Why don't Black Lives Matter supporters care about Black-on-Black Violence?
Updated: Sep 23, 2020
There's a familiar refrain that keeps coming up in discussions surrounding Black Lives Matter that goes something like this:
"If 'Black Lives Matter' why don't you protest when Black people kill each other every day? Black on Black violence kills way more Black people than Police do."
"If 'Black Lives Matter' why don't you care about [Black child killed by gun violence in major city]? I don't see [child's name] on any signs at the protests."
"If 'Black Lives Matter' why don't you care about the countless Black babies that are aborted each year?"
The very short answer to these questions is, we do care. We actually care a lot. There's a shock factor at play here however that's spurring action in response to a particular cause of death, and this type of selective reaction isn't abnormal.
No analogy is perfect but I'm going to attempt to use one here to illustrate...
Top 5 Leading Causes of Death in the United States (2017):
Heart disease: 647,457
Accidents (unintentional injuries): 169,936
Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 160,201
Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 146,383
Terrorism does not feature among the top causes of death in the United States. ~3000 people died on 9/11, the single most devastating terrorist attack in modern times.
Rightfully we focus our attention and energy towards fighting against Terrorism. Never again will we let a 9/11 style attack hit US soil. This is the correct stance to take against Terrorism.
Additionally, we as a country come together in the wake of Terrorist violence, and in a unified voice we declare; Never Forget, Never Again! This is the correct attitude to have regarding Terrorism.
It is worth asking however, in the context of our conversation, why do we handle death via Terrorism so differently? Why don't we have the same universal resolve to combat Heart Disease, Cancer, or any of the other causes of death that kill exponentially more people than Terrorism does annually?
The answer is, not all causes of death are created equal when it comes to society's reaction to them. How somebody dies changes the public's reaction to that death.
I personally drive a great deal for work. My job, because I spend so much time on the road, is #6 on the list of deadliest jobs in America (driver/sales workers and truck drivers). If I die in a car accident one day it will not be shocking. I would be mourned by my wife and children...hopefully...but I wouldn't expect it to make the national news.
If however a Terrorist kills me with a rocket as I'm driving down the street, that would be a different story. That would make national and even international headlines. There would be public outcry. We may go to war against whichever organization the Terrorist belonged to.
Does that make some death matter less than other death? No, death is death, it matters the same to the family and friends of the one who died. We as a society however react to things differently based on the cause of death.
This is the premise for the rest of this conversation, so if you can't agree with me to this point none of my arguments below will resonate with you.
Why don't we react the same way to Heart Disease, Cancer or Accidents as we do to Terrorism?
I'm sure there are countless books written on this subject, none of them written by me. I am not an expert in psychology.
My best guess however would be that it has to do with how we compartmentalize things in our mind.
Heart Disease, Cancer, a car accident; these are all things that are everyday risks. They are a natural part of life. Car accidents are an assumed risk you take when you decide to drive anywhere. Heart disease happens because you eat foods for years that you probably shouldn't eat and/or you drew the short straw on that genetic trait. Cancer happens because you could never kick the smoking habit, you never wore sunscreen, an unlucky break, etc.
These are all causes of death that occur in the normal course of the average American life. They're incredibly sad, but not wholly unexpected.
Terrorism on the other hand is an abrupt shattering of the norm. It's a cause of death that the average American would not reasonably expect to have happen to them.
How does this all relate to Black Lives Matter not actually caring about Black lives?
There's an incredibly sad reality at play here. It's assumed, regardless of race or geography, that if you densely pack poor people together with very little opportunity to better their circumstances, that scenario is going to result in crime and death. That scenario is going to result in more violent crime. That scenario is going to result in an increased abortion rate as mothers are more likely to view their unborn children's future as bleak. That scenario is going to result in innocent bystanders getting killed.
It doesn't mean their death matters any less, it doesn't mean that we shouldn't be devastated every time it happens, they matter and we are devastated. The point I'm trying to make is that society's reaction to these events is different because it's assumed to be a normal outcome under those circumstances.
Mothers who have lost children to gang violence don't think their child's death matters any less. I don't think the lives lost to abortion matter any less. It's just that none of it is shocking. To expect a different outcome is a folly.
On the other hand Law Enforcement is a paid, trained group of individuals whos most important job is to protect human life. We as a society believe these brave men and women are heroes, that they're here to take care of us, to come to our aid in our most frightening moments.
When a Police officer instead takes human life when they don't absolutely need to, brings that fear to a community instead of alleviating it, it is a breaking of the societal contract, an abrupt shattering of the norm.
When this happens people take to the streets to focus our attention and energy towards fighting against Police Brutality. In a unified voice we declare; Never Forget, Never Again!
We care about all deaths in the community, there's simply a difference in how we react to police brutality because it's categorized differently by human nature.
Additionally, I personally lean on the fact that solutions to the problem of police brutality align with solutions to these other problems as well. Properly solving for one is actually solving for many of the others.
If you'd like to know how I believe we can start to solve for not only the Police Brutality issue, but all the issues encompassed in this piece, I've drawn up my ideas here: https://www.practicallylibertarian.com/post/blm-solutions
The point of this piece is not to argue the merits of whether or not officers are acting appropriately in specific instances, if you'd like my thoughts on that you can find them here: https://www.practicallylibertarian.com/post/why-black-men-are-policed-differently
The point of this piece is not to argue the merits of whether or not poor people have the ability to overcome their situation. Some of my thoughts on that subject can be found here: https://www.practicallylibertarian.com/post/wtf-is-redlining-and-why-do-we-keep-bringing-it-up
The point of this piece is not to argue the merits of how BLM supporters protest. My general thoughts on that can be found here: https://www.practicallylibertarian.com/post/peaceful-protests
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