All lives matter

Not long ago, the subject line of this post would have been an uncontroversial humanitarian statement. Today, it’s heresy against progressive doctrine. We’re supposed to inquire about the race of victims of police violence before we can say if their lives matter.

It’s true that a heavily disproportionate number of those victims are black, so it’s entirely appropriate to say with special emphasis that black lives matter. This must, however, stand behind the broader principle. In any society in which only some lives matter, it’s the people who are more marginalized whose lives don’t. Yet saying that all lives matter gets you smeared. Today I saw a cartoon in which a person who said that “All lives matter” then revealed a “No Muslims allowed” sign. Is it necessary to point out the number of innocent Arab Muslims who’s died at the hands of the United States? How is saying that their lives matter anti-Muslim?

Violent police are quite willing to attack innocent white people, though it’s not proportionately as common. A recent Radley Balko column highlighted such a case:

In April 2012, a Kansas SWAT team raided the home of Robert and Addie Harte, their 7-year-old daughter and their 13-year-old son. The couple, both former CIA analysts, awoke to pounding at the door. When Robert Harte answered, SWAT agents flooded the home. He was told to lie on the floor. When Addie Harte came out to see what was going on, she saw her husband on his stomach as SWAT cop stood over him with a gun. The family was then held at gunpoint for more than two hours while the police searched their home.

The reason for the raid? He’d bought some gardening supplies and threw some loose-leaf tea in the trash. Balko mentions toward the end of the article that Harte is white. Does this exclude his life from mattering?

After the “Black lives matter” people complained so many times about allies saying that all lives matter, some of their opponents tried to grab the slogan in an attempt to exaggerate the danger that police experience. I’m not saying they don’t experience special danger because of their job, but bad cops get away with unjustified homicide far more often than people who kill cops do. The attempt doesn’t seem to have gained much traction; when you say “All lives matter,” a corollary is that the lives of people killed by police matter, and they wouldn’t have been comfortable with that.

But if you say that all victims of unjustified violence by the US matter, you’re now anti-Muslim. If you say the lives of the people who were tortured in Abu Ghraib matter, you’re anti-Muslim. If you say the innocent victims of drone strikes in the Mideast matter, you’re anti-Muslim.

Don’t look for sense in it. Smears never have to make sense.

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2 Responses to “All lives matter”

  1. Eyal Mozes Says:

    Gary, I don’t really understand the point of this post. Does the view you’re criticizing actually exist? I’ve occasionally heard the claim that saying “all lives matter” is anti-black, and yes, that’s an outrageous claim; but I’ve never heard anyone claim that it is anti-Muslim, and you don’t link to any source saying so.

    You say you saw a cartoon making that claim; but the mere fact that one obscure cartoonist expressed such a view doesn’t make it worth a blog post. For any claim you can invent, no matter how ridiculous, you’ll probably be able to find on the internet at least one person expressing that claim. Is there any significant number of people saying so? Is there anyone you or I personally know who said so? If not, then I hope you’re not going to start writing blog posts criticizing every ridiculous idea you see expressed once somewhere.


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