Letter to the editor: Response to editorial by Doug Rogalla

By MELISSA MURRAY | Kendall

I offer this response to Doug Rogalla, Monroe County Republican Party Chair, in an effort to highlight the Black Lives Matter organization and the reason they exist and for what purpose. 

The organization, Black Lives Matter, serves to highlight the killing of Black Americans (typically men) by vigilantes, law enforcement, and quasi-law enforcement. Black Americans die at the hands of police at three times the rate of White Americans. It is not logical that the organization, Black Lives Matter, should take on EVERY issue for Black folks. That question itself deflects from the responsibility we all have for each other, and OUR duty to also care for Black lives. It is not just for Black folks to care for the lives of other Black folks. It belongs to all of us. If we cared as we should, BLM would have no reason to exist. The “matter” toward Black Americans would be evident in our behaviors as White Americans.

The mission of Black Lives Matter is to be a member-led organization that “builds local power and intervenes when violence was inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.” Developed in 2013 as a result of the killing of Trayvon Martin, a 16-year-old black youth who was shot and killed on his walk home by a white vigilante, George Zimmerman, the organization has since evolved with a further purpose of “imagining a world free of anti-Blackness where every Black person has the social, economic, and political power to thrive.”

We’ve seen Trayvon’s scenario play out recently with Ahmaud Arbery, shot and killed by vigilantes on his run through a neighborhood in Georgia because they “thought” a crime had been committed. I’m sure you’ve heard of George Floyd, recently suffocated to death by four police officers in Minneapolis on the street in broad daylight while videotaped by onlookers. Or Philando Castile, also killed in the Twin Cities by a St. Paul police officer in 2016, who shot him FIVE times while he was still in the front seat of his own car. Michael Brown? Ferguson, Mo.? What about Emmett Till? A 14-year-old who was lynched in 1955 for “offending” a white woman in her store. This long, brutal history is the basis for the Black Lives Matter movement, yet in its infancy at barely seven years old. The whole reason for BLM is to put a focus on Black lives and to bring awareness to the random killings of Black Americans by those in law enforcement or quasi-law enforcement without the benefit of justice for their murders. Rarely in history have White Americans suffered criminal penalties for the killings of Black Americans. Has it happened? Yes. With the regularity and severity that Black Americans receive from the criminal justice system? Definitely not.  

So, to the question posed by Mr. Rogalla, do black lives matter to Black Lives Matter? Unquestionably, yes, or the organization would not exist. But to the greater point, do Black lives matter to you? If you respond with “all lives matter,” you must understand that until and unless Black lives matter, then ALL lives do not. That, sir, is the point.

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