Vernon Jordan, a former advisor to President Bill Clinton, once said this on an HBO miniseries called “The Black List,”:
“There’s a definition of Black America but no definition of white America. We are just as mixed up in views and needs, aspirations, as any other group of people. It's never been monolithic.There's always been a difference of opinion, a difference of approach. And that's healthy."
I’m all for debate in most cases. However, when that debate steps into something that has a history of paternal behavior, I have to step in.
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith made headlines on Tuesday when he took to Twitter to chastise people for booing Democratic presidential candidate and former Democratic Governor of Maryland Martin O’Malley for saying “all lives matter” during a speech he was giving. Smith said:
Smith later realized that his comments weren’t going to sit well when he tried to clean them up. However, he took a page out of the conservative playbook:
“I have to say this, I guess rhetorically. to my brothers and sisters, because I am a black man," Smith said. "Where’s the noise about black lives matter when black folks are killing black folks? That’s where you lose me. So a presidential candidate, who isn’t black, happens to stand up and says, ‘All lives matter.’ Hillary Clinton who may probably get the Democratic nomination, says ‘All lives matter’ and she has to come back and retract. So we mandate that they say, ‘Black lives matter,’ but we’ve got black folks dying at the hands of black folks in this country, and we’re not hearing that. At least, we hadn’t been hearing that. Don’t get me started on the murders in Chicago.”
The movement has pushed athletes to get involved, like LeBron James and Derrick Rose. Even college football has been exposed, as Ohios State's national champion quarterback Cardale Jones has jumped into the discussion for something way more important than a date with Ronda Rousey.
#AllLivesMatter 😰 why is it that the only ones getting beaten, killed when unarmed, & mysteriously dien in custody are African American— Cardale Jones (@CJ12_) July 23, 2015
Retweet if you agree with me #BlackLivesMatter— Cardale Jones (@CJ12_) July 23, 2015
#BlackLivesMatter, a movement that has eclipsed the Occupy Movement by leaps and bounds, isn’t saying that no other groups matter, it’s just they want people to recognize that the lives of black people matter just as much as everyone else.
Smith’s comments are in lockstep with everyone out there who believes the movement is nothing more than a passing fad.
Let’s be real about #BlueLivesMatter and #AllLivesMatter. It’s a tad bit disingenuous in terms of the timing. We didn’t see those hashtags until #BlackLivesMatter picked up steam.
Of course, the lives of the police officers are important. I’m the nephew of a captain and a lieutenant in the Chicago Police Department. Just because I ask questions about police brutality doesn’t mean I hate cops. That’s one hell of a stretch for someone to make.
Whether people like Stephen A. and Jason Whitlock are aware of it or not, they have become attack dogs for the right-wing. The people who have wanted to say these things, now have the go ahead.
They’ve gotten the green light to say: “Smith/Whitlock are black, so it’s not racist.”
Next, they ask questions like “Why are they tearing up their neighborhoods?” and “Why can’t they get jobs?” along with my favorite, “Why can’t they listen to the police?”
Some in the black community often look at people like Smith and Whitlock as Uncle Tom's, no word any black person wants to be associated with.
I often err on the side of caution when using that word.
Even though I don’t agree with most of what they say, both of them have made poignant comments on the lack of black sportswriters in mainstream media and how black athletes are often portrayed by the writers who cover them.
Think about the media folks who've shamed Smith and Whitlock recently? Ask them how many writers of color and and how many women they have at their places of work?
Due to the polarizing stances Smith and Whitlock have taken, they have stumbled into the realm of Respectability Politics that tells African-Americans to self-police their communities and deal with their own problems.
Most importantly, to make themselves less threatening to White America.
That premise is all about conditioning. It tells us that we can be whomever we want as long as we don’t make someone cringe.
I often spar with conservatives on Twitter about the polarizing topics of the day. I won’t indict the whole group, but when I see their bio it usually says ‘Tea Party,” “Patriot,” and “#BlueLivesMatter.”
I know what they are going to say. In some cases, it feels like they are reading from flash cards.
When discussing the latest incidents in alleged police brutality whether it happens in Ferguson, Baltimore, New York City or Chicago,their favorite retort is: “What about the violence in Chicago?"
In terms of my city, Chicago, black on black crime is a highly contested premise that is often thrown around like a political football. The violence happens on certain blocks, in certain neighborhoods, by certain people.
As soon as I step out of my home, I am not afraid for my life. Not all of us are spending the whole day shooting each other.
Stephen A., you’re a journalist by trade. You know better than to make such a closed-minded, dog whistle, blanket statement. Maybe Smith ought to look into where the term came from.
Warner Saunders, a Chicago journalist, wrote a 1970 story about violence in the black community. When he went to get background on his story, he caught up with a neighborhood man named “Fast Willie.” He asked him why he committed acts of violence in the black community.
According to Saunders, Fast Willie said, “We go where the business is and where the man ain’t looking. Can you see me going up to Deerfield (an affluent, white suburb north of Chicago), black as I am, trying to do a stick up? The man would be on me so fast I'd barely be able to complete my sentence "Give me your...." Out here the man is too busy whooping them Panthers and giving tickets to mess with me. Any way, he don’t care if niggers get ripped off. But you can bet he’s watching his ‘thang’ back in his own ‘hood.’”
Fast Willie figured early on the that police, along with elected officials, were going to virtually ignore what goes on in the community. History backs up his claims.
At any rate, these conversations need to happen more often. People aren’t as open and honest as they should be when pressed on an issue.
Sometimes, uncomfortable conversations need to happen in order for our country to move forward.