Ben Carson, the only black presidential candidate at the moment, is not exactly a friend to the marginalized black community. He tends to hold himself up as evidence that the downtrodden are doing it to themselves, because if he can escape the problems the black community faces, anybody should be able to do it. He has now weighed in on #BlackLivesMatter, and his opinion of it is, to say the least, silly.
The black conservative group, Freedom’s Journal Institute (FJI), held a conference titled, “In Defense of Life: Why All Lives Matter.” Carson himself spoke at this event and said, according to Think Progress:
We need to talk about what the real issues are and not get caught up in silliness like this matters or that matters.
Police shooting black people at a far higher rate than anybody else is not a real issue? Pardon us while we laugh until we collapse. But that’s not all. Carson went on to say:
Of course all lives matter. I don’t want to get into it, it’s so silly. Black lives are part of all lives, right? When we’re talking about a culture of life, then we ought to be talking about a culture of life and not allow ourselves to get caught up in all the divisive rhetoric and terminology and political correctness. It’s the reason we can’t make any progress as a society.
Yes, all lives matter, but all lives are not the point. Saying “all lives matter” pushes the unheard, voiceless black community back to the sidelines. It says to them, “Your issue is just part of a larger problem, now sit down, shut up and let we who know better handle this.” It’s another way of keeping them silent and voiceless, which is the whole problem.
How many people who say, “All lives matter,” know what it’s like to know, deep down inside, that nobody will hear them, no matter what they say? How many of them understand what repeatedly being silenced is like? It’s a good bet they’ve never lost their voice, and never wondered if there was anybody out there who was willing to shut their mouths and open their ears, minds and hearts to the problem. Carson may be black, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t suffer from some privilege here.
As the only black candidate for president, and a man with a voice, he could work to bring a voice to the black community, and instead, he chooses not to. He calls #BlackLivesMatter “silly,” and goes on with typical GOP rhetoric on the whole thing. Dante Barry, the executive director of Million Hoodies Movement, which is a racial justice non-profit, said:
All Lives Matter is an erasure of black lives and it suggests that black communities cannot feel that they are validated or valued or that they matter. Realistically, when black lives matter, all lives will matter.
Mr. Barry is correct, and Carson, along with everyone else saying, “All lives matter,” could take a lesson from him, but they won’t. Part of systemic racism is the idea that the problems the black community experiences are either of their own making, or just a small part of a larger, more complex issue. It’s telling black people to “let the white people who know better” take care of it, and working to keep them on the sidelines. Carson had a chance to contribute something worthwhile to this, and instead he toed the conservative party line. As a presidential candidate, he’s done.