Former Winston-Salem State basketball player and current national sports pundit Steven A. Smith recklessly suggested on Twitter that African-Americans are unconcerned about so-called black-on-black crime after learning that an audience booed Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley for saying “all lives matter during a recent speech.
Smith’s statements are common among those who are ignorant of the Black Lives Matter movement, which gained steam in recent years in response to the high-profile deaths of Travyon Martin, Mike Brown, Gray, Eric Garner, John Crawford and Tamir Rice at the hands of law enforcement.
The movement, at its core, is one that wants to highlight the state violence committed against black people that has gone on unabated and without consequence in many cases.
When we say Black Lives Matter, we are talking about the ways in which black people are deprived of our basic human rights and dignity. It is an acknowledgement black poverty and genocide is state violence. It is an acknowledgment that 1 million black people are locked in cages in this country—one half of all people in prisons or jails—is an act of state violence. It is an acknowledgment that black women continue to bear the burden of a relentless assault on our children and our families and that assault is an act of state violence. Black queer and trans folks bearing a unique burden in a hetero-patriarchal society that disposes of us like garbage and simultaneously fetishizes us and profits off of us is state violence; the fact that 500,000 black people in the US are undocumented immigrants and relegated to the shadows is state violence; the fact that black girls are used as negotiating chips during times of conflict and war is state violence; black folks living with disabilities and different abilities bear the burden of state-sponsored Darwinian experiments that attempt to squeeze us into boxes of normality defined by white supremacy is state violence. And the fact is that the lives of black people—not ALL people—exist within these conditions is consequence of state violence.
To say “All Lives Matter” in response to Black Lives Matter is disingenuous to the reality and race-based injustices and oppression that black people have been subject to.
To attempt to juxtapose or correlate Black Lives Matter with perceived apathy about black violence is a slap in the face to every single person or grassroots anti-violence organization working to prevent violence in their own community.
Go tell Ameena Matthews, a woman who works in violence prevention with Chicago-based CeaseFire, that black people don’t care about black-on-black crime.
Never mind that the term “black-on-black crime” is a dangerous one that presents black people as pathologically violent and criminal more than any other race.
All crime is intraracial. Whites are more likely to kill whites. Hispanics are more likely to kill Hispanics. Asians the same. But only black people are seemingly held to this standard of having to explain why their violence is inherently different than others.
Black people are the only group that has to keep the conversation going about black violence to prove we’re humane. We’re always talking about, concerned about, trying to do something about black violence. There isn’t a day that goes by I don’t hear or read comments from someone lamenting over what’s going to be done about all the shootings and killings.
But people view things through their own prism, I guess.
In the middle of a rant regarding the recent death of 28-year-old Sandra Bland Friday morning, comedian and morning talk show host Rickey Smiley also made mention of black-on-black crime.
Just think about that for a second. Even in the face of injustice, black people still feel the need to simultaneously chastise themselves about their shortcomings.
Do we ever hear or read about law enforcement doing something similar after a citizen is harmed by their might?
“I know everyone at the police department is upset that Officer Harris was killed last night during a shootout with a robber, but when are we going to stop killing unharmed black people?”
That would never happen. Law enforcement doubles down. The state gets tone deaf to the issues that create the outcry. When pushed, those in power would only admit their failures through gritted teeth.
It is easy for Smith and others to dismiss the Black Lives Matter movement and shift the focus elsewhere because confronting racial disparities is too hard for them.