This started out as a comment on Fidrych’s excellent piece “If Anyone Says ‘All Lives Matter,’ They Are a Cockroach” but once the length eclipsed the article itself, a separate post seemed like it was probably a good idea. It’s a long one, folks.
I’ll start by saying I’m reluctant to weigh in on BLM-related issues because I just don’t think it’s my place. It’s a very large movement, one with sub-factions that would encourage my support, and others not as embracing. That’s fine. It is not my right to dictate my involvement in a movement that combats problems I am lucky not to have. Instead I will listen openly to those who do have that right so my opinion can be shaped and repeated to others.
My concern with Tom’s piece, and to a lesser extent, Fidrych’s piece, and heck, BLM at large, is they all cater to people that understand the problem. All 3 speak to “likely Democrat voters,” people already willing to click on an article that starts with “when you say ALM...” But that’s in no way reflective of the general populous of “possible voters in 2016".
Look at the average Facebook feed. It’s populated with “You won’t believe this Latte Art”, “F5 Tornado!!! Incredible!!” and “The 10 minute cupcake recipe you’ll want to make every weeknight”. There’s outliers toward “SHAREA LAW WILL DESTROY TEH USA” as much as “why Hilary supporting $12 minimum wage isn’t enough.” We’re (almost) all on one extreme of the political spectrum, like it or not. Courting us certainly isn’t energy wasted, but at times it seems like energy expended elsewhere.
“How we got here” is an area where I disagree with Fidrych. Yes, #ALM was a racist retort to #BLM, but I’m not convinced “overt racists” is representative of the majority of people. They’re not all cops and mechanics just like they’re not all teachers and lawyers. Instead the biggest subsection of “possible voters in 2016" are maintenance managers, stay at home parents, insurance salesmen, etc. The average exposure to politics is minimal, often deliberately, and that’s fine. That bears repeating: the average exposure to politics is minimal, often deliberately. I think progressives are prone to misjudge the extent that politics and social ideology are consulted on a deliberate basis in every reaction from every person at all times. Related: the refusal by progressives to acknowledge ignorance as a factor in that emotional response process is a convenient denial that takes a difficult issue to solve and makes it impossible.
The enormous aggregate of people is heavily skewed by literally millions of purveyors of the aforementioned Facebook feeds much more than the couple thousand Curt Schillings. So like Tom, I think that “ALM’s” aggregate use is a misguided attempt at inclusiveness. People subconsciously get an emotional response from the concept of inclusiveness. Moreover, I think the ignorant have minimal awareness of the specific issues raised by Tom, because that is the literal definition of ignorance. It is easy enough to misappropriate the actual intention of #ALM without thinking; “all” is readily agreeable and the majority of people want to be agreeable. Perhaps this is the opposite of “convenience racism” - “convenience inclusiveness.” But in any case, I don’t think those people think about it enough, I don’t think they realize that they need to, and like Tom, I think that actual racists relied on this when it started out.
To wit: if you had a white, suburban, middle class, blue-ish state upbringing as so many of us did, I am sure you can identify a relative who could conceivably agree with the offhand statement “all lives matter,” but from your relationship you wouldn’t identify them as “actually” racist. Maybe it’s your own mother bless her heart. Are awareness politics at the forefront of her thought process? Does she think she’s a racist? That’s ignorance. Mix that all up in a big bowl: is she going to click a link on her Facebook timeline about “what you’re saying when you say ALM...” and keep reading when it says she’s propagating racism, either out of anger or a misguided belief it can’t apply to her because “she’s not racist”?
This is the shortcoming of education that Tom is looking for, it relies on the assumption that these people 1) realize they’re ignorant (see: adj. - “ignorant”), 2) are willing to be called racists to comprehend that, and 3) have the attention span for a serious discussion that doesn’t directly impact them and starts with “Actually,”. These people are more numerous than we accept yet they are the ones that decide popular opinion between drunkles and libtards. They are the policy drivers.
There’s a second part of this, one that’s been on my mind over the course of the last week or so. It doesn’t act as contradiction to Fidrych’s piece but does dovetail to some of the perceived observations I mentioned.
It bears reiterating that this is not my battle to fight, and I don’t have a seat at this table. So it’s more of a question, and I hope one that’s recognized for its honesty so if there is ignorance on my part it can be rectified with discourse. If that answer comes from someone who’s lived with the issues surrounding the movement, all the better.
I recognize BLM is under no obligation to alter their message, and climates of tolerance should exist so the message they’re trying to convey is met with open minds. The “controversy” and aforementioned ignorance that continue to surround the specific phrase “Black Lives Matter” shouldn’t exist, but with two explainers posted on the same day it seems that things aren’t universally that far along. That’s obviously bullshit, but here we are.
So my question is, at what point is the noise associated with explaining the inoffensiveness of the platform greater than the signal conveyed through the platform itself? And if things are approaching that level, what are the reasons for not getting ahead of the seemingly inevitable conversation by using, say, #BlackLivesMatterToo?
To elaborate: I see possible reasons why people wouldn’t want to make this change (more on that in a second) – but I can’t help but think the current approach focused on education isn’t working, perhaps because relying on those 3 major assumptions as fact isn’t working. The change would combat this by baking the message of ignorance directly into the phrase inseparably, but crucially, without judgement. The ridiculous notion of “reverse racism” would also be totally stripped out, and I think the phrase more accurately conveys the message of inclusiveness more than “ALM”. If the propagation of BLM/ALM as awareness platforms is about communicative reach, addressing those issues would seem to further that very small, immediate goal so that larger ones could be broached.
This is far from an original thought, I’m sure. I recognize if it was that easy, it would have been done by now. And in fact, I am confident there are reasons it hasn’t been done, I just don’t know what they are. I would think there’s a possibly it’s due to a belief that changing the message could be scored as a loss, that ALM forced their hand. I get that perspective. Alternately it could be another unwanted conformance within a power structure that’s existed for hundreds of years. I get that too. But I don’t think that needs to be the case, as I don’t think such a change would be viewed in direct response to ALM or societal standards as much as simply affording the supposition of ignorance - without malice or judgement - while accepting and embracing a means to inform on the smallest scale.
I am sure I’m wrong, and much like other areas of the movement, I’m sure there are elements of this that I don’t understand - possibly because I can’t understand them. And I hope if you know the answers you’ll inform me.
The key takeaway here is ignorance is a literal lack of awareness. That’s all it is. I think progressives need to better appreciate the delta between ignorant/oblivious and ignorant/malicious on a litany of issues, not the least of which is BLM. It is not anyone’s place to judge ignorance; we are all ignorant to specific sources when it comes to the lack of awareness of others (e.g., public schools in certain areas). Obvious cases of animus are not issues of ignorance as much as racism and hate. But every discrete opportunity to give ignorant people a hint of awareness should be taken advantage of.
I don’t pretend my opinion is static, so I too welcome discourse in the comments.
notsomethingstructural (aka @nss_ds) is an amateur listicle purveyor and the author of “The 25 Best Hip Hop Albums of All Time”. He co-authored the record-setting #WorstSongBracket and is terrible at Twitter.