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Hullabaloo


Saturday, July 09, 2016

 

"You don’t understand being black in America"

by Tom Sullivan

The shootings of police in Dallas have not dissuaded Americans from calling for a change to our criminal justice system. They will not be ignored.

Black Lives Matter condemned the killing of police in Dallas, but from New York to California, organized protests continued last night.



In Atlanta, protests led by the NAACP gathered steam, culminating in nearly 2,000 marchers peacefully blocking an interstate ramp downtown. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed briefly joined protesters last night:
"One of the things that is exciting about this protest tonight. Our young people have an expectation that they will be treated fairly and justly ... Every generation makes their demands."

"Their tolerance level is much different to perhaps my parents' generation or their parents generation." he added.

Reed said that while his father instructed him to go out of his way to be deferential and compliant in any encounters with police, "this generation has a different expectation."

"My dad grilled into me the lesson of driving a vehicle as as black man. Keep your hands on the steering wheel. Look forward and say, 'yes sir' or 'ma'am' to the police officer. Place your wallet in the seat beside you. Ask for permission to do anything because he was concerned about me living. He just wanted me to get home safe."
Police prevented the marchers blocking the exit to I-75/85 at Williams Street from entering the highway, but allowed the protesters to remain. "We’re gonna let these young people go forward with this protest,” Reed said. “We’re respecting their first amendment right and we’re the home of Dr. Martin Luther King.”


This item (via Facebook) skillfully explains the usual efforts to ignore or evade the questions of unequal justice Black Lives Matter has raised:
Imagine that you’re sitting down to dinner with your family, and while everyone else gets a serving of the meal, you don’t get any. So you say “I should get my fair share.” And as a direct response to this, your dad corrects you, saying, “everyone should get their fair share.” Now, that’s a wonderful sentiment — indeed, everyone should, and that was kinda your point in the first place: that you should be a part of everyone, and you should get your fair share also. However, dad’s smart-ass comment just dismissed you and didn’t solve the problem that you still haven’t gotten any!

The problem is that the statement “I should get my fair share” had an implicit “too” at the end: “I should get my fair share, too, just like everyone else.” But your dad’s response treated your statement as though you meant “only I should get my fair share”, which clearly was not your intention. As a result, his statement that “everyone should get their fair share,” while true, only served to ignore the problem you were trying to point out.

That’s the situation of the “black lives matter” movement. Culture, laws, the arts, religion, and everyone else repeatedly suggest that all lives should matter. Clearly, that message already abounds in our society.

The problem is that, in practice, the world doesn’t work that way. You see the film Nightcrawler? You know the part where Renee Russo tells Jake Gyllenhal that she doesn’t want footage of a black or latino person dying, she wants news stories about affluent white people being killed? That’s not made up out of whole cloth — there is a news bias toward stories that the majority of the audience (who are white) can identify with. So when a young black man gets killed (prior to the recent police shootings), it’s generally not considered “news”, while a middle-aged white woman being killed is treated as news. And to a large degree, that is accurate — young black men are killed in significantly disproportionate numbers, which is why we don’t treat it as anything new. But the result is that, societally, we don’t pay as much attention to certain people’s deaths as we do to others. So, currently, we don’t treat all lives as though they matter equally.

Just like asking dad for your fair share, the phrase “black lives matter” also has an implicit “too” at the end: it’s saying that black lives should also matter. But responding to this by saying “all lives matter” is willfully going back to ignoring the problem. It’s a way of dismissing the statement by falsely suggesting that it means “only black lives matter,” when that is obviously not the case. And so saying “all lives matter” as a direct response to “black lives matter” is essentially saying that we should just go back to ignoring the problem.
Perhaps with recent high-profile deaths of black men at the hands of police (some captured on cell phone video), the reality of being black in America is finally beginning to sink in with people who found it easier to spout patriotic shibboleths about equality rather than confront the unequal truth. "Never let it be said that Newt Gingrich is predictable," the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's politics blog observed yesterday. The former U.S. House Speaker surprised journalists when he acknowledged, “it is more dangerous to be black in America.” Gingrich continued (emphasis mine):
"It is more dangerous, in that they are substantially more likely to end up in a situation where the police don't respect you and where you could easily get killed. And sometimes for whites it's difficult to appreciate how real that is and how it's an everyday danger,” the former House speaker said Friday on CNN commentator Van Jones’ Facebook Live stream in a conversation on race and law enforcement.

"It took me a long time, and a number of people talking to me through the years, to get a sense of this: If you are a normal, white American, the truth is you don't understand being black in America, and you instinctively underestimate the level of discrimination and the level of additional risk," he added.
If Gingrich hadn't already decided he would not be Donald Trump's running mate, that probably cinched it.