On ‘Black Lives Matter’

Someone posted on social media that rather than “Black Lives Matter,” we should be saying “All Lives Matter.” I have heard that tune before. It is designed to defuse the moment, to distract. To say “All Lives Matter” sidesteps the issue at hand. The need to proclaim “Black Lives Matter” is an assertion that should be both true and self-evident but is neither — or George Floyd would still be alive. Same goes for Ahmaud Arbery for that matter. Or Breonna Taylor. Or Eric Garner. Or John Crawford. Or Michael Brown. Or Freddie Gray. Or Philander Castile. Or Alton Sterling. Or Delrawn Small — the list goes on. The dead haunt us. To proclaim “Black Lives Matter” is a statement against the reality that for a long time, WE, and our police, have behaved as if they did not matter.

Our president’s response to the problem of racial injustice was to avoid it, electing instead to focus on the throngs of protesters, executing their First Amendment rights, marching the streets of American cities and small towns. Branding them “thugs” and “terrorists,” he declared himself the “law and order” president even though the history of his last three and a half years in office have been about anything but law and order. He has proclaimed himself a wartime commander-in-chief, though as a young man, he had ensured his bone spurs made him unfit to fill a soldier’s boots. His secretary of defense spoke of dominating the “battlespace” while the president promised “vicious dogs” and “ominous weapons” to combat not the enemies of the nation but rather its citizens; its flesh and blood. He has successfully completed one border wall but this one is in Washington D.C. where it separates the fortressed White House from its owners, the American people. He has threatened to use the Insurrection Act of 1807, a law written at least in part as an answer to slave insurrections (and then used in 1831 to put down exactly that — the Nat Turner uprising.) Let that sink in. The president has threatened to use a law designed to quash slave revolts to put down demonstrations for racial justice.

President Trump has never been noted for his mastery of history. He did claim on July 4, 2019, that the Continental Army (circa 1775-1783) had won the American Revolution by “seizing the airports” while the flag still waved over Fort McHenry — in 1814. Nevertheless, he and some of his followers still seem to subscribe to the infamous summation concluding the U.S. Supreme Court’s pre-Civil War Dred Scott decision (March 1857) that black people “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”

While there is much to love about this nation, it should not be loved without condition. We have not yet achieved what we set out to be, namely a “city on a hill,” a beacon to all people built around liberty and equality. We still have not righted the wrongs of the past — so many of us march, not for the president’s faux land of law and order, but rather for justice, for without justice, liberty and equality are not possible. Without justice, there can be no peace.


LTC, US Army (retired)


Submitted via Virtual Newsroom


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