As I watched video footage of Black Lives Matter protestors blocking public streets and demonstrating in various cities across the country in the hours immediately after the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, I asked myself “what are they protesting, exactly?”. At that point in time, all anyone in the general public knew about either case was: 1. both men were black, 2. neither officer was black, and 3. there was a video of either the incident or the immediate aftermath. Of course, the usual suspects in the media were running both segments of video non-stop, complete with headlines blaring that “another black man has been killed by white cops”!
Which leads me back to the question, what are they protesting, exactly? One of the things that you hear at nearly all of these protests is “No Justice, No Peace!”. So, they’re protesting for justice and against a perceived injustice. But, how is it just to assume the officers were wrong when all you know about the situation is what you’ve seen on a few seconds of video? Wouldn’t justice actually involve determining what happened before condemning either party? In my mind, it is decidedly UNjust to assume that either party was at fault based on 30 seconds of video. Everyone knows there will be an investigation, since all officer involved shootings are investigated. If you’re really interested in justice, you wait and see what the investigation reveals and what facts come out about each case. If you rationally consider the facts and don’t agree with the outcome of the investigation, then protest if that’s what you think will fix it.
I’ve also heard them say the protests are about the “disproportionate” number of African-Americans killed by police versus other groups. I tried to figure out how many people are killed by police, and the racial distribution of those people. The end result is that I have no idea. Every number from every source was different and I don’t trust any of the sources that I could find (The Guardian and the Washington Post, for example). Surprisingly, the FBI does not keep track of that statistic. I don’t know if one group is killed out of proportion to their percentage of the population or not. But if you watch the mainstream news media, you would sure think that white officers are killing black suspects in huge numbers. Again, what are they protesting when no one really know what’s going on?
Are they protesting the violent deaths of young black people men in general? If so, why don’t they take to the streets every week in Chicago, where they are dying by the dozens? To date in 2016, there have been 366 murders in Chicago (http://crime.chicagotribune.com/chicago/homicides). Of these, just over 78% were black and 67.5% were between the ages of 13 and 34. Over 3/4 of these have not been solved and there is no suspect, but they tend to occur in predominately black neighborhoods, so it seems likely that the perpetrator was black as well in many cases (http://heyjackass.com/). These disturbing statistics do not make the news and do not illicit any protests of any sort that I’ve seen. This makes me wonder if black lives actually do matter to Black Lives Matter.
So, what are they protesting, exactly? I’m sure I don’t know and I suspect that they don’t either.