The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement emerged between the Ferguson Riots and the 2016 Presidential Election. During this time BLM representatives were confronted by critics and asked why BLM didn’t demonstrate against Black-on-Black crime. BLM called the Black-on-Black crime question a diversion from the real issue, which was White police officers gunning down unarmed Black males.
This was a debate tactic. (If you don’t have a good answer, dismiss the question.)
But critics were persistent and continued to ask BLM about Black-on-Black crime. (For critics it was a legitimate question because the group called themselves Black Lives Matter.) Then BLM sympathizers defended BLM’s non-answer with their own explanations.
One prominent Black writer told the mayor of New Orleans, a mayor who was trying to decrease Black-on-Black killings in his city, that it’s natural for the Black community to be more upset about police killings than Black-on-Black killings because the community’s tax dollars financed the police officer’s misconduct.
Other Black writers replaced the term “Black-on-Black” with the phrase “intra-racial.” These writers said intra-racial killings were common among White ethnic groups and no one has ever used the phrase “White-on-White crime.”
These defenses served their purpose and silenced many critics.
But these defenses were also diversions from the fact that Black-on-Black violence was more destructive in the Black community than state-sponsored violence, and, more importantly, these defenses were poor arguments.
The first writer’s tax dollar claim was backwards. The term “Black-on-Black crime” was generated in a Black newspaper after riots in the late 1960s. The police departments prioritized White riot victims over Black ones. The Black newspaper reported the police didn’t investigate “Black-on-Black” cases. The complaint from Black victims was their tax dollars went to a police service that wasn’t being provided. This modern tax dollar argument ignored the origin of the term and callously suggested Blacks have more of an emotional investment in police shootings because of money.
The problem with the second set of writers was their use of comparative apologetics. They defended the Black community by making a moral equivalent to the White community. In other words, if Whites are killing each other and it’s not a social problem, then there shouldn’t be any outrage if Blacks do the same. (Malcolm X once said Whites aren’t the yardstick to measure equality or morality.)
Then the 2016 NFL season began.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick captured national attention for a sideline protest against the national anthem to bring awareness to police violence. Kaepernick was influenced by BLM, but he acted alone and he asked no one for support. But once the season was over Kaepernick was released from his team. Then he announced he was no longer going to protest as he pursued another opportunity in the NFL. Unfortunately, no team has signed Kaepernick.
Now, there are Black writers and thinkers at it again.
This time they are talking about boycotting the NFL until Kaepernick is signed by a team. That’s fine, but there are dual diversions here.
First, Kaepernick’s employment has become the issue and not Blacks being killed by the police. (A while back there was a headline that read: “Las Vegas officer kills unarmed Black but no protest occurs.”)
Second, Kaepernick didn’t leave college early like most NFL athletes. He graduated with a degree in business. He already played in the Super Bowl. He fulfilled his football aspirations. During the past year he discovered something deeper about himself and he’s setting a new direction in his life. And a boycott diverts all of the attention away from Kaepernick—the man—and reduces him to a backup quarterback who can only make a living sitting on some White man’s bench.
(J. Pharoah Doss is a contributor to the New Pittsburgh Courier. He blogs at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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