The Gustavian Weekly

‘All Lives Matter’ distracts from real issue

By Matthew Vierzba - Opinion Columnist | October 14, 2016 | Opinion

At a rally following the death of Philando Castile, protestors urge police to ‘stop executing black people’. Vierzba argues that new counterprotests, such as the ‘All Lives Matter’-movement, is the wrong way to go.

At a rally following the death of Philando Castile, protestors urge police to ‘stop executing black people’. Vierzba argues that new counterprotests, such as the ‘All Lives Matter’-movement, is the wrong way to go.

Last Thursday, Gustavus students were provided the unique and constructive opportunity to attend the informative “I AM A BLACK MAN” panel in Wallenberg Auditorium.

The thoughtful and productive discussion that occurred from this panel is extremely useful in having a discussion about race in our community.

The discussion allowed several brave members of the Gustavus community to talk about their experiences living as minorities in America.

What is clear from the personal stories of these speakers and the stories of every person of color in the United States is that they are still treated differently because of the color of their skin.

The systematic oppression that is plaguing and has plagued the African-American community since the inception of this country is deplorable.

Thankfully, the Black Lives Matter movement has arisen to advocate for the equal treatment of minorities by law enforcement and other areas of life.

However, some people are choosing to belittle this movement by changing the phrase to “all lives matter.”

This undermines the issue at hand and disparages the victims of police brutality.

Since the discussion behind the Black Lives Matter movement involves the police killing  innocent people, it is expected for individuals to feel uncomfortable when discussing race in America.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have this debate. To those who feel as though the phrase “all lives matter” is the more appropriate phrase to address the violence that is infesting our communities, I ​ will tell you this: all lives ​do matter.

But by replacing “black” with “all” you are directly ignoring the entire premise of the original thought behind the phrase, because there is a clear and demonstrated oppression of African-Americans in this country.

The stories behind these killings are too eerily similar and gruesome.

They all begin with a comparatively minor infraction: a disturbance, a traffic stop, a burglary, a domestic dispute. And they result in the same vile and scandalous ending: the horrific death of an unarmed black person.

None of these people deserved to die.

Many supporters of the terminology “all lives matter” claim they approach the issue of race from a colorblind perspective.

I cannot imagine a more ineffective approach to discussing race in this country.

African-Americans have always faced discrimination throughout American history.

Whether it involves the Three-Fifths Compromise, decades of enslavement, Jim Crow laws, or the contemporary issues of expanded voter ID laws or police brutality, life has never been easy to be a person of color in America.

While many of these “all lives matter” people do not openly express racist attitudes or condone violence against minorities in any way, their unwillingness to directly address the problem in our communities is disheartening.

It is offensive.

There is still work needed to be done to combat inequalities based on race in our society.

According to an analysis released by the Pew Research Center, black men earn approximately 73 percent what white men make based on median hourly earnings.

Hispanic men fare even worse, earning only 69 percent. Clearly there are other disparities in our society that need to be addressed.

Unfortunately, this colorblind approach is not beneficial or constructive to this discussion.

The statistics behind police shootings do not help those who believe there is no problem with police brutality against minorities.

As some conservative politicians like to point out, such as former Republican presidential candidate and NASCAR enthusiast Mike Huckabee, more white people are killed by law enforcement.

He claimed in a Fox News interview earlier this year that police killings of black men are overblown because “as we know… more white people have been shot by the police officers this year than minorities.” What he fails to point out is that his allegation is about as mistaken and confused as Gary Johnson’s foreign policy credentials.

As anyone who has a basic understanding of statistics knows, certain findings are questioning if you do not adjust the population.

According to an analysis of data released by the Washington Post in July following the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castille, unarmed black men are 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police officers than unarmed white men.

White people make up 62 percent of the population in the United States yet only 49 percent of those killed by law enforcement.

These statistics should be shocking to anyone in this country who cares about human life.

As a white person, I find it disgusting that so many people who are in the racial majority in this country are refusing to acknowledge the blatant discrimination that people of color face on a daily basis.

Since I am white, I have no reason to fear when I am pulled over by the cops for some minor infraction or a traffic stop.

I cannot reiterate enough that this belief is not an attack on law enforcement.

What this country desperately needs is for our communities and the law enforcement officials who protect us to trust and respect each other in a reciprocal relationship.

We need to love each other as human beings.

I will never know what it is like to live as a minority and that is why I feel so strongly that declaring “all lives matter” is a slap in the face to an already oppressed group of people.

This is why I am a proud supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement.

I applaud the speakers of the I AM A BLACK MAN panel and every other person who stands up for racial justice in America.