Philosophy Corner: Black and Blue

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Black lives matter because all lives matter

Temmel Opinions
Brandon Temmel is a senior majoring in Music Performance. Photo by Steven Carver.

As a white person, I believe that all lives matter. I believe that all lives matter because everyone values human life regardless of their skin color. To put it nicely, All Lives Matter is a poor response to Black Lives Matter (BLM). Such a reaction is, at the very least, a reflection of the effectiveness of the BLM movement. All Lives Matter should not be dismissed without reform. This touchy subject has been a minefield for conversation, but this is too important to stay quiet, so: let’s take a walk.

There is a problem with United States police departments’ treatment of black people. According to research done by The Guardian, there are 2.65 white people killed by police per million people. Yet for black people, there are 6.32 killed per million, over 230% higher than white people. Freddie Gray, Mike Brown, and Trayvon Martin are all just poster boys for the problem that is this statistic.  The hope of Black Lives Matter is that this can be changed.

Before we look more closely at this problem, though, we must acknowledge that even this evidence is not absolute proof of a problem. There is one valid interpretation of this higher death rate of black people by cops that does not implicate the police officers.  It is possible that a higher percentage of black people are more violent, therefore cops need to use lethal force a higher percentage of the time.  While this is possible, anyone who holds this dark stereotype should challenge themselves to prove its merit. If you want to believe that black people are 230% more violent than white people, I would first be disappointed in your pessimism, and second, need to see your evidence not to support, but to prove your claim.

While some people dismiss BLM with harsh stereotypes, some people have valid reasons that they have not joined the movement. If you watch the news, you’ll quickly become overwhelmed with tragedy. It’s impossible to see every horrible act and join the movement to stop it—even if it genuinely upsets us.  We have to choose which tragedies in the world we want to fight against. For some people, that means choosing to empathize with BLM, offer verbal support, and then do nothing to change things.

Perhaps a more prominent feeling is a lack of direction. The general outcry of BLM is that of institutionalized racism and oppression, yet there is rarely ever any specificity to these sins. It’s like walking into a doctor’s office and shouting that you’re sick and dying, but then refusing to disclose your symptoms. For people to join a movement, they want to help fix a problem. If there is no clarity of the problem, people won’t join because they have no hope of fixing what they can’t see. We are all deeply saddened by the now frequent mass murders happening in our country. Yet as upset as we are, there is no movement to end mass murders because we don’t know how.

Valid though these reasons may be, there remains a lot of ignorance to the state of blue on black violence in America.  The Department of Justice has been investigating various city police departments over the past couple years and their public reports confirm the need for the BLM movement. Investigations in Ferguson, Philadelphia and Cincinnati all had similar results: a need to reform and improve. Each report called for more accountability of the actions of police officers, stronger de-escalation techniques, a far less liberal use of force, and measures to eliminate bias and racial profiling. There is obviously a problem with the current operations of many police departments across the country.

I don’t know how to solve this problem. All I know is that things can’t stay the same, and the conversation right now has grown stale. For those who are in the BLM movement: continue to support your cause. Help those who don’t understand BLM by being patient, articulate, and clear. Make noise until people smarter than myself come up with solutions and put them in place. And for those who are not in the BLM movement: these are American citizens. These are fellow humans. This is injustice. Instead of looking for every small thing the BLM movement gets wrong, empathize with the struggle, curse the injustice, and support the solution. BLM should not be considered a black movement; it should be considered a humanitarian movement. All lives matter, so I support Black Lives Matter.