been in online discussions/arguments where police are given 110% of the benefit of the doubt when the alleged victims are black. And then those same people — white people, mind you — I’m arguing with will turn around and say that they wouldn’t be taken alive and would take as many cops with them as possible if they were arrested. See, it’s really not about the what. It’s about the who.

Consciously or subconsciously, people believe that black people should be policed harshly. They aren’t able to empathize. Minorities often don’t get the benefit of individuality. They’re defined in the eye of the majority by and as the lowest common denominator.

from Tumblr, JessieHimself, via…

from Tumblr, JessieHimself, via…

from Tumblr, JessieHimself, via…

from Tumblr, JessieHimself, via…
Do #PoliceLivesMatter/#BlueLivesMatter? Hell yes. Do #WhiteLivesMatter? Damn skippy. Do #AllLivesMatter? Sho’ you right.

But it was never in question. When someone kills a police officer look how the law comes down on them. There is no mistaking that it’s considered an attack on our society. Didn’t the President say that recently? It’s an attack on society — against our civilization. You will not get a light sentence if you have the audacity to kill an officer of the law, assuming you survive being arrested. And pretty much no one will be particularly upset if you don’t.

Keeping it real here: I have seen a few very angry people online say or imply that they want cops to be killed. Frankly, those people are also a danger to the people around them. I mean, they’re the same violent sociopaths who are a menace to their communities. I’m talking about the “we don’t need cops we can take care of our own” guys. Nope. No you can’t. There’s a good chance that you’re part of the problem.

IT’S BOTH

I just finished a second Lagunitas Sucks (Brown Shugga Substitute Ale) so I don’t know if I’m making sense right now, but what frustrates me to no end…. Why the hell can’t people hold more than one idea in their head at the same time?!

Poor communities — poor black people in particular — are treated much more harshly than mainstream America. Their rights are violated and they’re dehumanized. This is invisible to you if you don’t live there or near there or know people who do. You would be filing lawsuits and practically be ready to take up arms if this was happening to you and your children. You’d be wailing about fascism and talking about secession.

Law enforcement is apparently ill equipped to deal with mentally ill or intoxicated people. They escalate instead of de-escalating. Something is broken. Black people are bearing the brunt of the failed system and dying unnecessarily, unfairly, and unjustly as a result. I’m talking about unarmed black people. Not criminals who are obviously a threat. Sure, just because you’re unarmed doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not a threat — I know — so there’s a gray area there but…

I’ve heard that more white people are killed by cops than black people. I don’t know if they’re unarmed white people. I don’t know the statistics but if this is true you should be freaking outraged! You should be trying to fix the system. You should be marching in the streets for reform, oversight, accountability, education, and training. At least then it would be plausible when you say that #AllLivesMatter. Instead of what a lot of people mean now when they say #AllLivesMatter, which is more like “Whatever. Eff you”.

I’m hoping that all the attention and all of the video will change things. I have family in law enforcement and the military, for that matter. I am in no way anti-cop. I am anti-injustice. I’m anti-needless-escalation. I’m anti-bullet-as-substitute-for-mental-health-professionals. I’m anti-lying. I’m anti-harassment. (It’s a given that I’m also anti-street violence, anti-cop-killing, anti-thug-life, anti-misogyny, etc.)

I hate the way people jump to whatever conclusion supports their world view. I hate that wanting to wait to hear all of the facts somehow makes you weak or less authentic, at least in the eyes of some. I hate how deeply black people are collectively traumatized by racism, past and present. There’s some real PTSD going on. And how some people think the world has to change before they can make changes.

There is undeniably a serious problem in these same black communities. Not just black communities — what about Latino gangs, America’s heart land meth-driven gangs, school shooters, family annihilators, murderer-suiciders, etc. — but that’s what we’re talking about right now. I don’t know what it is exactly. Is it gang culture? Prison culture? Is synthetic marijuana a new trend/trade? That stuff is bad news.

The organizations in those communities that get no play or acknowledgement that are trying to broker truces, provide constructive outlets, edify and educate are woefully underfunded for a Herculean task.

Whatever the reasons, there has to be a healthy relationship with law enforcement in order to deal with it. That means that people have to be able to trust law enforcement enough to do their jobs. In other words, they have to be accountable for their actions.

Like, if I have to call 911 for someone who’s having a bad trip, I want that person restrained and taken to an appropriate facility. Not aggressively confronted and subsequently shot dead. If someone jay walks — even if they have an attitude or don’t obey a command at first — they should be talked down, so to speak, not brutalized. Y’know? Arrests shouldn’t be used as a weapon of resentment where the arrest will obviously be thrown out but the officer knows that you’ll still spend a weekend in jail, have to make a court appearance, maybe pay court fees, and have the stigma of an arrest. Children should not be treated like adults unless they’re a clear and present threat. Attitude may be an annoyance but it’s not a weapon.

THE UNSPOKEN LAW

There’s an unspoken law, a ghost law. Testing a cop’s authority. The punishment can be brutal, even fatal.

I understand the need to stand up for one’s rights. I understand the practicality of de-escalating. I kind of get how a small aggression explodes into a full blown confrontation. It’s a losing battle, though. Get through the moment. Get home to your family and loved ones. Live to pursue justice if it’s called for.

If you literally fight a cop you’re going to lose. Even if you win, you’ll lose with higher stakes.

Not every interaction is racist or even personal.

A little respect for one another goes a long way.

Give each other a break.

Stop killing. Stop dying.

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2 comments

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  1. V

    OMG this: It means you’re weak because you have no control of your actions. It means that someone else’s actions dictates and controls what you do, regardless of the consequences.
    This is an issue with so many, in so many circumstances! Why don’t we take responsibility for our actions and responses? Maturity assumes that we have control over our emotions, and are not controlled BY them.

    • garyarthuryoung

      Exactly.

      Unfortunately, in some sub-cultures losing face is a threat to one’s status, standing, or even physical survival.

      I don’t know where maturity and emotional intelligence even fits in that world view.

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