Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Whose Lives Matter?

Late to the party perhaps, but sometimes late to the party gives you a little more time to think about what you're going to wear (unless the party’s totally over by the time you get there).

I was thinking about the controversy between “Black Lives Matter” and “All Lives Matter”, and it seems to me that what we have here is not a disagreement, but a misunderstanding. A misunderstanding when Group A says something that is clearly understood from their perspective and their knowledge, and Group B hears it without that assumed perspective and knowledge.

I'm trying to think of a good example here that people might be able to understand, even if it doesn’t come from their own experience, and I’m not coming up with one at the moment, but know that I will the moment I post this.

Anyway, moving on...from their experience of feeling that their lives didn’t matter, the people in Group A came up with “Black Lives Matter”, to say that they indeed do and should matter. However, the people in Group B, who never had that experience and/or were never intimately involved with people who had had those experiences hear that as “Only Black Lives Matter.” It was not an intentional misunderstanding, they simply had no personal context for hearing it the way it was meant.

Moreover, in many ways the Civil Rights Movement has been a little too successful, making many white people think that there’s been more success than there actually is...although there’s been a freaking lot of success just within my lifetime. One of those places where there’s been “too much success” is in the category of getting people to believe that we shouldn’t be looking at race and ethnicity at all. The problem is that the great unfinished work requires that we do so. Not only that, but being totally “colorblind” is like not noticing whether a person is tall or short, skinny or fat, blond or brunette. Those are all still valid descriptors for people, but unless you’re dating, they shouldn’t determine how you deal with them. And for statistical purposes, we do still need to divide people into groups, whether it be by race, ethnicity, religion, eye color or whatever.

But I’m getting away from myself. This “oversuccess”, if I may call it that, is what colors a lot of modern attitudes about Affirmative Action, with questions like “If the goal is to judge people not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character, then why are we judging people by the color of their skin?” That is, to my mind, a very naïve question that doesn’t take into account the many disadvantages that people who have been judged by the color of their skin for almost 400 years still work under.

The same can be said about the many white responses to “Black Lives Matter.” Having seemingly bought into the concept of being judged by the content of your character, they hear “Black Lives Matter” as going against that ideal by singling out only one group. They ask “What about red lives? What about yellow lives? And, by the way, what about white lives? Are the rest of us chopped liver? How come you get to be the only one whose lives matter?”

Again, this is a naïve question, because the people who ask it, the people who are offended by it, don’t seem to get that there is a very large number of people out there...with weapons...who don’t seem to think that black lives matter...at all.

But it didn't have to be this way. The problem could’ve been avoided, and we might have gotten greater buy-in, with the help of Bob McAllister, the host of the syndicated kids’ show Wonderama from 1967 to 1977. You see, after he left Wonderama, he briefly hosted another show, called Kids Are People Too. Not Kids Are People, but Kids Are People Too. One word…one little word might have made the difference. Think about “Black Lives Matter…Too.” I think that gets the assumed point from Group A across in a way that’s clear to Group B.

Yes, all lives matter. And that means that black lives matter…too.