Black Lives Matter? What Does Matter?

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By: Larry Williams

Since we were babes, we have been told, don’t talk about certain things in public, mainly religion and politics. Well, we will refrain from the former, except to say there is a rule of the first mention or contextual method which states if you want to know the meaning of something then go back to the first time it was mentioned. This thinking also applies to biblical truths or political philosophy.

In this season of debates and elections, to decide who will be our local, state and national leaders, as well as, de facto, leader of the free world, it would be prudent if we reviewed the messy and often ugly process of making “a more perfect union.” In fact, the United States Constitution has been ratified 27 times along the way to achieve our current form of democracy.

We should also remind ourselves of the triumphant struggles of many great abolitionists, civil rights leaders, contemporary advocates and community organizers, who also helped shape the U.S. Constitution and make democracy work for those originally excluded from the minds of the framers.

I am particularly reminded of Frederick Douglass’ speech in 1857, entitled, ‘If there is no struggle there is no progress’. In the midst of that speech is the mantra of those struggling and sacrificing for a better life, when he said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” This same demand led to the emancipation of a race of people, less than a decade later, in America.

One aspect in the quest for full access to the American dream is that there needs to be a strategy. While there are those (leaders) who must sit around the table and discuss the demands of the struggle for equality and liberty, there must also be those standing watch outside the gate, who are willing and able to pay a sacrificial price for the children yet unborn. As Douglass put it, “Men may not get all they pay for in this world, but they must certainly pay for all they get”. He includes several examples of men who sacrificed for the cause of freedom and didn’t live to see the fruits of their labor, from Joseph Cinque on the deck of the Amistad to Nat Turner, who led an insurrection in Southampton, VA. As hard as it is to sum things up this way, it is true: the fear of force as much as the eloquence of speech leads to changing the political will.

So, as much as I know Black Lives Matter, the question will arise in the minds of some to say, what does it matter? This is where you have to open a strategic hole so wide that your grandchild can crawl through it.

BLACK EDUCATION MATTERS. It matters that every child gets a first rate education. This often means the triangulation of teacher, parent, and student working together towards the same goals and objectives. That is, preparing each student with the prerequisite knowledge and skills for a college education en route to a 21st-century career, while bypassing all the malaise of contemporary culture.

BLACK DISCIPLINE MATTERS. It matters that we eliminate the school to prison pipeline. According to the Children Defense Fund, national statistics show strong disparities in discipline based on race and disabilities. This is to suggest that a zero tolerance policy is terrible policy, coupled with the zealous use of suspensions and expulsions, as a quick means of correcting improper behavior.

BLACK JUSTICE MATTERS. There needs to be sweeping reform of our criminal justice system, in which most of the criminals are people of color, who have committed non-violent crimes, such as possession of marijuana. Many others are physically and/or mentally destitute and just need a helping hand or guidance from the village and the courts, they have done very little to accommodate either. Further, it is a common fact that the number of violent crimes is down over the past two decades, and yet prison populations continue to grow. Some would argue, these same individuals would be more beneficial to society with an employable skill than to be incarcerated and later released with $50 to make a new start. This is an adverse cost to taxpayers, as well.

BLACK ENVIRONMENTS MATTER.  Healthy People 2020 list objectives that detect and prevent death, disease, and disabilities in air, water, and soil quality. It also references homes in our communities being free of hazardous waste and toxins; this includes lead in paint, water, and on playgrounds.

BLACK VOTES MATTER. We as a voting bloc are not large enough to win an election; however, we are the margin of victory in most elections. According to the Brookings Institute, it was determined that the Presidential victories in 2008 and 2012 were generally because of the minority turnout and particularly because of the Black vote. Thus, the same can be said of 2010 and 2014, when Republicans gained and maintained control of U.S. Congress. Therefore, the winner of the 2016 Presidential election will be whoever gets the Black vote by the largest margin. It matters not (really it does) whether you vote Democrat, Republican, or Independent, what matters more is that your interests are being represented and protected, and that should be the candidate who gets your vote.

BLACK UNITY MATTERS. It is true, without vision the people perish. Additionally, the oldest strategy in warfare is: divide and conquer. Therefore, we must have collective leadership that expresses the will of the people. This should include accountable benchmarks that benefit our local communities and national unity. We must demand a great education for our children, safe communities to live in, environments free of hazards, government employment, and contracts that represent a fair share of tax dollars being recycled and spent by taxpaying people of color. Criminal justice reform must happen, now!

Also, we must demand Black health, Black wealth and Black love from ourselves. Above all else, these matter the most.

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