WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO SAY
“BLACK LIVES MATTER”?
Branding is a key component in any promotional effort. A powerful combination of words can make all the difference in how a product, service, or movement is perceived by the public. The right name sets the terms of discussion.
This truth has been amply demonstrated by Planned Parenthood, a name adopted in 1942 by the Birth Control Federation of America. Founded three years earlier by eugenics advocate, Margaret Sanger, BCFA actively championed artificial contraception, which at the time, was resisted, even condemned, by virtually every Christian denomination.
Switching to “Planned Parenthood” was an inspired stroke, permitting the organization to present itself as an advocate of enlightened, ethical choice. Who could object to responsible planning, particularly in an area of such basic concern as bringing children into the world?
That name remains an essential part of the organization’s benign representation of itself as a provider of services to improve “woman’s health.” It’s even helped give moral cover to the many churches and church-related organizations that now support and work with Planned Parenthood, the world’s leading abortion mill (especially active in minority communities).
Similar verbal power is on display in the phrase, “Black Lives Matter.” I have no idea who came up with that name, but they surely earned their salary.
That the lives of Black people do matter is morally indisputable — so much so that just uttering the phrase “Black Lives Matter” sets the terms of all discussion about it. This is of enormous benefit to the movement that goes by the name “Black Lives Matter.”
To question any actions or policies of the movement is to risk the accusation that you don’t believe the lives of Black people really do matter. Your opinion is nullified, no matter how sympathetic to Black people you might be.
This has the effect of insulating the BLM movement from criticism, and limiting consideration of other points of view. In particular, it discredits the obvious alternative proposition:
“Well sure, I agree that Black lives matter. But in the end, all lives matter, don’t they?”
Any attempt to acknowledge the value of all lives makes you appear to be ignoring the particular circumstances out of which the “Black Lives Matter” idea originated. You come off looking, not inclusive, but oblivious.
It’s a brilliant piece of verbal jiu-jitsu. And it definitely proves that words matter.
After the protests and rioting that followed the death of George Floyd, virtually every major corporation in the country has proclaimed “Black Lives Matter” (even though some have been scrutinized for reliance on exploited, even slave, labor used by overseas suppliers). Most nonprofit organizations have also gotten on board.
It makes no difference how many of those statements are endorsements of the BLM movement, as opposed to being simple acknowledgements that the lives of Black people are important and worthy of protection. The phrase “Black Lives Matter” is what gets heard, so the movement benefits, regardless.
And right now, the movement is on a roll.
The National Football League has dropped its opposition to kneeling protests against the American flag and national anthem. Colin Kaepernick is on the fast track to NFL reinstatement. NASCAR has forbidden display of the Confederate flag.
Cities all over are feeling pressure to defund their police departments. In Washington, House Democrat leaders have donned Kente cloth stoles to kneel in solidarity with anti-police protests. Streets have been renamed, and painted with supportive messages.
As all of this unfolds, there are plenty of good reasons for having reservations about the “Black Lives Matter” movement (as with its activist partner, Antifa). BLM’s agenda goes well beyond reforming law enforcement, or even asserting the importance of Black lives.
It includes the LGBT alphabet soup, along with promoting undocumented immigration, and other items on the progressive wish list. And that agenda is being advanced by strong-arm tactics that are becoming more and more overt.
Across the country people have lost their jobs for opposing, or even just failing to give active support, to BLM.
Seattle, once one of the nation’s most livable cities, has given birth to the Capital Hill Autonomous Zone, a fully armed experiment in civil insurrection and free-form, urban street theater.
In the media realm, advertisers have pulled out of Tucker Carlson’s Fox News program to protest his criticism of the movement. HBO has stopped streaming the classic Civil War romance, “Gone With the Wind,” because of the film’s depiction of slavery. Looney Tunes character Elmer Fudd has had his beloved shotgun confiscated.
And, to add an even more extreme tragic-comic touch, White liberals are doing penance for alleged complicity in “systemic racism.” They’re going about as slaves wearing chains, kissing the feet of BLM leaders, and performing other acts of guilt-soaked self-abasement.
Both Christian charity and social concord urge us to acknowledge that the lives of Black people indeed are important and worthy of protection — which is what the phrase “Black Lives Matter” supposedly conveys.
The question is, however, how do we say this without falling into a verbal bind that makes it impossible to have a productive discussion about any issue touching on race?
Perhaps we need a nationwide campaign to replace the phrase “Black Lives Matter” with a new slogan, one that promotes racial brotherhood without acquiescing in the lockstep ideology of the BLM movement.
I don’t know what the precise words might be, but all suggestions are welcome. Maybe we can start a movement of our own.
Meanwhile, the next time you hear the phrase, “Black Lives Matter,” think carefully about what those using it actually mean. Is it an expression of genuine concern, or is it a linguistic trap?
We must counter the assumption that if you don’t buy into the “Black Lives Matter” movement, you don’t care about Black lives. It’s not true, it never was, and it never will be.
Words matter. But in the end, people matter even more.
The verbal trap inherent in the phrase “Black Lives Matter” is only part of the atmosphere of thought regulation which has taken hold of the nation in recent years. Commentator Andrew Sullivan examined this phenomenon recently…
“It’s very reminiscent of totalitarian states where you have to compete to broadcast your fealty to the cause. In these past two weeks, if you didn’t put up on Instagram or Facebook some kind of slogan or symbol displaying your wokeness, you were instantly suspect.”
Check out his observations at New York Magazine…
Joshua Mitchell, professor of Government at Georgetown University, views the condition of America after the George Floyd death and protests in a somewhat different light. He sees a fundamental conflict between the timeless group identity of paganism and the Christian understanding of sin in which individuals are held to account for their own acts. Writing in Providence, the magazine of the Institute of Religion & Democracy, Mitchell observes a…
“mix of pagan blood accounting and Christian guilt, which has taken the form of a kind of racial contrition, in which apologies are offered to members of the black nation by whites for their complicity in murder, because they are members of a white nation …. persons who, on liberal grounds, are not guilty of a crime, confess their guilty complicity in the crime that through their proxy, a white policeman, they have committed.”
Check out his provocative analysis at…
And just when you think our racial conflicts can’t get any more complicated, People reports that Brandon Dail, a user interface engineer, was fired from Facebook for criticizing a colleague who declined to include a Black Lives Matter banner on documents he was publishing. Apparently, Dail violated the company’s policy on maintaining a respectful workplace…
“I’m not claiming I was unjustly terminated,” Dail explained. “I was fed up with Facebook, the harm it’s doing, and the silence of those complicit (including myself).”
Finally, here’s a link to Tucker Carlson’s on-air critique of the Black Lives Matter Movement — the one that’s caused all the hubbub over which advertisers are boycotting. It’s a really powerful piece. I don’t agree with his entire analysis, but Carlson is a guy who always has something insightful to offer…