Black Lives Matter All Lives Matter

What Matters?

Black Lives Matter. If you can’t say it, you are an as$hole in my opinion.

All Lives Matter. If you can’t say it, you are an as$hole in my opinion.

If you tell me that I “really” mean something other than the plain meaning of those phrases when I say them, you are (1) a presumptuous liar, and (2) an as$hole, in my opinion.

Context and Controversy

Don’t I understand that saying “All Lives Matter” might not make me a racist, but it does make me extremely ignorant? Refer to Troy L. Smith’s June 2020 essay for elaboration of this point.

Smith correctly points out that it would be illogical to interpret Black Lives Matter to mean that others lives don’t matter or that Black lives matter more. Smith then explains how in his view saying All Lives Matter is a rebuttal of Black Lives Matter.

I agree in part and disagree in part. For the same reasons that it is illogical to interpret Black Lives Matter as a rejection of All Lives Matter, it is illogical to interpret All Lives Matter as a rebuttal of Black Lives Matter. The issue here is inferring what people “really” mean.

So, what do I “really” mean? In general, on any topic, if you tell me that I “really” mean something other than the plain meaning of what I have said, instead of ask me what I “really” mean, you are an as$hole in my opinion. You may, when my words have multiple meanings, either laugh or cry foul when I intentionally mislead an audience. What do you call a person with no body and no nose? Nobody nose.

There are a lot of as$holes in my opinion.

So let me clarify. Black Lives Matter. When I say it, I do not imply that other lives do not matter, nor do I mean that Black lives matter more.

All Lives Matter. When I say it, I do not imply that Black lives do not matter, nor do I deny disparate treatment.

Assertions, Slogans, and Loyalty Oaths – Clarifying My Reactions

Both supporters and critics of the Black Lives Matter movement make some assertions about the world that I believe are questionable. If supporters or critics make repeating back what they say word-for-word, while adding and withholding nothing – I refuse on principle. Black Lives Matter supporters want me to repeat back Black Lives Matter while adding and withholding nothing, and they want to ban me from saying All Lives Matter.

Requiring exact speech – If people demand I repeat back a slogan word-for-word, I refuse because I reject loyalty oaths. As a native South East Pennsylvanian, when I chant “Fly Eagles Fly,” I reserve the right to add “Yo Coach, you suck!” If I can boo future Hall of Famer Andy Reid, and current Hall of Famers Julius Erving and Mike Schmidt, even though I think they were all great sports figures while in Philadelphia, I can criticize something you said. At heart I am a Philly kid, and Philly kids boo George Washington when re-en actors are prevented from crossing the Delaware by weather conditions. Criticism doesn’t mean I reject everything you said. It doesn’t mean I don’t think you are great. Great people and great causes can be criticized. Get over yourself.

Banning speech – If people try to ban me from making statements that I believe are true just because they consider them an implied criticism, I will not be silent. Hard as it is for you to believe, you may be wrong in full or in part. See above for why I might still think you are great.

Silence – On those rare occasions in which I remain silent, my silence should be interpreted as exhaustion – I may speak up and agree in part and disagree in part whenever I recover sufficient energy. Or I may not. Either way, I know that I am probably wrong at least in part, yet it is rare that I am silent. My silence should not be interpreted as violence.

Rant over – now for related ravings

Assertions about Skin Color and Immunity from Police Brutality

Organizers of Black Lives Matter want to ban the phrase All Lives Matter because they see “All” as a denial that police brutality is a special problem for Blacks. BLM organized a protest in 2015/2016 and successfully prevented a Democratic Party candidate from speaking at his own campaign event because he said All Lives Matter. To BLM in that instance, banning the phrase All Lives Matter was not a matter of misunderstanding – it was a litmus test. It was not sufficient for the candidate to clarify what he “really” meant by All Lives Matter and how he did not contradict Black Lives Matter, he had to apologize and agree to stop using the phrase.

When Black Lives Matter clarify their position, they say that the phrase Black Lives Matter “really” means that current U.S. social systems grant whites privilege. Some Black Lives Matter activists and anti-bias experts equate white privilege with immunity (a white person cannot know…, white skin grants the bearer the ability to take rights for granted…), even if the occasional aberration bursts an individual white person’s bubble. Rather than immunity, others activists merely assert that white privilege grants relative preference (a white person has a few steps head start along the track for…).

Hold it, wait. I am for police reform. While I agree that Black Lives Matter, and agree that police homicides against Blacks are disproportionate to the population, some of these other assertions are questionable. Yes, I’m going to say Black Lives Matter. But no, I am not going assume away the hundreds of whites lynched by white mobs in American history, nor the hundreds of whites killed by white police officers during arrest and custody. If a police officer can be a bigot, a police officer can be a petty tyrant. As a matter of social science research, I am not going to prejudge the battle of statistics among experts in the field.

I have no problem saying Black Lives Matter, nor including in that meaning that current reforms should have special considerations of race, but recall that I am an Eagles fan. “Yo, Andy Reid, you suck” does not imply Andy Reid does not deserve to be in the Hall of fame. So, I am going to criticize Black Lives Matter outright. I am also going to say things that although not intended as a criticism are taken as a criticism by some Black Lives matter activists. If no criticism is allowed whether expressed or implied, we know where we stand.

Furthermore, if you interpret All Lives Matter as a denial that Black Lives Matter, or as opposition to police reform, despite my expressed clarification, you are an as$hole.

Evidence and Allies: Battle of Experts in the Field

Consider a previously published article (June 9, 2020) by Ryan Cooper in The Week. Ryan Cooper discusses police-related violence in the United States compared to other countries. Ryan addresses the issue of supposed white immunity from police brutality in the context of criticism and support of Black Lives Matter.

Fact 1 – In the United States, police sometimes kill white people during the course of arrest and custody. White is defined as reported by police organizations, news agencies, and activist groups to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. That definition of white may or may not match the definition of white used by sociologists in their professional research journals, or in their books intended for lay audiences.

Fact 2 – In the United States, the proportion of white people killed by police during the course of arrest and custody is lower than the percentage of white people in the general population.

These two facts are unsurprising. The United States has a history of bigotry. Even without bigotry, it is the nature of police work to sometimes encounter criminals. Even if there were zero bad police officers, the death of some suspects during encounters with police may be justified in order to prevent harm to self or others. Statistics cited by Ryan Cooper confirm that countries with much more homogeneous populations than the United States, and very different histories, still have homicides associated with arrest and custody. He selected countries that have lower rates per population, but the numbers are still above zero.

Interpretations – there have been many attempts by researchers to examine factors contributing to inequalities in the proportion of police-related deaths. Research methodology includes framing interactions between police and civilians (modeling), collecting and measuring data (observation), and calculating and interpreting the results (statistical inference).

Interpretations are controversial. There is nothing wrong with controversy. Controversy is part of reason, deliberation, replication, and science.

Researchers in every field gather in professional meetings in order to tell each other face-to-face how wrong each other’s interpretations are. During the Covid virus crisis, they might use Zoom.

When not disagreeing face-to-face, researchers put their mutual criticisms in writing. To put a happy face on this process, experts collaborate in face-to-face meetings in order to gather suggestions for improvement before they submit their research to peer-reviewed journals, the editors of which assign peers to give additional constructive feedback prior to publication, or to reject. Examples of constructive criticisms include but are not limited to

  • Your model is framed incorrectly and therefore leaves out variables material to the outcome. Omitted variables can flip the sign (reverse interpretation) of included variables.
  • Your method of collecting data is more likely to miss some sources than others (your sample is biased in statistical sense). Unrepresentative samples distort results.
  • Your measures of a variable are wrong because the sources you relied on did not use the same definition as each other in reporting their observations. Garbage in, garbage out.
  • Your inference is not valid because you did not warn that correlation is not causation. We don’t believe ice cream consumption causes crime (both are correlated with temperature).
  • Your inferences are not valid because you did not do a statistical test for (insert myriad of techniques for identifying relationships among explanatory variables, correcting for trends that affect both the explanatory variables and the variable to be explained, measuring the magnitude of relationships not just direction, and on and on).

Has the battle of the modelers and statisticians definitively resolved the ways in which race affects homicides during arrest and custody? Experts in academia, agencies, and think tanks regularly engage in traditional scholarship on this topic. There are alternative frameworks modeling police interaction with civilians, distinct datasets relying on different sources that use different definitions, and multiple statistical tests crunching the numbers.

On the one hand, some of the differences correlated with race may be due to other factors which affect the number of interactions between police and civilians, such as differential urbanization rates. On the other hand, some factors which appear independent of race may on further reflection be due to race – current differences in location could be partially due to FDR’s federal lending policies which redlined Black neighborhoods. I will append cites to some related controversial statistical studies which have made recent news.

Ryan Cooper observes that perceived lack of coverage of Fact 1 (whites are sometimes killed during police arrest and custody) leads “…some conservatives to claim that the protesters are deliberately ignoring white victims…” He then cites examples of critics of Black Lives Matter pointing to white deaths that did not initiate protests and calls for police reform. Cooper continues, “These are disingenuous arguments. However, it is true that white people are not at all immune to police violence. Instead of crying hypocrisy, there is every reason for white Americans to join the movement to overhaul policing in this country, and to attack the inequality at the root of so much police abuse.”

My response is that I am always a supporter of re-evaluating our police system. First, I remember Frank Rizzo and “Rizzo’s Raiders” busting Philly heads in my youth, disproportionately Black heads, but White heads as well. Second, even if there were no history of police brutality, the question, “who watches the watchers?” has no perfect answer.

If there is an obstacle to my being in the movement, and I doubt there is, then it isn’t my willingness to say Black Lives Matter. I say it, I say it often, I say it sincerely. Black Lives Matter. I criticize people who won’t say it.

But if there is an obstacle to my being in the movement, it is the organizers of Black Lives Matter insistence that I refrain from saying All Lives Matter and insistence that I agree on assertions about society that are subject to good faith debate. As a matter of principle, I will not adopt a whole host of questionable assertions as a precondition of alliance.

The Analogy: Why Good People Don’t say All

How is All Lives Matter an insult? One analogy is that if your wife asked you if she was beautiful, you would never respond with “yes, honey, you are beautiful – all women are beautiful.” A partner never responds with All.

The Analogy: Good People Do say All

Another analogy is teachers. Although some children are bullied more than others, many children are bullied. If in considering protocols to combat bullying a teacher said “All my students need my support,” you would never respond with “why do you reject the child who has been bullied most often?” Allies don’t criticize All.


Yo, (insert person or cause), you suck!

I enjoy researching the flaws of every cause and every historical person who attracts my interest, and also the virtues of each. So far, every single person and every single cause has had some flaws, no matter how worthy the virtues were. Upon discovering a flaw, or what I believe is a flaw, my exclamation ‘you suck!’ does not negate my love, respect, and support for you. My criticism does not deny your greatness. If your price for my support is that I abstain from criticism, that is on you.

Black Lives Matter! All Lives Matter! If you can’t say either one, you are an as$hole.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s