No ifs, ands or buts about 'Black Lives Matter'

I am enamored of the movement's unwillingess to cede their firm stance on justice

Opinion

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By Arlene Jones

Contributor

There is power in the word "and." It is a conjunction used to connect clauses or sentences. In the world of entertainment, it is about who gets the top billing. If you're Jay Z and Beyonce, it doesn't matter if people say Beyonce and Jay Z. But if you're a superstar like Will Smith and you're making the movie Bad Boys 3, you will not see Martin Lawrence's name on the same line nor the same size as Will's name. In truth, you could replace Martin Lawrence with an unknown actor and the movie will still draw a crowd because of the star Will Smith.

Following the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the "Black Lives Matter" movement sprang forth. It is an acknowledgement regarding encounters with the police that our lives matter so that we might survive the experience. It is so serious that at a recent event, Martin O'Malley, former governor of Maryland and presidential hopeful, commented that not only did "Black Lives Matter" but "All Lives Mattered." He was quickly taken to task over that comment to the point that he had to later issue an apology.

Maze Jackson is a political strategist who has made asking the question: "What's in it for the black people?" his political mantra. So when people in power seek his opinion, that is the first thing out of his mouth. It should also be the first question out of black folks' mouths when anything is proposed in this city, county or state. It is a position akin to the "Black Lives Matter" movement in that the concern is solely and accurately focused on issues involving black people.

Former alderman Dorothy Tillman, when she was in office, kept the question of parity for black folks at the forefront. She rightly took a stance seeking the empowerment of black people. From contracts with the city to employment to whatever was going on, hers was the voice of concern about our plight, and yet black people kicked her out of office and not a single other black alderman has taken up her quest, preferring instead to go along with the okey-doke.

So what does "and" have to do with all of this? It is the propensity of years of indoctrination that has black folks always now commenting on every plight that we are the primary recipient of the "black and whomever" label. We have had a number of highly suspect police shootings and black folks have been talking about "black and Hispanic" as if the phenomenon is a 50-50 proposition. It isn't now, nor has it ever been. Truth be told, if it weren't for George Zimmerman having his father's last name, he is the embodiment of the "Hispanic" phenotype. Brian Encinia, the cop who arrested Sandra Bland is Hispanic. Dante Servin, the Chicago police officer who got off on a technicality for shooting an unregistered gun, wildly and blindly, into a crowd of black people and killing Rekia Boyd, is Hispanic.

I could go on, but my rant is not about Hispanics. It's about looking at the basics of our condition being so freely shared by including others when the reality is that they are doing fine without our help. The recent graduating class out of the police academy only had two black people in the class. How does that happen? It happens because far too many of us don't focus on what is happening to black people — period.

That is why I am so enamored of the "Black Lives Matter" movement's unwillingness to allow their stance to be absconded by having it diluted with the message "All Lives Matter." We know all lives matter. But what is important to emphasize within the "all" is that the focus be on black lives.

The same can be said for Maze Jackson's stance regarding what is happening to us here in Illinois. If black folks have to pay for everything we get, although we don't get everything we pay for, the least we can do is make sure up front that we are aware of how and where it will benefit us — as opposed to blindly going along to get along. 

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