John Seven: 'All Lives Matter' is code for 'Stay in your place'
NORTH ADAMS — With the horrible shootings last week, both civilian and police, racial tensions again erupt in our country — or, more to the point, shift into plain sight of those of us fortunate enough to not have to live with them.
As usual, what follows consists of misunderstandings of statistics about police shootings of white people, the defiant assurance from some whites that not just black lives matter and concern for police lives as a deflection of concern for minority ones.
Being raised southern, I have plenty experience with white people believing black people have gotten too uppity.
Southern racism in the post civil rights era featured white people who had no real problem with black people as long as they understood their place.
White people could have perfectly genial conversations with black people, even live as neighbors, but that largely hinged on the ability of the black person to keep smiling, keep being friendly, and entirely refraining from any complaints of daily racism.
I remember as a kid my grandmother and mother talking about how Martin Luther King came to Savannah and "stirred up all the n----s," how he just caused problems.
The attitude was "everyone says he's a hero, well let me tell you" because marches happened in their city, daily lives were disrupted and it was hard to cross the street.
The black citizens were all right as long as they kept their mouths shut. Sure, they were slaves, but we freed them, right? What's the problem?
Sometimes, just being black was enough for white people to claim blacks were trying to reach above their station. I remember one mixed race family who began to attend our church and caused anger among the elderly racists like I had never seen before, certain that the family were only there to "stir things up" and not to worship.
Every time I hear someone defiantly counter with "all lives matter," it sends a chill down my spine, because it takes me back to that world of the south 40 years ago.
A current and continual racist deflection states that Black Lives Matters should address black on black crime if they want to be taken seriously. What an asinine statement. The black community has addressed black on black crime for decades.
They aren't silent, not with their advocacy and intervention, social work, educational efforts, outreach, efforts to curb gang involvement and fight drug use, work to end poverty. White society has made sure that black society spends a lot of time addressing black on black crime, but is often too deaf to hear.
It drives me nuts when I think about behavior from 40 years ago and see it mirrored in people today. I thought back then that maybe we would be past it. Some of us have evolved, and some of us show signs that they might be.
Strangely Newt Gingrich, one of the most loathsome hypocrites around, has done so and just stopped short of saying he agrees with Black Lives Matter, so there's hope.
Saying "all lives matter" is a coded response, expressing to black citizens to stay in their place. It's a deceptively feel-good phrase always said in opposition to "Black Lives Matter." It's devised to remind black folks to stop being uppity, stop trying to stir things up.
It's meant to express that we don't want to listen to complaints. It's to weigh your personal inconvenience over historical hate. It's another way to tell black folks to calm down, and the more you tell them that, the less likely they will.
I hope they don't calm down; I hope they keep fighting to be heard, because black lives do matter and they always have.
Contact John Seven at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @damnjohnseven. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.
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