This question seems to come up from time to time on this and other forums. Rather than addressing each question about the subject, I thought I would write down my thoughts. I apologize if I’m merely repeating what has been argued elsewhere.
The objection to the #BlackLivesMatter movement is generally “don’t all lives matter?” The answer to that is clearly no. What they mean is that “all lives should matter” but that’s not the same thing. To borrow from Orwell, “all lives matter but some lives matter more than others”. Unarmed Black people who are not endangering anyone are shot or attacked by police on a daily basis now. How many unarmed White people can you name who were shot by police? Armed White people who threaten others are almost always subdued without gunfire and often just ignored. In this instance Black lives don’t matter to the same extent as White lives.
One can argue that these police killings and attacks are done by a very small percentage of officers. Most are not like that. While this is true, the fact that those killers are almost never imprisoned or even fired shows that police forces, the justice system and the community value Black lives less. Many of those cops who kill unarmed Blacks have done so before and still they are not punished for it. This far reaching trend shows that on most levels Black lives just don’t matter that much. To put it in perspective, imagine that instead of each Black victim it was the town prom queen who was shot 15 times for no good reason. Can you honestly say that the community and national response to the event would be exactly the same?
This trend is not limited to killings. Innocent Blacks are many times more likely to be pulled over and searched without reason, especially in the South. This happens despite the fact that when Whites are pulled over in those same areas, they are more likely to have drugs. Many times as many Whites than Blacks are arrested, yet the incarceration rate for the two races is about equal. White kids found with drugs are far less likely to go to prison than Black kids with drugs. The list of stark disparities by race goes on and on, and yet few seem to be very concerned about such injustices.
At least one commentator pointed out that while Black lives do not matter, Black deaths do. White people were horrified when the nine Black church members were gunned down in South Carolina. This commentator pointed out the horror increased notably when it came out that the victims had asked the shooter to pray with them before he took out his weapons and again when the families of the dead forgave the killer. In a sense, these victims became honorary White people after their deaths. To qualify they had to be much better than most White people. Even then, many commentators claimed that this clear case of racial terrorism was instead an “attack on religion”.
One of the objections to the #BlackLivesMatter movement is that their members are disruptive and disrespectful. This is highly ironic since the complaint often comes from people who identify with the Tea Party or similar such groups and ideologies. Those groups are famously disruptive and disrespectful. But that doesn’t count because they are White. The sad fact is that most of the unarmed Black kids who are shot by police are primarily guilty of arguing with them or showing disrespect to them. When these facts are exposed, a large segment of society justifies the killings, arguing that the kids died because they failed to respect authority. Ironically, those same defenders have horrible reputations when it comes to respecting authority, most notably towards their highest authority, President Obama. Their message is clear: they deserved death because as Blacks they did not show sufficient respect for White authority.
It’s my opinion that the situation has gotten so bad because an entire generation of Black kids were raised in a less openly racist society (before Obama’s election) and they can’t bring themselves to act completely submissive towards White authority. They can’t quite believe that disrespect is still punishable by death.
We Whites have no business claiming that all lives matter until it begins to be largely true. There will always be racists who are willing to kill for their racism. But until society punishes everyone equally regardless of the race of the victim or the race of the offender, not all lives matter to the same extent in America.