Source: Time Magazine
Dear presidential candidates:
With the first anniversary of the killing of Michael Brown this weekend, America needs to know how the tumultuous events of the last year have affected your stance regarding the needs of the black community. In order for African Americans to determine this, please select one of the following that best defines your current philosophy: a) Black Lives Matter, b) Black Votes Matter, c) Black Entertainers and Athletes Matter, d) All of the Above, e) None of the Above.
If you chose anything other than “a,” you probably don’t deserve any votes—black, brown, or white. You might get votes by default of being less bad than the alternatives, but getting votes that way isn’t much of an endorsement of your leadership abilities. And making things better for African Americans in a substantial and meaningful way in this country is going to require an outstanding leader.
In ancient Greece, a touchstone was a dark stone, such as slate, used to determine the purity of gold ore. Today, the phrase “Black Lives Matter” has become a political touchstone in determining the basic qualities of a leader: courage, vision, and intelligence.
Courage is required in order to speak out in support of “Black Lives Matter.” So many Americans misunderstand the meaning of the phrase that there’s an outraged backlash against it. The popular misinterpretation, encouraged by some politicians seems to be that by saying “Black Lives Matter,” African Americans are seeking special attention. In fact, it’s the opposite. They are seeking their fair share of opportunities without receiving the “special attention” of being profiled, arrested, imprisoned, or killed.
Many of you candidates—including the only black candidate, Ben Carson—have used the more mundane phrase, “All Lives Matters,” which appeases racism deniers. This is cowardly because it completely ignores the problem and panders to the least politically informed constituency. Americans are used to candidates competing to see who can best ingratiate themselves to the demands of reclusive billionaire backers and fringe groups, but this goes too far.
Most Americans are already in agreement that all life matters—it’s just that blacks want to make sure that they are included in that category of “all,” which so many studies prove is not the case. In the future, think of “Black Lives Matter” as a simplified version of “We Would Like to Create a Country in Which Black Lives Matter as Much as White Lives in Terms of Physical Safety, Education, Job Opportunities, Criminal Prosecution, and Political Power.”
Studies prove that the education system is biased in favor of white students: A 2014 U.S. Education Department survey concluded that students of color in public schools are punished more and receive less access to experienced teachers than white students. This leads to lower academic performance for minorities, putting them at greater risk of dropping out of school. Minorities are also on the short end of the job market: Unemployment among blacks is about double that among whites. One study found that job applicants with black-sounding names received 50% fewer callbacks than those with white-sounding names.
More important is the legitimate fear black people have for their lives. The killing of unarmed black men, women, and children at the hands of police this past year has been well documented in the press. We continue to see more names added to the list. A recently revealed video shows police shooting to death Jonathan Ferrell, who knocked at a nearby house for help after a car accident in 2013. The phrase “Black Lives Matter” isn’t just a metaphor; it’s a call for awareness of the literal danger to one’s physical body merely by being black in America. A danger that whites don’t share.