As we face another round of fatal encounters between the minority population and officers of the law (as well as now the reality and threat of reprisals), once again Black Lives Matter is being thrust into the center of our attention, as well as the criticism against it.
One popular criticism I’ve been hearing lately has been to the effect of, “I’ll take Black Lives Matter seriously when it addresses black on black crime.”
On the surface, it sounds like a valid critique of the Black Lives Matter movement. After all, if black people really cared about their lives in relation to society, shouldn’t they be focusing on their own first? But once you really think about it… you realize that it is, in fact, a non-sequitur argument, and one that can be dismissed without merit.
Black Lives Matter, like most movements and organizations, focus on a specific issue or handful of related issues. In this case specifically, the social degradation and violence towards people of color by law enforcement in the United States. Civil crime and violence within the “black community” is not and never has been a matter of focus within the movement.
To say you won’t take Black Lives Matter seriously until they focus on black on black crime is like saying you won’t take Doctors without Borders seriously until they focus on cancer research. Or saying you won’t take the World Wildlife Fund seriously until they focus on stray animal populations. Or that you refuse to consider the American Solar Energy Society legitimate until they put their time and energy into building wind turbines.
Saying any of those things would be categorically absurd, because there’s no reason to expect those organizations or initiatives to step outside their matter of awareness, even if the others issues are tangentially related to their area of expertise.
The criticism further falls flat because it’s not like Black Lives Matter would be filling a void currently unfilled. There are in fact several organizations that emphasize crime within the black community, and a good ten second Google search would prove that. Like the Black Family Initiative or the aptly named “Preventing Crime in the Black Community”, or even in more general, the National Center for the Victims of Crime.
So, when you hear this criticism in the future, it does not deserve consideration. It is a deflection. An attempt to dismiss legitimate concerns to sustain the status quo. It’s not even so much that these people don’t think black lives matter. It’s that they don’t think black lives matter enough to challenge the familiar society they embrace.