An op-ed in last week’s Orange County Breeze titled “All Lives Matter” certainly got my attention, and demands a reasoned response. The author suggests that Black Lives Matter is about elevating black lives above others. This couldn’t be further from the truth, which would be evident if you actually listen to what protesters all over the country are saying. Better yet, visit the BLM website, which expresses “a shared desire for justice,” acknowledging, respecting and celebrating differences and commonalities.
No one can argue with the notion that all lives matter, but the emphasis at this historic time is about Black Lives, because people of African descent occupy a unique place in American history. African Americans are the only ethnic group in this country that was enslaved en masse for economic benefit, and legally treated as property until only 157 years ago. The lynching of George Floyd under color of authority was a watershed moment, finally forcing the American people to acknowledge systemic racism, both in law enforcement and society as a whole.
The Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 freed the slaves, but did not end racial injustice. It is noteworthy that most of the confederate monuments that have become so controversial were not erected in the wake of the Civil War to commemorate the confederacy, but during periods of racial conflict, particularly the Jim Crow era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. We’ve made progress, but the murder of George Floyd and disproportionate killing of other people of color shows that we still have a long way to go.
So black lives matter. Not more than any others, but this is the time to appreciate that for too long, black lives have often mattered less than other lives. The idea of including ethnic studies in the curriculum for LAUSD (or other districts) isn’t “kowtowing to that one group,” but recognizing that shared knowledge and understanding is critically important if we are to move forward as a nation.
Michael V. Sanders