Adam Smith

Naked Politics Blogger

The civil rights movement today in America floats on very dangerous waters.

I can still remember the first time I was shown a video of Martin Luther King JR’s ‘I have a dream speech’ in primary school. To this day it is an example, not only of an excellent speech, but of a movement with a clear purpose. There is no doubt that the civil rights movement of the 1960s had a huge influence in making the rights of the American citizen apply to ‘Negros’ and therefore shaping the America we know today. However we must acknowledge that it is not by chance that this movement succeeded. It succeeded because segregation was a clear issue, in fact written in law. In other words it was the biggest danger to a black man or woman’s dignity in living.

Fast forward to the present and American news networks are covering the return of a new civil rights movement, one that seems hungrier than ever before to deliver social justice. Of course this is the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement which finds its origins, most notably, in the wake of the Trayvon Martin killing by George Zimmerman in 2012. Since then it has protested a number of incidents involving members of the American police force shooting ‘unarmed’ black citizens, for example the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

I have watched enough news to know that typically if you invite a member of ‘Black lives Matter’ onto your cable news show, they will stand there and give you a lot of statistics about how black people are unfairly targeted by the police, declare that it’s an outrage, and call for the resignation of certain police chiefs before they call it a day.

Here’s the thing: ‘Black Lives Matter’ is very quick to point the finger at the police or the government when a white police officer shoots a black citizen. However I have not witnessed one news interview in which there is any discussion about what these black citizens were doing before they were shot, or as to why they were shot. Of course I am not saying that killing people is to be considered lightly in any way, but it is interesting to consider some of the more pressing facts. Of the estimated 23 protested police shootings of black citizens from 2010-2015, 15 involved situations in which the ‘victim’ was stealing, threatening and abusing members of the public, waving guns in the air or running at police officers with weapons.


To be fair, there are still incidents which are more obviously wrong on the part of the police, such as the death of Eric Garner in New York from a chokehold, after he was found to be selling tax free cigarettes (the City of New York paid $5.9m to the Garner family, and rightly so). But how can Black Lives Matter protest the death of Meagan Hockaday who ran at police with a knife, following a domestic abuse report? How can Black Lives Matter Protest the death of Antonio Martin who pulled a gun on police officers after he was found to be shoplifting? The lines seemed to have been blurred between protesting genuine offences committed by the police force and protesting every time a white police officer kills a black citizen. Given the history of the civil rights movement and its power to speak on racial discrimination, this is clearly a manipulation of race politics and a disgrace to the Luther King era.

If Black Lives Matter wants to be the true champion of civil rights in the 21st century it should learn from the 1960s and find the biggest danger to black lives. Nowadays we can’t really say that there is segregation anymore, so that can’t be public enemy number one. No, the biggest danger to black lives is gun crime, more specifically gun crime in cities like Chicago and St Louis. Since last week there have been 21* homicides in the city of Chicago, 309* homicides since the start of this year. A person is shot every 3* hours and is killed every 17* hours. Here’s the worst part, 78%* of the victims are black and 68%* of the assailants are black. In a nutshell until ‘Black Lives Matters’ wants to admit the biggest threat to black lives and try to fix or address it, it cannot be taken seriously. The problem is that the police, who risk their lives and do a lot of good work in communities all over America, are vilified.

Black Lives Matters is right when it speaks out on legitimate ‘police brutality’ but the homicide rates in Chicago alone vastly outweigh the national average for unarmed black citizen shootings.

Black Lives Matters might have a point (precisely because all lives matter), but honesty is required to realise that the ‘bad cops’ are going to be of huge aid in combatting the ghetto gang culture, which is undeniably the biggest danger to black lives.

(*Statistics from 2014 Chicago Crime & Murder Stats, 2015 Stats)


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Last Update: April 29, 2018