What’s the difference between the ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘White Lives Matter’ movements? Tacoma columnist explains

Matt Driscoll, news columnist for the News Tribune, answers readers questions about topics he covers.
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Matt Driscoll, news columnist for the News Tribune, answers readers questions about topics he covers.
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Matt Driscoll

You rip, I respond: Columnist’s piece on ‘white lives matter’ banner generated some, uh, heat

November 24, 2017 09:15 AM

I get emails. A lot of them.

Some are pleasant. Some of them are … not so pleasant.

Recently, my editor came to me with an idea: What if I wrote one column a month replying to some of the angrier dispatches? Then, what if we made a video to accompany the column, so readers could get a glimpse into what it’s like to open my inbox in the morning?

For some reason, I agreed.

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It’s a feature we’re calling, “You rip, I respond.” It runs the last Sunday of each month, and you’re reading the second installment. The video is also available online.

I hope you enjoy.

Now, on to this month’s emails …

You are a typical, millennial liberal. Clueless, misguided, weak and you spew the usual crap that flows out of a lib’s pie hole. … The TNT sucks today, and I learned how to read by it in the early 1970s when it wasn’t run by a bunch of babbling (offensive term). — Jim

I have to respectfully disagree with you, Jim, and not just because you used a pejorative that hasn’t been even remotely acceptable for decades.

While precisely distinguishing generations by birth year is tricky at best, in 2004 researchers Neil Howe and William Strauss defined millennials “as those born in 1982 and approximately the 20 years thereafter.”

I endorse this definition, because, seeing as I was born in 1980, I barely escape millennial designation. Which, for some reason, fills me with great joy. Also, I’ve never had avocado toast.

Now, did someone mention pie? I’ve eaten plenty of it. With my hole.

As the number of subscribers continues to dwindle, you might be wise to consider your next move. I suggest a return to Evergreen. You could be the champion of the looters and the window smashers. — James

Ah, yes, my alma mater. Thee Evergreen State College. There’s clearly no shortage of hot takes when it comes to the Geoducks.

I will say that, during my time at Evergreen, I never looted or smashed a window. Sure, I had some issues with The Man — and many of those persist — but if I was a champion of anything it was ethnography and long, tortured sentences.

And, as my editor will surely attest to, I’m still struggling with the latter.

I have never seen such a piece of idiocy in all my seventy-plus years of existence. — Duane

Here’s to 70 more happy years, Duane.

(Expletive) you! — Brian

Always good hearing from you, Bri.

Not all writers will sit down at their humming machines this evening to churn out the next story on their plate, donning a cardigan over a dress shirt and tie ensemble, with our yuppie haircuts and thick-framed glasses and what is likely a cup of Starbucks and a thesaurus. But Matt Driscoll will. — Ryan

It’s certainly hard to beat a cardigan this time of year. But don’t sleep on a sweater vest. They’re nice, too.

When it comes to coffee, I prefer to support Bluebeard, Metronome or Valhalla. In a pinch, however, I have been known to throw a few dollars at Howard Schultz. I’m not proud of it.

After reading your rather clearly slanted, bias article yesterday, I said to myself, “Wow, this guys filled with massive quantities of highly volatile, suppressed anger, and is a latent, closet racist, himself.” Ironic, huh? ... It gives me no great pleasure to say this, but boy, you must have had abusive parents. — Jeffrey

Let’s leave my parents out of this, Jeffrey. Were they perfect? No. Did they abuse me? No. Did they raise a boy with a capacity for empathy and common decency? I hope so.

Also, the “clearly slanted, bias article” you refer to was a denouncement of white nationalism and white supremacy in our community. There might be some irony in this exchange, but I’ve got about as good a grip on that as Alanis Morissette.

Please stop it! I’m so sick and tired of the double standard applied to people based on their race I could puke! A “Black Lives Matter” placard is OK … but you white folk … I don’t think so. That’s total crap, not to mention intellectually dishonest. — Dusty

I received a number of emails like this. I couldn’t print them all. Heck, I could barely read them all.

I’ll try my best to respond thoughtfully. But I’ll also note that the subject has been broached many times before, by writers far more eloquent and capable than this one. If you’re struggling to comprehend the difference between “white lives matter” and “Black Lives Matter,” that’s at least partially because you haven’t made an honest attempt to understand what’s going on.

Here’s the thing: Obviously, all lives matter. That goes without saying.

So what’s the difference between “white lives matter” and “Black Lives Matter”?

One is a social justice movement aimed at, among other things, calling out centuries of overt and systematic racism. It’s a system that has and continues to put black people on the receiving end of violence and discrimination. It’s evident in police interactions, in our schools, in our criminal justice system, in housing, in employment and in too many other places.

Addressing these issues of equity, discrimination and violence is long overdue. Not addressing this systematic oppression sends a straightforward message: your lives matter less than white lives. To be clear, there has never been a question of whether white lives matter in this country.

The “all lives matter” or “white lives matter” movements, meanwhile, are typically employed in an attempt to negate or discredit the important message being delivered by “Black Lives Matter.” Perhaps that’s not what you mean when you proclaim it. But — given the context — that’s the message it sends, and it’s where the problem lies.

Hope that clarifies.