At an NAACP rally in Amherst, Massachusetts, the other day, Dr. Barbara Love (http://www.barbarajlove.com/) talked about research on the moral lives of babies.
She said that research has shown that babies are hardwired toward fairness. If someone manipulates dolls in front of an infant and makes one of the dolls hit the other, the baby will turn away and disengage. It will not engage again until fairness is restored. And we all know, from our own experience, that one of the earliest cries of a child is, “That isn’t fair!”
Dr. Love’s ultimate message was about the #Black Lives Matter movement and the fear that the movement seems to instill in many white people. “All lives matter,” they cry, “not just black lives. That’s not fair!”
Yet, they do not seem able to grasp that not only does the #Black Lives Matter movement not mean that white lives don’t matter, neither do they seem to grasp the unfairness and injustice with which black lives have been treated in this country.
White lives have mattered to the exclusion of all other human lives since white Europeans stepped onto these shores. Historically, for white people (and I am white), the universe has been centered on them. First, last and always, domestic and foreign policies have been based on the questions, “What’s in it for me?” and “How is this going to affect me?”
Despite credible evidence passed to the United States by people on the ground that Nazi Germany was rounding up Jews and it looked as if the Jews were being murdered, the US government chose not to intervene because it still hoped to collect from Adolph Hitler the rest of the reparations owed by Germany according to the Treaty of Versailles. Not until our own shores were attacked did the government go into action.
The Vietnam war? A tragedy for the United States, all are agreed. Was it not first and foremost a tragedy for the Vietnamese people? How many Americans were made refugees by that conflict? And had to come and live in the very country that made them refugees? Ask a Vietnamese refugee what it’s like to live in the US.
And yes, I’m going to go there. 9/11. We will be picking at that scab until the end of time. But do we ever acknowledge that mass killings occur on a regular basis in many countries in the world? Do we understand what is happening in the world right at this moment? Do we understand that those dead children on distant beaches are dead because of white men’s actions that destabilized a large segment of the Middle East?
So when white people say something’s not fair, they usually mean that it is not fair to the system of white privilege that they enjoy. This is what is still being taught to white children when they first say, “That’s not fair!” Black children? They have to sit down with their parents and hear that, no, life isn’t fair for them, and here’s some things they need to learn to stay alive in this society.
#Black Lives Matter? You bet they do. White lives matter? Not the point. Police lives matter? Not the point. All lives matter? Not the point. Now deal with it.