Why it’s ok to say ‘All Lives Matter’

Don’t freak out or get pissed off, but the much maligned retort to the statement, ‘Black Lives Matter,’ can be used to propel the conversation forward instead of inflaming it. At it’s core, ‘all lives matter,’ tries to negate the focus of Black Lives Matter, which is that Black people are disproportionately affected by police abuse, but ultimately, it’s an umbrella term that suggests that the protection of everyone is integral. Ok, here’s the push: don’t make it about the words, make it about the issue. If someone says, ‘all lives matter’, then that means they agree that all citizens should be assured that a routine interaction with a police officer should be without intimidation, risk of harm or death. That means they agree that individuals should have reasonable expectation that a traffic stop will not turn fatal. It should also mean that they agree that police brutality exists, that it’s wrong and that reform is necessary. Why? Because we know there are lives affected by police brutality and since all lives matter, there can be no dissension about solving the problem.

So when Trump responds to a question about how Black people die at the hands of law enforcement with, ‘so do White people,’ the reply is, ‘so what are we going to do about it?’ Even if people question the circumstances under which citizens are killed by officers (they shouldn’t have resisted/run), ask them to study up on Tennessee v. Garner that states, ‘the use of deadly force to prevent the escape of all felony suspects, whatever the circumstances, is constitutionally unreasonable. It is not better that all felony suspects die than that they escape. Where the suspect poses no immediate threat to the officer and no threat to others, the harm resulting from failing to apprehend him does not justify the use of deadly force to do so.’ And this decision was regarding unarmed alleged felons. Would not the same logic apply to unarmed civilians who aren’t suspected of any crime?

Those who stay on the ‘all lives matter’ bandwagon, are presumably aware that issues of police abuse don’t just happen during the arrest or pursuit of alleged felons, but they can happen while cooperating, while pulling up to a gas station, while eating a sandwich on a train platform or walking a dog off a leash. Two individuals in the videos are identified as having disabilities. ‘All Lives Matter’ means we care about injustices especially when they happen to our most vulnerable populations.

‘All Lives Matter’ means that it’s important for police officers to be better trained in handling individuals with mental health problems or who are under the influence because being troubled or drunk shouldn’t cost you your life. It also means there’s support for alleviating police of certain duties that might be better handled by social workers or unarmed personnel so as not to overburdened an already stretched resource.

When people have no problem saying, ‘all lives,’ it means that everyone deserves equal protection under the law and that protection should be preserved and defended at all costs. Instances of inequity in this regard should be stamped out without hesitation.

When you can say ‘all lives matter,’ it quite simply means you don’t want to say ‘Black lives matter’, but what won’t be said will, without a doubt, one day be seen.

Ways to Hurt the Cause, #1

Truth by Omission

Felicity Huffman’s 14-day sentence for mail fraud and honest services mail fraud resurfaced the story of Tanya McDowell. (Honest services mail fraud, as laid out in the United States v. Gray, states that an employee has an obligation to their employer to provide honest services, and actions which impede upon this, like a bribe, is a type of fraud, thanks Wikipedia!) 

Back in 2011, McDowell was charged with first degree larceny for enrolling her son in a school in an area she did not live. She was sentenced to five years in prison and five years probation and, if the memes are to be believed, this is unfair in light of Huffman’s seemingly lenient sentence for bribing an exam proctor.

Inequity in education is an important issue that needs to be addressed, but what hurts this cause is the exclusion of the fact that McDowell was also charged with selling narcotics to undercover officers and that both the drug case and the larceny case sentences were combined per the plea bargain. Her attorney even stated that he attempted to split the cases up but, ‘…prosecutors and the judge would not split the cases up. He said she was facing much more than 15 years in jail if he took all the cases to trial.‘ So the five year sentence was not strictly for the school case. Based on the article, it’s easy enough to decipher, but even the usually reliable Snopes got it wrong, changing the rating on it’s own article about McDowell’s sentence from ‘mixture of truth’ to ‘true’.

In Huffman’s case, to level the scales, her daughter should be removed from the school, but in McDowell’s case, what’s the solution? The answer is worthy of discussion and shouldn’t be muddied with false martyrs and misappropriated news stories.

 

 

For Trayvon Martin, Justice served?

I can’t say I’m surprised or disappointed by the verdict (which is sad). Trayvon Martin joins what seems to be an endless list of black men murdered on suspicion: Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Kimani Gray, Kendrec McDade, Ramarley Graham…

Graham’s case was an interesting one; the officer gave chase, breaking down the door to his home, following him into the bathroom, shooting him dead. The lack of search warrant and a weapon (on Graham), as well as security footage presented the opportunity to charge the officer with, at the very least, unlawful entry. Officer Haste ended up being charged with manslaughter only to have the indictment ┬átossed out by the judge on a technicality. Prosecution of an officer is rare. Rarer still is a trial and although George Zimmerman is no police officer, the fact that this charge was brought before a judge and jury is a small victory. In the cases mentioned above, only two (Bell and Diallo) went to trial (all officers were acquitted in each case).

The only reason Trayvon Martin’s story went beyond the typical news cycle was because of the public outcry and grassroots efforts to have Zimmerman prosecuted. The next step is to galvanize support for the repeal of the various ‘Stand Your Ground’ laws in this country. The maxim that an individual has no duty to retreat from a place where he is lawfully allowed to be, encourages ‘shoot first’ logic and the inconsistent application of the law provides justification to those who have malicious intent (and no witnesses).