Conservatives have often been asked how we could conceivably have a problem with Black Lives Matter. The tacit assumption behind this question is that the organization means exactly what the three words in its name say.
Even the most desultory examination of the decentralized organization that guides the movement and some of the statements made in its name would be proof that this wasn’t true. If you need more, watch Terry Crews’ tense appearance on Don Lemon’s traveling CNN circus on Monday.
Crews was dragged on to CNN due to the backlash from recent tweets in which he criticized the Black Lives Matter movement, which is as close to a public secular religion as we have in these grim days.
“Are all white people bad? No. Are all black people good? No,” Crews said in a tweet Saturday. “Knowing this reality- I stand on my decision to unite with good people, no matter the race, creed or ideology. Given the number of threats against this decision – I also decide to die on this hill.”
Are all white people bad?
Are all black people good?
Knowing this reality- I stand on my decision to unite with good people, no matter the race, creed or ideology.
Given the number of threats against this decision-
I also decide to die on this hill.
— terry crews (@terrycrews) July 4, 2020
“If you are a child of God, you are my brother and sister. I have family of every race, creed and ideology,” Crews tweeted earlier in the week. “We must ensure #blacklivesmatter doesn’t morph into #blacklivesbetter.”
If you are a child of God, you are my brother and sister. I have family of every race, creed and ideology.
— terry crews (@terrycrews) June 30, 2020
We can’t have that, so Crews was brought onto Lemon’s show for a public shaming. Instead of the usual celebrity response, which closely mimics a hostage video in form and tone, Crews fought back — and managed to draw out an unforced error from Lemon.
Lemon and Crews got in a debate over the meaning of Black Lives Matter — a movement, let’s keep in mind, that began after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in 2013 for shooting and killing Trayvon Martin.
Lemon’s response? Those black lives aren’t what Black Lives Matter is about.
“What does that have to do with equality, though, Terry?” Lemon said. “I don’t understand what that has to do with equality.” Instead, that was all about gun violence and gun culture in the United States, he said.
Lemon went on to say that Black Lives Matter shouldn’t even care about these deaths.
“The Black Lives Matter movement was started because it was talking about police brutality,” the CNN host said, erroneously. “If you want an All Black Lives Matter movement that talks about gun violence in communities, including black communities, then start that movement with that name. But that’s not what Black Lives Matter is about.”
He went on to provide an analogy that was illuminating, if not perhaps in the way that he might have hoped.
“If someone started a movement that said Cancer Matters and then someone comes in and says, ‘Why aren’t you talking about HIV?’ it’s not the same thing,” Lemon said.
“But when you look at their organization, police brutality is not the only thing they’re talking about,” Crews said — something Lemon said he knew.
Did he, though?
For Lemon’s analogy to be totally correct, the organization wouldn’t be called Cancer Matters. It’d be called Diseases Matter. If you come in and talk about HIV — whoa, sorry. This was started because of cancer.
Now, keep in mind, Diseases Matter has started caring about other diseases. In fact, it cares about a lot of things that may be only tangentially related to diseases. But it doesn’t care about HIV right now, nor should it. Got that?
This is the invariable problem that Black Lives Matter runs into when the movement’s supporters try to fall back on the idea that its name is their mission. They care about meticulously curated black lives. If your life doesn’t score a narrative point, it curiously doesn’t matter. This includes the youngest victims of violence — a tragic consequence of recent upticks in crime in America’s cities.
Black Lives Matter is about a specific set of policy goals, all of them progressive in bent. The whole battle over whether you prominently declare that black lives matter or include a hashtag in your social media posts has nothing to do with whether black lives do indeed matter. It’s also not about police brutality or outrage over George Floyd. “Black lives matter” is a truism.
You can loathe police brutality and believe George Floyd was murdered and still believe saying that phrase is weighed down with certain baggage you don’t want to carry. You run a high chance of being “canceled” for it — Crews is going to have a fun time when he returns to “America’s Got Talent” — but it’s logically consistent.
Meanwhile, in trying to shame Crews’ remarks on Black Lives Matter, Don Lemon managed to admit what it’s about for him. Like so many other supporters of the movement, it’s not black lives.
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