Leonard Pitts, Jr. “… it’s about treating where it hurts”

Leonard Pitts, Jr. has something to say about #BlackLivesMatter:

This is a column about three words of moral cowardice:

“All lives matter.”

Those words have risen as a kind of counter to “Black lives matter,” the movement that coalesced in response to recent killings and woundings of unarmed African Americans by assailants — usually police officers — who often go unpunished. Mike Huckabee raised that counter-cry last week, telling CNN, “When I hear people scream ‘black lives matter,’ I’m thinking, of course, they do. But all lives matter. It’s not that any life matters more than another.”

As if that were not bad enough, the former Arkansas governor and would-be president upped the ante by adding that Martin Luther King would be “appalled by the notion that we’re elevating some lives above others.”

“Elevating some lives.” Lord, have mercy.

Pitts goes on to point out that when you are getting treated for an obvious injury, you don’t talk about the un-injured parts of your body – “it’s about treating where it hurts” – in this case the obvious gaping wound in our society created when law enforcement treats black bodies differently than white bodies.

And on the co-opting of Dr. King (certainly not Dr. King’s message, just his name) by the right-wing:

And as for Dr. King: I cringe at his name being invoked by yet another conservative who has apparently never heard or read anything King said with the possible exception of the last few minutes of the I Have A Dream speech. No one with the slightest comprehension of what King fought for could seriously contend he would be “appalled” at a campaign geared to the suffering of African-American people.

What’s this? Facts??!!?? Don’t sully the beautiful minds of the conservatives with FACTS!!1!

In his book Why We Can’t Wait, King answered complaints that we shouldn’t be doing something special for “the Negro” by noting, “our society has been doing something special against the Negro for hundreds of years.” Does that sound like someone who’d be “appalled” by “Black lives matter”?

(Emphasis mine)

When you rewrite history, it is easy to airbrush away the parts that are uncomfortable reminders.

To treat where it hurts, one must first acknowledge that it still hurts, something conservatives often find hard to do because it gives the lie to their self-congratulatory balloon juice about how this country has overcome its founding sin.

Pitts concludes by sharing his feelings about the importance of recognizing our common humanity:

“… the most inspiring sight to come out of Charleston following the racial massacre there was not the lowering of the Confederate battle flag, welcome as that was. Rather, it was a march through town by a mostly white crowd chanting, “Black lives matter! Black lives matter!”

To see those white sisters and brothers adopt that cry was a soul-filling reminder that at least some of us still realize we all have access — connection — to each other’s pain and joy by simple virtue of the fact that we all are human.

We are all human and we share in both the pain and the responsibility to make sure that we “treat where it hurts”.




  1. It is cowardice to use the words “All lives matter” and to hide behind the cherry-picked words of Dr. King. These words, from Why We Can’t Wait, once more for emphasis:

    King answered complaints that we shouldn’t be doing something special for “the Negro” by noting, “our society has been doing something special against the Negro for hundreds of years.”

    • Invoking the name of Dr. King is the ultimate “Some of my best friends are black” bulldung … it is used as a cloaking device for the worst sorts of bigotry and intolerance.

      Dr. King would be appalled at the current crop of christianists turning a blind eye to the misery of people who are homeless, sick, and hungry and a political party whose standard bearers are embracing white supremacy as a path to power.

    • He is one of the columnists that our local paper prints (along with some hideous right-wingers). I always enjoy reading his take on things.

  2. To my shame I didn’t understand this until Denise explained it (actually was ranting about it when somebody else said, but I got the point) – but once I got it, I think I got it good. And I’ve been explaining it to good-hearted but gormless white people like myself ever since. Can’t take a lot of credit – I’m not out marching or anything, but anyone coming into the Sociology and Criminal Justice office expressing “all lives matter” sentiments gets the (polite – I do wish to keep my job for a bit longer) earful.

    Basically I am very grateful for Dee and Jan and everybody else who educates me on race. Since I’ve always been lower income, never did anything (that I know of) in disrespect regarding people of color, and actually lost jobs in my younger years defending Civil Rights, frequently also in my younger years was the only white person in the department where I worked, I truly did not get “white privilege” until I came to the Moose Pond. I probably don’t totally get it yet. But I’m trying. Thank you.

    • I am certainly no expert but I try really hard to “get it”. That is why I posted this piece from Leonard Pitts: whenever I find a really good explanation that helps me understand the meaning of #BlackLivesMatter, I want to both share it and check myself.

      It is interesting because I went looking for photos or video for what Pitts lauded as the marchers in Charleston; all I could find with my Googles was the Unity March … which was not about #BlackLivesMatter. While is was very moving and was honoring the lives of the black people who were slaughtered in the church it was not the same thing and actually that is part of what leads to the confusion. Yes, the lives of black people matter, including those gunned down by white supremacists, but Black Lives Matter is specifically about law enforcement shooting and killing with impunity. So I had to really dig to find out that they had a march earlier in the day. From the caption:

      “Demonstrators in the ‘March for Black Lives’ march through the streets after passing the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina June 20, 2015 three days after the mass shooting.”

      Event Description: March for Black Lives – The march will not only honor Wednesday night’s victims, but will also commemorate those lost in police shootings over the past year, including Charleston’s own Walter Scott. The group will meet at Wragg Mall, leave a flower at the memorial at Emanuel AME and then walk a mile in solidarity.

      The important thing is to say their names, like that description said the name of “Walter Scott” and find a way to force those responsible for officially sanctioned killings to make changes to their institutions.

      • Probably couldn’t get more graphic without showing blood (using the body parts example). Good one.

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