Daily Press Staff – The Black Lives Matter movement is noble in purpose, and anyone who truly understands the history of this country would agree. Though sometimes it quietly bides its time in the seamy underbelly, racism is alive and well in America, and any peaceful attempt to enlighten and overcome should be encouraged.
Yet many Americans still don’t understand why striving to realize Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream is necessary. That’s evident in the way some folks reflexively respond with “All lives matter,” or that “blue lives matter,” in defense of police officers who have – perhaps subconsciously – targeted Blacks to the extent that lives are lost.
Of course, all lives matter. By extension, the lives of those sworn to “protect and serve” matter, too. But that’s beside the point – and admittedly, the point is subtle and difficult to explain. The hypocrisy that forces an attempt is also pervasive. If “all lives matter,” why are some people so ardently supportive of the death penalty? Why do the lives of frightened, pregnant teenage girls matter less than those of the embryos they’re carrying?
It’s fruitless to respond to a plea for justice with a defensive posture, but that’s typical today. When criticism is leveled at President Trump, inevitably, someone brings up Hillary Clinton’s emails or hollers “Benghazi!” It should go without saying that two wrongs don’t make a right, and one “right” shouldn’t have to be trumped (no pun intended) by another presumed “right.”
One way to explain why Black Lives Matter can and should stand alone is to consider a group of firefighters heading out to a house blaze. Every house in the neighborhood matters, but at the moment, this is the one on fire, so it needs immediate attention. Later, if the other houses are in danger, the firefighters will deal with them. Simply put, a spotlight needs to be shined on the fact that “Black lives matter,” because as far as a disturbing number of people are concerned, they don’t. And at the moment, certain law enforcement authorities seem the most the indifferent to the worth of those lives. Good cops – and there are many, especially in this area – know that, and aren’t afraid to speak out against their offending brethren. And good journalists afraid to criticize their sensationalizing or biased peers.
This segues into a discussion on why newspapers are capitalizing “Black” when it refers to people, but not “white.” The Associated Press sets the guidelines for journalistic style, and John Daniszewski, vice president for standards, says the decision was made because of “strong historical and cultural commonalities” among Black people – which includes the “shared experience” of discrimination based on skin color. As Daniszewski put it, whites in general don’t share history and culture, or discrimination based on skin tone. He adds that although they’ve been subjected to injustices, capitalizing “white” would play into the hands of those who do it for nefarious reasons: white supremacists. Irish immigrants to America were targeted because they were Irish, not because they were white. Italians, too, were demeaned, but it was because they hailed from Italy – and the “mob” association continues to hold sway. It’s also true, however, that Italians who went through Ellis Island were put in the same category as those from Africa.
AP challenges journalists to avoid generalizations and labels; to be sensitive to race and ethnicity; and to strive for precision and accuracy, as well as diversity in coverage. People angered by these righteous goals should examine their own consciences, and ask whether bigotry underlies the rage.
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