Racism In America: Still Being Ignored

mediaracism

There must be a class somewhere for beginning meme-makers called “How to Lend Your Meme A Veneer of Edginess or Subversiveness Without Actually Saying Anything Edgy or Subversive”.  Its entire curriculum looks like this:

Use an image of a person wearing a Guy Fawkes mask.

If I had a nickel for every Guy Fawkes meme I’ve seen whose author believes he is laying down some woke truth, but is really just recycling stale old cynicism, I’d have…I don’t know…a couple bucks at least.  I suppose it is fitting that the likeness of Fawkes accompanies memes like this; after all, Guy Fawkes’s failed plot to overturn the hierarchy of English royalty is somewhat analogous to this meme’s failed attempt to blow the lid off of the media’s alleged complicity in promoting racial divisiveness.  Still, I have to laugh at the credibility boost that the author clearly thinks he is getting by using a picture of a person wearing a Guy Fawkes mask.  He thinks he’s glimpsed the truth.  I think the eye holes in the mask should be cut a bit wider.

The racial divide in this country is caused by racism, full stop.  You could argue that certain media outlets bear a fraction of the responsibility for increasing racial tensions in the United States, but it’s not like the media invented racism.  Racism has been a part of our national conversation since Day One.  Racism exists in every dark corner of our society, and there are a lot of dark corners.

When the nebulous entity known as The Media does what it’s supposed to do, it shines a light into those dark corners.  It exposes racism where it hides, and that’s a good thing.  Like vampires and other vitality-sucking monsters, racism withers in the light.  The media should not be excoriated for leading a national discussion on racism; it ought to be encouraged.  We the people should not look away and curse the media when it brings us stories of horrible human suffering brought on by bigotry; we should huddle close and listen as intently as we can.  We should ask how we can help, how we can be better, how we can end the cruelty.

People blame the media for promoting a racial divide because they want the media to stop talking about racism.  I can almost understand why: if you’re a person of privilege who has never experienced direct racism, it can be a very uncomfortable thing to talk about.  It absolutely should be uncomfortable – it is an unsavory topic – but that does not excuse us from talking about it.  Contrary to the implication of this meme and others I’ve dissected, racism will not disappear if we all ignore it.

In the interest of stymieing the meme maker’s effort to stunt racial communication, here is a brief list of talking points I think the media should encourage every American to discuss:

  1. Racism is a real and driving force in modern-day America.  It did not die with slavery.  It did not end with the repeal of Jim Crow laws.  It did not end when Barack Obama was elected president.  It continues to exist.  Denying the existence of racism, or claiming that racism is a myth propagated by the media to sell air time, is not helpful.
  2. Racism is present in both people and in institutions.  A person’s racism may be countered by thoughtful dialogue and education, but institutional racism can only be curbed by sweeping systemic changes from within.  Acknowledging one but ignoring the other is not helpful.
  3. Institutional racism is a power structure that can only be wielded by those who have historically held positions of power.  In this country, that includes white men and…that’s all.  Comments like “But black people are racist too!” or “All lives matter!” are not helpful.
  4. Minorities who claim to have been the victims of racism – in any form – should be listened to.  Their claims should not be discarded out of hand.  Terms like “playing the race card” are not helpful.
  5. Peaceful protests against racist institutions are not a threat to civilized society.  Making people uncomfortable is not a crime, it is exactly the point of peaceful protests.  Explicit or implied threats of violence against protestors – even if made in jest – are dangerously unhelpful.  Bringing up every bad thing that has happened during an initially-peaceful protest, as if that serves as some kind of argument against protest in general, is also not helpful.

It’s a start.  It’s more of a start than this meme’s author is willing to make, anyway.

A Labelling Dilemma

Thugs

I haven’t updated this blog in a long while, and to be honest, I wasn’t sure I was ever going to update again.  For one, my real-life job left me with little energy or motivation to write.  Also, it seemed as if I were beating my head against a wall.  While I do receive a number of friendly comments from like-minded people, or at least from people who are willing to respectfully disagree, I also get a lot of nasty comments from people who are just itching to tell me how wrong I am.  Well, that’s okay.  I don’t expect to sway those people’s opinions, just as I hope they don’t expect to sway mine.  If it makes you feel better to tell me what a moron I am, speak your peace and then get ye gone.  I’ve no more patience for trolls.

I encountered this meme on the Facebook wall of a friend who is typically pretty left-leaning, like me; a person whom the right would derisively call an SJW or social justice warrior.  If the meme contained only the second sentence, there wouldn’t be much to complain about; after all, Flying Spaghetti Monster knows we could stand more teamwork and unity.  But the first sentence is full of culpability shuffling, and there’s a nasty word that adds an extra dose of irresponsibility.  Can you spot it?

Before we get to that word, I’d like to talk about the hazards associated with saying “Not all _____ are _____.”  Even if the statement is true, there’s an obvious but oft-unstated follow-up clause: “Although some are.”  And it’s in this clause that social infection festers.  “Not all cops are bad.”  That’s very true.  There are lots of good, decent cops who would never dream of killing an unarmed man.  “But some are.”  And it’s the responsibility of the good cops to break the blue code of silence and speak out against the minority of police officers who abuse their power.  The justice system bears the onus of breaking through the shield that protects police officers who unjustly kill people.

“Not all whites are racist.”  In general, I agree with this statement.  To be sure, I think everybody occasionally has thoughts that would qualify as racist – that’s ingrained in us by our tribal roots –  but a reasonable person recognizes those thoughts for what they are, and declines to give them voice.  And he certainly never acts on them.  He tries to understand where those thoughts come from.  He doesn’t tweet them as if they are Truth Revealed, then marvel at the social backlash.

“But some are.”  Some whites are racist, and it is no longer enough for the rest of us to be non-racist.  We should aspire to be anti-racist.  We should speak out against people who lack a racist filter.  We may never convince them that their thoughts, words, and actions are wrong, but at least we can show them that they will not be accepted in a civil society.

Now let’s address the elephant in the room.  “Not all African Americans are thugs.”

“But some are.”  Do you see the problem?  The word thug has become a racist code word; a stand-in for the N-word.  In fact, this meme may as well have simply used the N-word, because the effect is the same. People who use the word thug in this context don’t just mean “folks who break the law”.  They mean “black folks who break the law”.

Now if you’re one of those white people who are thoroughly marinated in privilege and oblivious to racism, you might wail: “Political correctness strikes again!  We can’t ever say that black people commit crimes!”  But that’s rubbish, and you know it.  It’s okay to acknowledge that people of every race break the law and hurt others, but how easy would it have been to select a word that isn’t racially charged?  “Not all African Americans are criminals.”  “Not all African Americans are rioters.”  “Not all African Americans are looters.”  Any of those would have been preferable, because none of those words pack the same racist connotations as the T-word.  And you could reasonably follow any of those statements with “But some are, and they should be held accountable for their crimes, just as a person of any ethnic background would be held accountable for the same crimes.  They should not be punished more harshly than a white person would be, nor should they have a reasonable fear of being killed before they even see a jury.”

I’m all for unity, but this meme doesn’t inspire it.  It almost makes it seem as if the good cops and non-racist whites must condescend to acknowledge the non-thug African Americans.  Unity isn’t unity when one group thinks they are doing another group a favor by including them at all.

Spoiler Alert: It Came Down

Confederate Lives Matter

Let’s be crystal-clear about this: if you put any word other than “Black” in front of the words “Lives Matter”, you are creating a problem.  At the very best, you’re misappropriating the name of a movement that protests the violence disproportionately thrown down on people of color by law enforcement and vigilantes.  That’s not nice; you shouldn’t take the name of their movement to advance your own cause.  At the very worst, you’re being really, really racist.

Yes, really.

Some people hear the phrase “Black Lives Matter” and assume that it’s racist, as if the leaders of the movement have no regard for non-black folks.  Actually, the phrase doesn’t mean that other lives don’t matter.  All lives are important, yes, and in a perfect world everybody would recognize that.  Unfortunately, the world is far from ideal.  While we may profess with our lips that all people are created equal, our actions as a society indicate that we believe otherwise.  That’s why “Black Lives Matter” exists.  If you’re white, straight, Christian, etc, in America, nobody needs to be reminded of the importance of your life – it is taken as self-evident.  But if you’re black, it wouldn’t hurt for people – particularly law enforcement officers – to be reminded that you are also a human being, deserving of the same basic dignity and respect we theoretically afford to all humans.

As spiteful as it is to co-opt the “Black Lives Matter” title to support a different agenda, it’s particularly hateful to replace the word “Black” with “Confederate”.

For one – and this really ought not have to be pointed out – there are no more Confederate lives.  The war’s long done.  The Confederacy is extinct.  If the Confederacy lives on, it’s only in the hearts of people who sympathize with the Confederate cause, which was closely tied to the institution of slavery.

We’ve discussed this before, but it bears repeating: the Confederacy was a racism-motivated regime, and the Confederate battle flag is a racist symbol!  Of course it is.  This point is beyond legitimate debate. The Confederate battle flag was stitched and flown by people who made no secret of their belief that black people were inferior to white people, and that they ought to be kept as slaves.  After the Confederacy was defeated and re-absorbed into the United States, their flags might never again have seen the light of day, had they not been resurrected during the civil rights movements by white segregationists.  The Confederate battle flag was revived as an immutable symbol of anti-black racism.  It continues to be flown by people who wish to ignore that racism was a major cause – nay, the central cause – of the conflict that spawned it.  It is an unfortunate part of Southern heritage, but not one we should celebrate.

Just so we’re clear, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Southern pride, per se.  If you’re a Southerner and proud of it, then I say “Good for you”, as long as you are aware that the book of Southern Heritage has some awfully dark chapters.  If you construct a flag depicting a plate of grits and a glass of iced sweet tea, I will gladly wave it for you (although, I should point out that I’m somewhat atypical as a Southerner in that I do not enjoy either of those fares).  I have no problem with anybody expressing a well-tempered degree of regional pride, but I strongly disagree that the Confederate battle flag is the appropriate symbol of that pride.

I’d like to conclude by addressing the first statement made by this odious meme: “It Ain’t Coming Down”.  I have a couple of relevant videos.  I’ll just leave them right here.

In South Carolina, at least, it came down.  Twice.

Confederate Controversy Confusion

Confederate Flag 1Confederate Flag 2

On June 17, 2015, a 21-year-old man named Dylann Roof shot and killed nine African-American worshipers during a Bible Study at the historically-important Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.  According to Roof’s own statements, the mass shooting was racially motivated; in fact, Roof apparently wanted to start a race war.

That Dylann Roof’s actions were motivated by racist bigotry should not be controversial – he told us so in unambiguous language – although, institutional racism being what it is, there are still media elements scrambling to repaint his actions as the symptoms of mental illness.  There are other aspects of the case up for debate, however.  Dylann Roof’s website contains pictures of Roof posing with a Confederate flag – much more on this in a moment – the flag often identified with the rebellion that led to the American Civil War.  The surfacing of Roof’s apparent Confederate sympathies has re-ignited a fierce debate about the lingering presence of Confederate flags in America, especially on government property.

Now before we continue, I would like to make one thing clear: take a look at the right-hand flag in the second meme above.  You’ll hear a lot of people referring to that flag as the Confederate flag, but it was never the official national flag of the Confederate States of America.  The rectangular flag sporting a blue St. Andrew’s Cross emblazoned with white stars, set against a red background, is more reminiscent of the the Second Confederate Navy Jack, used from 1863 to 1865, or the Army of Tennessee Battle Flag.  The Army of Northern Virginia used a similar battle flag, but it was square rather than rectangular.  YouTuber C.G.P. Grey has a video sorting out some of the confusion surrounding the various Confederate flags.

Still, for all the various flags that flew above the government and the armies of the Confederacy, the so-called rebel flag is what most people think of when one says Confederate flag.  Please, spare me the pedantic comments .  I know, okay?  I know.

As of this post, the Confederate battle flag still flies above government property in several states, including monuments to Confederate soldiers.  The horrific murders at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church, and Dylann Roof’s connection to the flag have caused many people to question why state governments are still displaying a symbol that, to many, represents racial hatred and slavery.  Defenders of the flag say that it’s not about hatred, but about Southern pride and heritage.  People who just wish the issue would go away complain about their free speech rights being trampled upon.

Oh, and let’s not forget about the historical revisionists who insist that the Civil War wasn’t about slavery anyway and who want to know why everybody’s getting so upset about it.

I thought it would be helpful – nay, necessary – to take a look at the claims being made or implied by these memes.

  • Claim: Dylann Roof is crazy.

It seems like an open-and-shut case: anybody who would brutally murder nine innocent people must be absolutely crazy; what else could you say about him?  To tell the truth, I don’t buy it.  Crazy is a hard word to define, and even harder to apply to a person.  I submit that the only disease in Dylann Roof’s mind was intense racial hatred.

  • Claim: The Confederate flag is being banned.

This is false.  The word banned implies that you do not have a choice about whether to fly a Confederate flag on your porch, or to adorn your mud-splattered pickup truck with a Confederate flag bumper sticker.  You still have a choice.  You can still get a Confederate flag tattoo on your forehead, and you can still wear your Confederate flag swim trunks.  Nobody is telling you that you cannot adorn every square inch of your body, vehicle, and home with Confederate flags.  You probably shouldn’t do that, but you can if you want to.  Your choice.

(Just so you’re aware: if you do walk around wearing a Confederate flag tee-shirt, other people have the choice to think of you as a racist douchebag.  Freedom all around, right?)

Here’s what’s really happening, alarmist meme maker.  Several state governments are considering voluntarily removing Confederate flags from government property.  They’re doing this because they realize the flag has a long connection with slavery and racism, and it’s upsetting to many of the people they claim to represent.  In an effort to be more inclusive and representative of all Americans, these states are choosing to distance themselves from the flag and its history.

The word banned might be used in connection with many retailers’ decision to stop selling Confederate flag merchandise.  In that sense, corporate headquarters are banning their outlets from selling the flag.  But the flag itself is not banned in America.  That’s an important distinction to make.

  • Claim: Stomping on the American flag shouldn’t be protected speech (or the legality of stomping on the American flag is somehow connected to state governments’ decisions about flying the Confederate flag).

I guess this is a matter of opinion.  I personally have no desire to stomp on the flag, but like Evelyn Beatrice Hall, I feel very strongly that you should have the right.  People who conflate these two issues are missing the point.  Which leads me to my next quibble…

  • Claim: This is a free speech issue.

No it isn’t.  Once again, nobody is saying that you cannot make, purchase, own, or fly a Confederate flag in any of the fifty states.  Your personal rights to expression are not being infringed upon if South Carolina finally decides to pull down the Confederate flag that flies above the State Capitol grounds.  If Wal-Mart will not sell you a Confederate flag suspender thong, I’m sure you can find somebody who will.  Your life will continue, your rights unimpeded, just as before.

Of course, these aren’t the only erroneous claims made during the recent Confederate flag controversy.  If I may, I’d like to address a few other misconceptions you may have encountered in social media or at family gatherings.

  • Claim: The Confederate flag is a symbol of Southern pride, not racism.  Also, the Civil War was about states’ rights and high taxes; it was never about slavery until Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

Regardless of the fact that some Southerners have adopted the Confederate flag as a symbol of pride, the claim that it’s not also a racist symbol has never been true.  By its own admission, the Confederacy seceded from the Union in order to protect the institution of slavery.  The CSA committed itself from the outset to the idea that black people were inferior to white people, and that their “natural and normal condition” was to be enslaved to whites.  The Confederate battle flag waved over the army of a nation that considered slavery a “positive good“.

After the Civil War, the Confederate battle flag saw little use until it was resurrected in the 1940’s by a political party that strongly opposed desegregation.  Remind me again how it’s not a racist symbol?

The Tattooed Professor provides tons of links that brilliantly destroy Southern apologists’ arguments about the Civil War, slavery, and hate.  He also demonstrates the futility of engaging said apologists in debate.  If you have a friend or family member who peppers their Facebook wall with pro-Confederate memes, you might direct him to that post.  Don’t expect it to convince him, but at least you’ve introduced him to the truth.

  • Claim: The United States flag flew over a slave-holding nation much longer than the Confederate flag did, but you don’t see people clamoring to take that down.

Well, some people are.  But that’s not the point.

Yes it’s true: the United States of America has committed some horrible atrocities beneath the Stars and Stripes, including a prolonged period of racist slavery.  But while the Confederacy fought and died in defense of that peculiar institution, the United States as a nation matured and moved on.  The CSA is extinct; a testament to a failed philosophy based on racism and hatred.  The United States, for all its warts, lives on.  We’re not perfect – we never have been – but I think we’re trying to be.  Removing a symbol of racism and oppression from all government property would be a good step toward showing we’re committed to never returning to that dark past.

  • Claim: Northerners and black people owned slaves too, you know.

And now they don’t, at least in the United States.  How is this justification for the continued presence of the Confederate flag on government property?

  • Claim: Lincoln started the Civil War and blah blah blah I want the southern states to be justified in everything they’ve ever done: before, during, and after the Civil War.

Yeah, good luck with that.  The rest of us, including your more enlightened Southern peers, will continue to move forward without you.


 

I’ve discovered this website called Twitter.  I don’t know, it probably won’t take off.  Anyway, I’ve created an account there called @stupidbadmemes.  I have no idea what I’ll use it for, but if you’d like to find out along with me, feel free to check me out over there.

The Burdens of Success

Successful v Unsuccessful 1

That’s a nice fantasy, isn’t it?  People who have been successful in life want others to succeed.  They cheer when others triumph, and they always pitch in and lend a helping hand, right?

As much as I’d love for it to be true, this statement is utter bunk.  First, there are plenty of successful people who have no interest in making other people successful.  We heard them griping when people started pushing for higher minimum wages.  Oh sure, they tried to disguise their discontent as concern for the lower-middle-class workers on whose backs their mansions were built.  They said things like “Increasing the minimum wage will force us to eliminate jobs.”  But we know what they were really saying, don’t we: “This hurts my bottom line, and I’m not interested in helping those who have been less fortunate than me if it eats into my profits.”

While we’re at it, I’d like to talk about the confusing and conflicting definitions of success presented in each panel of this meme:  In the left panel, the indicator of success seems to be standing on a rectangle.  In the second panel, the Schadenfreude-possessed man is clearly standing on a rectangle, and has therefore met the implied definition of success established by the left panel – and yet the meme implies that this man is not successful.  So now I’m confused: is standing on a rectangle a necessary condition for success, or isn’t it?

Successful v Unsuccessful 2

If I may offer a counter-example, Dan Rather has had a long and very successful career talking about people.  Oh sure, he has talked about ideas as well, but a large portion of his job has been sitting in front of a camera and talking about people: who they are, what rotten stuff they’re doing, and what other people are doing about it.

I get the impression that this series of memes is less concerned about making you successful, and more concerned about making you a generally decent human being.  I would have no issue with these memes if they would just come out and say that; but I’m irritated by the insinuation that being a decent person will automatically make you successful (or, by extension, that successful people are all decent).  These memes seem to say “Look, if you just wouldn’t be so terrible, you’d be successful”, which comes perilously close to poor-shaming.

Successful v Unsuccessful 3

Okay, I have a lot of problems with this one.

First: the “successful” man is going to develop back problems if he keeps sitting like that.  No amount of success is worth constant lumbar pain.  Maybe he should use his computer to search for padded office chairs.

Second:  being asleep is not synonymous with being unsuccessful.  Everybody needs to sleep, successful or otherwise.

Third: Unsuccessful people do not necessarily think they know it all.  That’s an unfair generalization.  The implication is that unsuccessful people are complacent in their ignorance; in fact, there are lots of people who haven’t met the society-approved definition of success, yet who are nevertheless working determinedly to improve themselves.  Sometimes the going is slow; sometimes they are stymied by social barriers.  Sometimes the burden of being “unsuccessful” is a vicious cycle.

Successful v Unsuccessful 4

I have heard this exact same argument being used against disadvantaged minorities; to wit, poor black people need to take responsibility for their problems instead of blaming the white man.  It’s so easy to assume that an unsuccessful person got that way because he lacks motivation, talent, and perseverance.  It’s much harder to cast aside prejudices and consider the fact that some people are systematically prevented from tasting anything like success.  If a person is poor and comes from a poor neighborhood, certain opportunities are not available to him – at least, not without an unfairly steep struggle and a liberal helping of good fortune.  When you look at two people – one who has met only minor resistance in his rise to the top, and one who has had to strive for every inch of ground gained, only to have it snatched away at the whims of the elite – you might understand why the “unsuccessful” person would become bitter.  And yet this meme seeks to punish him for his bitterness, as if it’s not right for him to be angry at constant, systemic injustice.

What a blessing – nay, what a privilege it is to say “I alone am responsible for my failures”.

If I were to make a meme depicting what successful and unsuccessful people look like, it might read like this:

  • Successful People  They generally have a strong work ethic, yes, but also an ethnicity, religion, family background, and contacts that are highly suitable for the society that nurtured them.
  • Unsuccessful People  Take away any one of those things, and you’ve got an unsuccessful person.

Sergeant Stupid

Goat Humpers

Happy 2nd Birthday to Stupid Bad Memes!  I can’t believe we’ve been around the Sun twice and I’m still doing this!

First, a gripe about spelling: in this context, the word is properly spelled “losing.  Not “loosing”.  It’s actually easier to spell it correctly.  You have to hit one extra keystroke to be wrong.

Here’s a fresh-off-the-griddle racism pancake for you, served with a side of douchebag (the meme’s author, I mean, although apparently actor R. Lee Ermey is a bit of a douchebag as well).  The phrase “goat humper” is a slur often targeted at Arabs.  So, if I read this meme correctly, the delightfully sophisticated author believes our nation is being overrun by Arabs (Actual percentage of Americans that are of Arab descent: about 1%).  He challenges us to “grow a pair” and act like Americans.

With all due respect, angry Drill Sergeant sir, I already have a pair.  My pair and I don’t want to act like the kind of American you’re talking about.  I don’t want to be an angry, bitter bigot, in other words.  Yes, that’s what we’re talking about…bigotry.  Let’s just go ahead and acknowledge it: this meme is one steaming heap of racist, bigoted, hate-filled, spiteful, ugly, paranoid nastiness.

At least the meme’s author acknowledges that his message will be perceived as racist.  I’m not sure whether he deserves credit for that acknowledgement.  He’s not actually owning the racist mantle, but he has essentially declared war on tolerance.

I would love to have a conversation with the person that made this meme, or with somebody that agrees with it, because i have a couple of questions.

  1. Just to make sure: when you say “goat humpers”, are you referring to Arabs?  I want to understand which brand of ignorant, hateful racism you’re spouting.
  2. In what way are we losing (one “O”) the United States of America to Arabs, considering that Arab descendants make up a tiny percentage of Americans in general and have very little representation in local, state, or federal government?  (And before you even say it, no…President Obama is not a Muslim – just in case you’re conflating Muslims with Arabs – nor is he from Kenya.  And his Kenyan heritage on his father’s side does not make him an Arab, since Kenya is not considered an Arab nation.)
  3. In your opinion, what exactly does acting “like Americans” entail?  It sounds like you’re calling for some sort of ethnic genocide.  We’ve done something like that before, and it’s a sad chapter in our nation’s history.  Maybe we could try something new.  You know, something like tolerance and understanding.  We talk about liberty and justice for all – and those are lofty ideals; now let’s stop poisoning the well and strive to implement them in real life.
  4. Do you even care how others might feel about this meme?  Stop and think about it: What if a good, law-abiding Arab American citizen came across this meme on your Facebook wall.  How would it make that person feel?  Does it bother you at all that you might be making other people uncomfortable, perhaps a bit frightened?  Is that what you think a real American should do?   Or is your mind poisoned by the notion that every man is an island who shouldn’t be affected by the words, ideas, and actions of others?  Are you one of those “It’s not my fault if you’re offended” jerks?  Yeah, you are.  I can tell.

Look, if you want to be a jerk, I can’t stop you (obviously).  But I can rebuke you, and I shall.  Because you know what?  Your sentiments are not those of an American patriot, buttercup.  They are the thoughts of a person consumed by bigotry.  It’s not the “goat humpers” that have no place in America; it’s people like you.  I suggest you have a Scroogian turnaround double-quick, or else find a lonely island to inhabit by yourself.  There you can be just as racist and hateful as you want to be, and nobody else has to read or hear about it.  It’s a win-win.

Missing The Point Entirely

Police Lives Matter

Of course they do!  You won’t hear any argument from me that police lives are less valuable than the lives of other folks.

So what makes this a Stupid Bad Meme?  Well, it’s a play on the “Black Lives Matter” movement, which started in 2012 following the death of Trayvon Martin and gained steam when Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two unarmed black citizens, were killed by law enforcement officers in 2014.  The phrase “Black Lives Matter” isn’t meant to suggest that other peoples’ lives don’t matter; it’s meant to draw attention to an issue that is sorely pressing – namely, the fact that black people are, on average, more likely to be the victims of police brutality than are people of other ethnic groups.  Furthermore, there is shockingly little accountability handed to the police officers who take the lives of unarmed black citizens.

The words “Black Lives Matter” form a statement that should be obvious, but apparently is not universally accepted.  The statement calls attention to the fact (and yes, it is a fact) that black lives are undervalued by the modern power structure.  Police brutality against unarmed minorities is just one symptom of systemic racism.  If we, the nation, will claim to be founded on the twin pillars of justice and equality, then we have to stop this.  We cannot continue to ignore or downplay the value of black lives.  That’s what “Black Lives Matter” is all about.

But wait, you ask, don’t police lives matter too?  After all, they’re in a dangerous job and anti-police sentiment seems to be boiling over lately.

Yes, police lives do matter.  Don’t get me wrong: I am grateful for police officers who protect and serve, just like it says on the badge.  But the value of a police officer’s life is largely accepted without question; ergo, the “Police Lives Matter” meme is wholly unnecessary.  This is reminiscent of the “Straight Pride” meme.  Somebody has taken an important message and corrupted it to support something that hasn’t been maligned.  In doing so, they have diverted the focus away from a major problem, and in doing that, they have become part of the problem.