Whose Lives Matter?

by | Sep 12, 2020


To say that “Black Lives Matter” has been in the news of late would be the understatement of the year, if not the decade. Maybe, even the century. This phrase is on everyone’s lips, on front yard signs, placards, billboards and even, in very large letters, on the streets of not just a few cities. It is the rare newspaper that appears without commenting upon this phrase each and every day.

In order to make sense of this phenomenon, let us consider a few distinctions.

First, there is the plain old ordinary declarative phrase “black lives matter.” Of course they do. Only the most hateful, despicable people would deny this; would say instead that black lives do not matter. Had this phrase been prevalent before the July 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in February 2012 when it became popularized, it would have been met by all men of good will with the ho hum response of, “Of course black lives matter. All lives matter, and black lives are part of all lives.” End of story. No problem here.

But in the aftermath of that event, buttressed into the stratosphere with the death of George Floyd, a second interpretation of BLM came into being. Here, it might be defined as black lives matter especially, and particularly, since they are amongst the most vulnerable groups in the country, and, likely, in the entire world. No problem here, either. BLM is eminently sensible in this regard, too. In my view, the main reason for this sad state of affairs is not police brutality focused disproportionately on that community. The evidence suggests, rather, that the reason for their more than proportionate death at the hands of the constabularies is the greater proportionate crime rate of African Americans.

Instead, the immediate cause for their plight is black on black murders. That accounts for the lion’s share of African American deaths. If the people concerned with needless black deaths (everyone should be) really wanted to stop them, or, at least, greatly reduce their incidence, they would focus not on cops killing them, but, rather, on members of this community murdering each other. But they do not. Instead, they concern themselves, almost totally, with black people shot by law enforcement agencies. Witness the concern of members of the National Basketball Association.

What are the causal elements in black on black homicide? There are myriad of them, including family breakup due to a princely welfare system, drug prohibition featuring turf fights, and minimum wage laws which lead to unemployment, all disproportionately affecting young black males, the main perpetrators and victims of this conflagration.

Then, third, there is the undisputed fact that the official BLM is a Marxist organization (don’t believe me? go look at their webpage), which advocates the elimination of capitalism, and its replacement with the economic system that has served so well in Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela, the USSR, Eastern Europe, China (before they embraced large swathes of free enterprise). Under this system we can only say that black lives, along with those of everyone else, will not fare too well.

A fourth definition of BLM is that only black lives matter. How do we know that? This is due to the fact that there are various instances, inside academia and without, in which people who have averred that All Lives Matter only to be fired, condemned, ostracized, etc. A similar treatment is meted out, perhaps even worse, to those who maintain that White Lives Matter, or Blue (police) Lives matter, or, even Babies Lives Matter (a new motto of the anti abortionists). Why? This is due to the claim that all these copycat lives matter maxims dilute from BLM in this fourth and eminently reasonable interpretation, namely that black people lives are more endangered than those of anyone else, and thus deserve special consideration.

We have two criticisms to offer against that defense.

First, we ask, if all lives do not matter, which are the ones that are not precious? Those of whites? Asians? To say this of course is to drive right off the moral track. If there is anyone who maintains that some lives do not matter (I abstract here, from mass murderers such as Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, etc.), he is as wicked as those who say that black lives do not matter in the slightest. Logic teaches us that the whole is equal to the sum of the parts. Black people are “part” of the human race. Thus, if all lives matter, they are certainly included.

Second, this dilution business. Black leaders such as Frederick Douglass and suffragists such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were for a long time allies (both wanted access to the vote), and even friends. But then the “dilution” charge came up. Each accused the other of undermining the case of the other. Their split weakened the prospects of both. The BLM in this good fourth sense ought to learn a lesson from history if they want to boost their chances for success. All lives matter, certainly including those of African Americans.

From a logical standpoint, saying you agree with point A and then asserting that point B is also correct (so long the two are not self contradictory) does not necessarily mean that the message about point A become less important or meaningful. Besides, since when has “message dilution” become a fireable offense?

I want a cure for cancer. Should I be upset at those who at the same time want to remedy Covid, heart disease, diabetes, poverty, alcoholism? Should I try to get them fired? Should I hurl denigration at them? Obviously, that would be more than just a little bit silly. But this is precisely what the “dilution” criticism amounts to.

Background material:



BLM web page: https://blacklivesmatter.com/


  • Walter E. Block

    Walter Edward Block is an American economist and anarcho-capitalist theorist who holds the Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Endowed Chair in Economics at the J. A. Butt School of Business at Loyola University New Orleans.

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