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When white people object to “Black Lives Matter”

When white people object to “Black Lives Matter”

Mary Joyce sees the usual objections to #blacklivesmatter as a chance to teach and engage. She suggests answers to the seven typical objections that white people raise.

She writes on the blog meta-activism.org:

I recently decided to start responding to white critics of Black Lives Matter.

Black activists are busy.  They have a revolution to run and do not have time to be dealing with white nonsense.  But I do.  Below are some common critiques of Black Lives Matter, along with appropriate responses.

Remember, white allies, it’s better to call in than call out.   Calling in makes instances of white ignorance and insensitivity teaching moments…

Here are two samples:

Critique 1: But the Violence!  (ie, misplaced outrage)

White NonsenseIs violence ever acceptable? Looting innocent business owners, firing shots at police, etc. in Ferguson. Carving the name of the cop who shot Brown on the skin of a pig, roasting it and then eating it’s head in front of the Ferguson Police Dept? Angry and rude is far from this level of violence that is being carried out.*

Reasoned Response: Which violence are we choosing to talk about? The cause for these protests is the shooting of unarmed black people, yet that is not the violence that seems to be most upsetting to you. Why do you think that is, [Meredith]?

White Nonsense: I am in no way in defense of the abuse of police power or the mistreatment of innocent blacks. But to fight violence with violence is not the answer. Innocent people are suffering from these protests. This is inexcusable and to make excuses for it is dangerous.*

Reasoned Response: [Brad] I know that the anger of oppressed people can be disconcerting and upsetting, whether it’s symbolic acts, words, or destruction of property. They are angry at the institutions that protect us and do not protect them and they are angry at us for supporting these institutions. The question is, which violence offends us more: the smashing of a police car or the murder of a black child? If the answer is the former, which it is for a lot of white people, then that needs to change. We need to shift our empathy and identification from the institutions of oppression to those who are oppressed.

And…

Critique 4: But Black on Black Violence!

White Nonsense: But what about all the other young black murder victims? Nationally, nearly half of all murder victims are black. And the overwhelming majority of those black people are killed by other black people. Where is the march for them? (source)

Reasoned Response: Regardless of harm members of a group do to each other, harms being done to that group by others still need to be addressed.  In the wise words of Cornel West (whom I once saw walking through an airport!), “we have to distinguish between state-sponsored violence and violence against black people owing to actions black people do to each other. Both are important, but they’re not the same thing.”

Diverting attention away from police using this argument is a classic derailment and lets abusive police officers off the hook.  Police officers with hair-trigger tempers who have no respect for the law are a danger to everyone, so diverting attention away from their bad acts harms all citizens.

Read the rest here.

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Philip B. Spivey

Thank you, Mary Joyce. You get it.

Bill Ghrist

I have to say I thought the two responses in the sample “Critique 1” above were a cop-out (no pun intended). As a matter of fact, I DO consider racist abuse by police more upsetting than the violence committed out of frustration over such repeated abuse. The police are given extraordinary authority in order to do their job, and they should consequently be held to greater responsibility. Furthermore, the police are to a certain extent acting in my stead (at least locally) so their actions are to some extent my responsibility. But that does not justify violent response. Two wrongs do not make a right even if the first wrong is “more wrong” than the second.

The responses in the Huffington Post article you link are much more balanced and to the point.

Jennifer Lee

Forgot one. Supporting Black Lives Matter=thinking all police are bad and wanting them dead. Of course that his such a tremendous leap of logic I find myself flabbergasted, but I have come across it multiple times. 😛

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