Letter to the editor: Black Lives Matter movement is problematic

By JAIME PRETELL

Formerly of the Madison and Fort McCoy area

I offer this response to Melissa Murray in an effort to highlight why the Black Lives Matter movement is problematic. 

Black Lives Matter seeks to highlight the killing of Black Americans (typically men) by alleged vigilantes, law enforcement, and quasi-law enforcement. As County Line Publisher Emeritus Karen Parker points out Black Americans die at the hands of police at 2.5 times the rate of White Americans, not three. While it is not logical that Black Lives Matter should take on every issue for Black folks, it should be focusing on poverty and subsequent crime rates. Why? Because Black Americans have a poverty rate 2.5 times higher than White Americans and that entails a highercrime rate that requires a higher presence of police intervention. We do not have a duty to care for Black lives. We have a duty to care for all lives. Especially if they are overburdened. Black Lives Matter exists because they incorrectly attribute racism or apathy to the Black community, instead of a general problem of apathy toward impoverished and disadvantaged communities of all ancestries.

The mission of Black Lives Matter is supposedly to intervene when violence is inflicted on Black communities by the state and alleged vigilantes. But they do not differentiate between racist-motivated violence and non-racist violence, nor do they separate justified violence from unjustified. They see the deaths of Black men by state actors (including Black actors) or non-Black civilians as racist without looking at the individual facts of the case for merit.

he statement ‘Black Lives Matter’ first arose in 2009 with the unjustified killing of Oscar Grant, an African American shot in the back while he was on the ground. The officer allegedly mistook his gun for a taser.  This is not a solitary case, and this type of mistake has affected people outside the Black community as well — for example, the shooting of Brian Riling, a White man in 2019.

At this time ‘Black Lives Matter’ meant “Black Lives Matter (as well),” much like the already existing “All Lives Matter (not just entitled ones).” In 2013, you see the saying take a darker turn to mean ‘Black Lives Matter (first).’ Or as they would clarify later, ‘All Lives Don’t Matter if Black Lives Don’t Matter First.’ This darker turn arose because of a racial entitlement movement that has been growing that many have coined ‘Anti-Racism.’

As John McWhorter, a prominent African American scholar has noted, it has taken religious connotations where Whites are innately racist, and Blacks are perpetual victims. In 2012, Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old black youth was shot and killed when coming back from a convenience store because he committed a violent assault on a smaller neighborhood-watch volunteer who had spotted him looking into the window of a previously cased house. The neighborhoodhad experienced a rash of burglaries and home invasions. The smaller Afro and Native Peruvian descent volunteer,George Zimmerman, was walking back to his car after “observing and reporting,” according to protocol, when Martin assaulted and mounted Zimmerman, foiling any possibility of escape from a one-sided beating. Martin’s family attorney, Benjamin Crump, falsely claimed, as was proven in court, that Zimmerman was a White vigilante who had racially targeted Martin.

When Zimmerman was fairly acquitted, protests ensued and the ‘Black Lives Matter’ grew. As John McWhorter has pointed out, the movement has evolved not to try to save Black lives, as much asuse the death of Black lives as political tools for Black Americans to get more social, economic, and political power. For this, they will ignore that poor White Americans die at the hands of police at similar rates than poor Black Americans, and poor Native Americans die at a rate higher than both. 

This is not to say that there are not plenty of valid cases of armed civilian unjustified killings, just that these types of killings are not unique to Black Americans. Ahmaud Arbery’s shooting by vigilantes is a case in point. In 2008, an African American man by the name of Roderick Scott saw a 17-year-old White youth, Christopher Cervini, and two 15-year-olds testing car doors. He took it upon himself to confront the teens by pointing his gun at them. The 15- year-olds fled, and, while disputed, Scott claimed the unarmed, smaller Cervini charged at him. He shot him multiple times. The state of New York determined it was a justified homicide.

George Floyd is another example. He was suffocated to death by four police officers, much like the case of Eric Garner. Both tragic and unjustified homicides. But no different than the cases of Robert Ethan Saylor, Robert Joseph Minjarez Jr., Steven Kellog Neuroth, Troy Goode, Joseph Hutcheson, Tony Timpa, etc., all White, who died in similar circumstances. 

Philando Castile’s death was a tragedy, but one of mistake, not police abuse. Philando was detained because he resembled the APV photo of a recent armed and dangerous robber. As officer Yanez, an indigenous Hispanic man, approached and asked for his ID, Castile informed him that he had a concealed weapon and had a permit. Yanez immediately told him just to not reach for it. Castile, still thinking about his conceal carry permit, which was in his back pocket, on the same side as his weapon, reached for his wallet. At this time, Yanez shouted twice ‘don’t reach for it’ but Castile still moved and Yanez, who was not sure if he was an armed robber or not, shot him. But he shot him after telling him repeatedly not to reach for the weapon. He had no way to know he was reaching for his wallet in the same general direction. Tragic, but neither party was guilty.

Michael Brown was much like Trayvon Martin, an assailant who assaulted the police officer and was proven in a grand jury that he was charging the officer when he was shot dead. In the same week the police homicide of a White man, Dillon Taylor was ignored, when he was shot by a policeman with his headphones on, unarmed. Or we can speak of the more recent case of the White man, Daniel Shaver, who was unarmed, pleading for his life, made to crawl, and was shot to death. That there is a problem with many officers being trigger happy does not change the fact that most these shootings are justified, and the ones that do not span the spectrum of ethno-racial groups who overwhelmingly were in or near impoverished communities.

This has been going on for a long while, with valid cases, like the homicide by police of Michael Arnold, a White man who was shot over 100 times in 1998 and Amadou Diallo, an African American who was shot in similarly horrifying ways the next year. 

Emmett Till is a historical tragedy, but one irrelevant to the discussion, as it was before the Civil Rights movement, the enactment of Civil Rights Amendments to the constitution, and occurred before most policemen were even born, during the era of legal discrimination of Jim Crow.

The point is, as Nick Gillespie in Reason’s “John McWhorter: America has Never Been Less Racist,” points out, “The unwillingness of both blacks and whites to acknowledge progress on racial equality is a long-running theme for McWhorter, who in 2000 published ‘Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America,’ which argued that ‘in most cases, [racism] is not an obstacle to people being the best that they can be.’” In “Anti-Racism: Our Flawed New Religion, McWhorter argued that “anti-racism” had become a new secular religion in America, complete with “clergy, creed, and also even a conception of Original Sin.”

Today’s monster of economic inequality and disenfranchisement are the biggest obstacle to help stop the rates of high mortality due to police homicides. Until we address the root causes of that disproportionate criminal element rooted in poverty, disenfranchisement, lack of employment and somehow correct those root causes, high crime rates will continue to drive high police interaction, and no matter how much police departments are accused and persecuted on charges of racism, their numbers of arrests will continue to be higher, because the numbers of victims will demand it.

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