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BLACK Lives Especially

August 9, 2015

At this moment, and for the foreseeable future, it is intensely important that special attention be given to protecting the lives of black Americans, and especially unarmed black men, because those lives are under special attack, especially by racist cops and the public officials who aid and abet their viciousness.

Racists are giving the impression that maybe black lives don’t matter, and we must not allow that impression to stand.  Black Lives Matter to us.  And we insist upon it.  Say it.

Senator Bernie Sanders, currently my first pick for President, came to my town last Saturday, for three appearances. The first was an outdoor rally that drew probably 1000 people, mostly white folks (the second was a fund raiser, and the third was a rally that drew 15,000, the most by anybody except Barack Obama—hey, it’s a liberal town); but before he could give his speech at the first, members of Black Lives Matter took over the mic, and he had to leave without speaking. This was not the first or only use of that tactic by Black Lives Matter. So, what do we think of that tactic?

There’s no question but what Bernie, as President, would be a champion of the oppressed. He began his political life, when he was in college in Chicago, with an action to protest discrimination in college housing, and he has consistently worked for civil rights ever since. His speech would have been one that Black Lives Matter would approve.

[Update 8/10:  Bernie publishes plan to combat racial inequality, speaks to it at huge Portland rally, includes commemoration of death of Michael Brown.  Some BLM praise, and a lot of dialogue going on.]

However, I remember that during the Civil Rights Movement of the ‘60s there were frequent disagreements among liberals about the relationship between the tactics used by black protesters and the tactics preferred by white activists (and I’m talking about totally nonviolent tactics and actions by all). Sometimes white activists worry that black activists will be too active—too in-your-face challenging of the white majority, alienating too many white folks, weakening the ability of white political leaders to get the job done. And that debate goes back before the ‘60s.

White folks in America are accustomed to setting the agenda, and that applies to white liberals.

Well the urgent job today is not just about creating a political revolution, as Senator Sanders proposes; there are moments such as the present, when the very change that all liberals want, in the area of racism (and it can be sexism and classism—just wait) sparks such a violent reaction by racists that black lives come under particularly heavy assault, and must be relieved with special attention to their immediate needs.

And this is not the first time that we’ve seen that situation, either. We saw it in 1860, and again at the termination of Reconstruction, and again in the 1920s and the 1960s. It’s a sign of progress (currently, especially the presence of a black family in the White House), and it is a sign of the desperation, viciousness, and violence of the racists. That violence must be met with especially clear actions that show that it will not be tolerated.

Democracy cannot tolerate lethal violence on the part of its police and corrupt politicians. And I’m talking about the democracy that makes it possible for a Democratic Socialist (of Jewish heritage, no less), or a woman, or the son of Cuban immigrants, to campaign for the Presidency of the United States.

Bernie Sanders has a better civil rights record than mine, he knows more about politics and winning campaigns that I do; but I know that all liberal candidates for any public office deserve our votes only if they can tirelessly speak out to the American people, saying specifically that black lives matter to humanity and America as much as any lives, and they must not come under assault.

If it takes commandeering the mic to get that attention, make that point, and get that job done, then let’s get it done.

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  1. DO All Lives Matter? ALL?? | tomkoontz

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