By BEN R. WILLIAMS
I’d like to talk about Black Lives Matter.
Let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room: a guy who looks like Waylon Jennings and his son Shooter were combined at the molecular level is probably not the ideal candidate to talk about this particular movement. However, I am fortunate to have a platform, and I occasionally like to take a break from writing about stupid things I have done and write about issues of actual social importance. With that in mind, I’m going to do the best I can.
I will start by saying this: I have seen a lot of false allegations concerning the Black Lives Matter movement, and I have seen a lot of ill will directed toward this movement. I have a hope that much of this ire stems from misinformation.
Here are the facts: Black Lives Matter began in 2013 as a response to Trayvon Martin’s shooting death at the hands of George Zimmerman. It has only picked up steam in the years following, and it has re-entered the news cycle in a big way following the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. It is a direct response to many law enforcement agencies disproportionately targeting African-Americans and courts that often inflict disproportionately severe punishments against African-Americans.
Black Lives Matter is a movement, not an organization. There are organizations that support the movement, and there are chapters that support the movement, but you can’t go down the street and knock on the front door of your local Black Lives Matter Inc. office. This is a loosely structured social movement, and that may be the reason that it’s confusing for some.
At the heart of this movement, however, is a statement, and it’s a pretty simple one: Black Lives Matter. It means exactly what it says, and it shouldn’t be controversial.
However, this message has become controversial, and there are a lot of people who rebel against it. I often hear the rebuttal that “All Lives Matter.”
I’m going to explain the situation the best way I know how: with a clumsy, ham-fisted analogy.
I want you to imagine that you just adopted a puppy. This puppy is wonderful. He’s adorable. He’s your new best pal. He sleeps at the foot of your bed every night. You love this little guy.
Now I want you to imagine that you’ve just read a troubling report in the newspaper: apparently, the local animal control has a thing against puppies. They’re picking up puppies more than they’re picking up any other kind of pet. In fact — and bear with me here, because I know this is rough — they recently killed a puppy.
When you read this, you look over at your new best friend, and you can imagine the same fate befalling him. It breaks your heart. It makes you angry. You decide you’ve got to do something. So you get out the poster board and a can of spray paint, and you make yourself a sign: “Puppies Matter.”
You take your sign down to the Animal Control office and you stand out front. You’re making a statement. Suddenly, a car pulls up and a guy walks up to you. He’s holding a cat.
“Hey,” he says, “cats matter, too.”
“Yeah,” you say, “I’m not disagreeing with you necessarily, but did you read that thing in the paper about how hard it is for puppies? Did you hear about the puppy that was killed?”
“The puppy was probably doing something wrong,” the guy replies, stroking his cat, “and if it didn’t want to get killed, it shouldn’t have disobeyed.”
You’re pretty ticked off, but you decide to ignore the guy. He gets in his car and drives away. Moments later, another guy walks by, a python draped around his shoulders. He is probably wearing an Iron Maiden T-shirt.
“Hey man,” he says, “what about my ball python? ALL pets matter.”
“Yes,” you say with infinite patience, “your python matters, too. But pythons aren’t being discriminated against by Animal Control. Puppies are.”
The guy shakes his head and walks away.
A couple minutes later, a car pulls up and a lady gets out, her pet rabbit in her arms. She looks at your sign in disgust.
“Hey,” she says, “where do you get off saying that your puppy is more important than my rabbit?”
“I didn’t say that,” you reply. “My sign just says that puppies matter.”
“ALL pets matter,” she says.
You tell her you’ve heard that one before. She gets in her car and drives away.
Now imagine that you’ve been standing in front of Animal Control with the same sign for the better part of seven years, and every day, people walk up to you and tell you the exact same things that those three people did, over and over again. You try to explain to them, again and again, that you’re just trying to say that puppies matter, because puppies are the ones that are currently being discriminated against. They’re the ones that need attention right now. But still, the exact same accusations come, and you begin to feel like people are intentionally misunderstanding your message.
And the whole time, Animal Control hasn’t made a single substantive change to the way they approach puppies.
At a certain point, you’d be forgiven for thinking that your message isn’t the problem. You might start thinking that a whole lot of people out there just plain don’t like puppies.