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”?
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”.