Parentwise: The BLM debate

  • The Peterborough Unitarian Church's Black Lives Matter Banner was stolen Saturday, May 21, 2016. (Priscilla Morrill / Ledger-Transcript)

Tuesday, June 07, 2016 7:15AM

The Black Lives Matter banner hanging on a local church, as well as its theft, has provoked both support and outrage in our community. As with any revolution, there are those for and those against, and it will be that way until the cause of the revolution is no longer an issue.

Black Lives Matter (blacklivesmatter.com) is a movement established in 2012 after Trayvon Martin’s alleged killer, George Zimmerman, was acquitted. This killing provoked an angry retaliatory response to the anti-black racism that still flourishes in our society.

Saying that Black Lives Matter is racist and anti-police is ignoring the point and sticking our proverbial heads in the sand. Since the time that Africans were brought to this country, black lives have not mattered in comparison to whites. As slaves, their lives mattered not at all. Since then, they have mattered more and more but we profess ignorance if we claim we have reached equality.

Of course all lives matter, but does that mean we shouldn’t fundraise for cancer victims, that we shouldn’t provide services for the homeless, for victims of child abuse and molestation? Should we ignore all the Catholic priests who for decades molested youth and were given no more than a hand slap, if that, by the church because there are many good priests? Do we not have a right to be outraged? When African Americans are incarcerated six times more often than whites, when young black males were nine times more likely than other Americans to be killed by police officers tallying 1,134 deaths in 2015 alone, when one in every 65 deaths of young black males in the U.S. is killed by a police officer (Guardian study), and the officer who killed Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old carrying a toy gun was cleared by a grand jury, somebody better take notice.

Black males between the ages of 15 and 34, make up 2 percent of the population of the United States, yet make up more than 15 percent of all police-involved deaths—5 times higher than for white males the same age. If this were happening to Jews or Asians or Spanish, don’t you think they would be justifiably up in arms too? Those who say this is an anti-police crusade are glossing over the disproportionate number of deaths of innocent black victims. The anger is evoked from the helplessness and hopelessness of the black community after decades of hard-fought work done in our country to rid us of racism.

Of course the majority of police officers are wonderfully dedicated men and women who are passionate about protecting the American people regardless of race, religion, gender, or socio-economic status.

The majority see all of us as people worthy of protection. That does not mean that those who are quicker with their trigger finger pointed at a black man should not be held accountable. Saying that the Black Lives Matter movement sends a wrong message comes from a defensive position and, I’m guessing, a unanimously white one. For 400 years our society has said black lives don’t matter. The BLM movement is saying is that black lives matter, too.

How many of us white people can truly say that we would trade our lives for the life of an African American? How many of us have experienced envy for the life of any African American, no matter how rich or famous? We do not see African Americans the same way we see white people and that is what Black Lives Matter is angry about.

My hope is that our children appreciate the focus our nation is putting on African Americans, women, same sex marriages, and transgenders—the equality causes of our time—so that none of these is an issue in their generation, so that they are fighting the causes of their day and bringing up their own children to believe in righting the wrongs of society. Without these causes, movements, and revolutions we would stagnate and sink into the mire of ignorant complacency.

Bonnie Harris is a parent educator, counselor, and author of “When Your Kids Push Your Buttons” and “Confident Parents, Remarkable Kids: 8 Principles for Raising Kids You’ll Love to Live With.” She founded The Parent Guidance Center in Peterborough, now The River Center.