Sunday, July 19, 2015

It's been a year since Eric Garner's death.

It's been a year since Eric Garner's death. Over the weekend, Black Lives Matter protesters crashed a town hall debate in Phoenix between two Democratic presidential candidates, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and current Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Their response was astoundingly tone-deaf and oozed white privilege.

The problem with the “all lives matter” or “White lives matter” mantras are that they dismiss the significance of black lives by failing to acknowledge the reason for the “black lives matter” movement. In our culture, it's black lives that are systematically and disproportionately cut short by racist police officers, not white lives.

The slogan “black lives matter” isn't saying “only black lives matter”—it's acknowledging that in a structurally racist culture, white lives already matter by default. By contrast, black lives have historically and are still often viewed as expendable by those who exercise power and authority, including most notably law enforcement officers. By adding the caveats that “white lives matter” and “all lives matter”, one (perhaps inadvertently) speaks the language of the White supremacist, by invalidating black protesters' claims to being disproportionately targeted for police killings.

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