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Hendrik van der Breggen
June 07, 2020
Various thoughts about recent race-related protests and riots
affordable housing development (189 units under construction) in flames due to
riots, May 27, 2020. Photo credit: Mark Vancleave, Star Tribune
By Hendrik van
June 7, 2020
Various thoughts about recent
race-related protests and riots
others, I’ve been thinking about the recent race-related protests and riots. I
definitely don’t have all the answers. Nevertheless, here are a few of my
thoughts, which I hope will be helpful.
1. I think a
distinction should be made between (1) black lives matter (the claim) and (2)
Black Lives Matter (the organization). The first is a moral claim/judgement
that's true and with which we should all agree 100%, whereas the second is an
organization that holds various ideological tenets about which reasonable
people can respectfully disagree.
2. There is an
ambiguity in the phrase “Black Lives Matter” (when capital letters are used):
it can mean (1) the general BLM protest movement that seeks merely to ensure
that black lives matter just as much as white lives, or it can mean (2) the BLM
organization that has an ideological agenda. Many in the general BLM protest
movement do not support or perhaps are not aware of the ideology of the BLM
organization. This ambiguity should be kept in mind, because one's support for
BLM in the first sense as a good moral principle may inadvertently be
misunderstood as favouring the second ideology-laced sense (which some, myself
included, see as problematic).
I am reminded of
the ambiguity of “Planned Parenthood”: planning parenthood (via savings,
preparing a child-friendly home) versus getting rid of unplanned children (via
abortion by an organization that sells babies’ body parts). Under the banner of
“Planned Parenthood,” one’s support for the first meaning may be misunderstood
as support for the latter. (For more of my thoughts on Planned Parenthood, see
my column “Planned
Parenthood is a Scam.” More importantly, since we’re thinking about racism,
see this article: “Former
Planned Parenthood board member: Defund this ‘racist’ organization.”)
3. About the
phrases “all lives matter” and “black lives matter”:
I think that
sometimes people (myself included) have unintentionally caused misunderstanding
with the use of these phrases. When some folks (myself included) say “all lives
matter” they intend to agree that black lives matter and wish to show support
to the cause (broadly speaking) that black lives matter. I think they intend to
say (in shortened form) what my friend and former colleague Daryl Climenhaga says
so well: “black lives matter because all lives matter—and black lives are
currently under greatest threat.” But the last part gets lost, unwittingly.
One of my nieces
shared a post recently, which is helpful:
my spouse comes to me in obvious pain and asks “Do you love me?”, an answer of “I
love everyone” would be truthful, but also hurtful and cruel in the moment. If
a co-worker comes to me upset and says “My father just died,” a response of “Everyone’s
parents die,” would be truthful, but hurtful and cruel in the moment. So when a
friend speaks up in a time of obvious pain and hurt and says “Black lives
matter,” a response of “All lives matter,” is truthful. But it’s hurtful and
cruel in the moment.
Several of my
other FB friends shared the following recently, which is also helpful:
father was waiting there with a big sign: #ProdigalSonsMatter
the older brother saw it, he was angry, wouldn’t attend the party, and moped
around with his own sign: #AllSonsMatter
“Dude. It’s not about you right now.”
So, those of us
who have used (merely) the phrase “all lives matter” should stand corrected.
Some nuance would be helpful.
But I would also
add that maybe those who have used (merely) the phrase “black lives matter”
could also have added some nuance, such as “black lives matter, too.” I believe
that’s what’s intended, but clarity helps.
The murder of
innocent life is wrong—terribly, terribly wrong. Rioting, looting, causing the
suffering of innocents by destroying their livelihoods may be less wrong—but they
are wrong, too. Deeply wrong. It’s terribly, terribly wrong to murder someone,
AND it’s deeply wrong to hurt innocents.
and peaceful political action, as difficult and slow as they may be, are the
way forward. This was the way of Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil rights
movement of the 1960s (see the movie Selma);
this was the way of William Wilberforce in the abolition of the slave trade
(see the movie Amazing Grace); and this was—and is—the way (for the
most part) of the pro-life movement (read the story of Mary Wagner, a peaceful protester who has been in
prison many years and whose life will, no doubt, inspire many). Also, International
Justice Mission (a bunch
of lawyers) engages in peaceful legal action via courts to help oppressed
looting, causing the suffering of innocents by destroying their livelihoods, and
the killing of innocents—these taken as a justified response to a wrong is to
fall prey to the reasoning that two wrongs make a right, which is a textbook
fallacy of logic. It’s also dangerous. If the faulty logic is accepted, then another
wrong can be justified to make the latest wrong right, and so on.
5. Related to the
above point, I saw a Facebook post in which the poster justified the recent
riots and destruction by claiming that sometimes it’s okay to destroy so we can
Okay, but as long as you only destroy your own house or business—or you don’t
mind others destroying them to further their cause. I’m pretty sure the
Facebook poster didn’t think about the implications of her view.
doublemindedness is clearly seen in the now-famous hypocrisy of former NBC
reporter Chris Martin Palmer. When rioters had put to flame an
under-construction affordable housing project in Minneapolis (see photo above),
Palmer tweeted, “Burn that s**t down. Burn it all down.” But later, when the
rioters were getting close to his home,
Palmer tweeted, “They just attacked our sister community down the street. It’s
a gated community and they tried to climb the gates. They [police] had to beat
them back. Then [the rioters] destroyed a Starbucks and are now in front of my
building. Get these animals TF out of my neighborhood. Go back to where you
6. Is it true
that more blacks than whites are being killed by white police or are otherwise
more likely to be recipients of police violence? Well, yes and no.
premise [that more blacks than whites are being killed by white police] isn’t
true. … According to the FBI’s latest homicide statistics, I’m 11 times more
likely to be killed by someone of my own
brown complexion than a white person. Also, a comprehensive 2019 study
concluded: “White officers are not more likely to shoot minority civilians than
non-White officers.” Every loss of life is tragic, but Washington Post’s
database on police-involved deaths puts things into further context. In 2020,
among those killed were (all males): 2 Native Americans, 9 Asians, 46
Hispanics, 76 blacks, 149 unlabeled individuals and 149 whites (whose deaths
don’t get reported by national mainstream media). Only nine black individuals
were actually unarmed.
2015, the Minneapolis police have documented using force about 11,500 times.
For at least 6,650 acts of force, the subject of that force was black.
comparison, the police have used force about 2,750 times against white people,
who make up about 60 percent of the population.
of that means that the police in Minneapolis used force against black people at
a rate at least seven times that of white people during the past five years.
It seems that a
case-by-case/ region-by-region assessment is needed, and thus region-specific
adjustments and reforms might also be needed. I recommend further study and
7. The fact
remains that there are race-related
tensions and concerns and injustices. (For other examples, see here
these tensions and concerns and injustices, even if it requires protests. But
let’s also keep in mind that a just peace can best be served through careful
truth-seeking coupled with actions in which we show gentleness and respect to
those with whom we disagree—and to all others.
And, if our
protests end up requiring civil disobedience to change an unjust law, let’s
keep in mind these words from Martin Luther King, Jr., from his Letter from Birmingham Jail:
who breaks an unjust law must do it openly, lovingly … and with a willingness
to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that
conscience tells him is unjust, and willingly accepts the penalty by staying in
jail to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in
reality expressing the very highest respect for law.
A lawful, just
society is important for the well-being of all of us. In a just society, we
show respect to others when we also treat the laws that govern us with respect—even
as we seek to change unjust laws.
I hope the above
thoughts about recent race-related protests and riots are helpful. As I
mentioned, I don’t have all the answers. No doubt much more thinking needs to
occur, much more needs to be said, and much more needs to be done. I pray that
we would do our best to walk together in wisdom, truth, and love. May God help
us. For additional thought: