That’s the tipping point for Ethics Alarms. “Black Lives Matter” is unethical, and those who use it are unethical. And politicians who grovel to those who criticize them for not embracing it are contemptible.
The Martin O’Malley embarrassment over the weekend clinched it for me. Demonstrators interrupted the former Maryland governor, mounting a pathetic campaign against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, as he was speaking at the Netroots Nation conference. When they shouted, “Black lives matter!” a rallying cry of protests that has superseded “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!” because that one was eventually exposed as a lie, O’Malley—the naive, racist fool!!!!— responded: “Black lives matter. White lives matter. All lives matter.”
The activists responded by jeering him and refusing to let him speak. .Later in the day, O’Malley, “showing the firm commitment to leadership in the face of adversity that we expect in a presidential candidate,” as one wag put it on Jonathan Turley’s blog—apologized, saying…
“I meant no disrespect. That was a mistake on my part and I meant no disrespect. I did not mean to be insensitive in any way or communicate that I did not understand the tremendous passion, commitment and feeling and depth of feeling that all of us should be attaching to this issue.”
I bent over backwards to defend Smith College President Kathleen McCartney when she apologized for using the phrase “all lives matter” in December of 2014. I wrote:
If an activist says to me, “too many children go to bed hungry!” and my retort is, “Too many people go to bed hungry!”, the unspoken argument is “So stop acting like children are a special problem!” If I say, “We need peace in Syria,” and a friend’s response is “We need to end war, period!”, I view that as an effort to minimize my concerns by launching it from the realm of a specific issue into vague, generic territory. “Black Lives Matter!” in the context of recent police episodes where African Americans died under circumstances that many believe show police callousness and excessive force against blacks is a distinct assertion that suggests that the law enforcement and justice systems do not currently function as if black lives matter as much as white lives. It is true that “All Lives Matter” includes the larger subset “black lives matter”; it is also true that it blurs the issue at hand, and dilutes the protesters’ point. It is not inappropriate for President McCartney to apologize in this context…unless, of course, she intended a rebuttal, in which case she is indeed spineless.
I still believe that made sense in December, but “Black Lives Matter” means something very different now, after six police officers were charged with murder to quell a Baltimore mob after Freddie Gray’s death, and after President Obama decided that the merciless shooting of a young white woman in San Francisco by an illegal immigrant wasn’t worthy of the same attention he has given other deaths when it was a black life that had been lost.
Now “Black Lives Matter” means and is intended to mean that black lives should matter more than white lives, since whites are responsible for the ills of Black America. “Black Lives Matter” makes the demand that police officers shouldn’t try to arrest resisting black suspects, or defend themselves when threatened by them. It means that the law will work differently when a black individual is killed by a police officer, and that the rules of probable cause, due process and reasonable doubt will be suspended to ensure “justice”—for African Americans. If that means wrongly destroying the careers and lives of white police officers, well, too bad. They don’t matter.
I defended Smith’s president because it was obvious that she was completely aligned with the students she had offended, who were—wrongly, like her—citing the deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner as examples of black men marked for death by brutal police officers. I defended her because she really wasn’t aware that “all lives matter” was then being used by those who wanted to demean the genuine and valid concerns of the African American community that police forces were excessively callous and violent when black suspects were involved. O’Malley, however, wasn’t speaking at an anti-police brutality rally, and is not running for President of Africa-America. He must believe that black and white lives are equal in value, and that the same standards of law and ethics should apply to both in exactly the same manner.
No candidate for the Presidency should apologize for saying “Black lives matter. White lives matter. All lives matter,” nor should any speaker, anywhere, ever, apologize to a crowd that employs the “heckler’s veto” to silence him or her. Someone once said of Hubert Humphrey that he was a decent man who, by the manner of his seeking the Presidency proved himself unworthy of it. That description now applies to Martin O’Malley as well.
“Black Lives Matter” is no longer worthy of respect, if it ever was. It is divisive and racially prejudiced on its face: res ipsa loquitur. Those using it continue to attach the phrase to the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, meaning that it is now code for wearing protest hoodies and shouting “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!”
It is a simple-minded bumper-sticker, hashtag phrase that avoids the complexities of a complex issue by reducing it to three words and pretending that this is all that needs to be said to win a debate. “Black Lives Matter” is the “Better Red Than Dead” of 2015; it is another “Bush Lied And People Died”: misleading, simplistic and lazy. “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!” was a lie; “Black Lives Matter” is deceit: in the context in which it is used, it is a statement of fact that is meant to suggest that in the United States, black lives don’t matter to whites, to the government, to policy-makers, the courts and, of course, police.
Any presidential candidate who panders to the so-called African-American base by endorsing this divisive and dishonest slogan and worse, apologizing for saying and believing that all lives matter is unworthy of the office.