Not ‘At Risk’ But ‘In Risk’ (or Why #BlackLivesMatter and #AllLivesMatter Are Not The Same)

Amy Hunter, who is the Racial Justice Coordinator for the YWCA here in St. Louis posted a tweet a few days ago that quoted Dr. Norm White, which said:

Children are not at risk they are in risk. Risk is all around them. This is about race [not poverty]

As the news that two young women (one Latina, one white) have been killed at the hands of agents of the state in the last few days hit the media, there is a growing call to stop saying #BlackLivesMatter and instead really talk about #AllLivesMatter.

I understand the impulse to change the conversation away from #BlackLivesMatter. I do. There is no doubt that there needs to be a hard look at the abuses of police power generally. But at some point, we have to look at the facts.

In encounters with the police, African Americans are 21 (I repeat 21) times more likely to be shot. Don’t want to believe that, read Charles Blow’s column from Monday here.

In the almost 700,000 stops-and-frisks that were performed in NYC in 2012 (the number presented to the federal court was 688,xxx), 88% of those stops were of blacks and Latinos, 12% white. In all of those stops, contraband was found less than 10% of the time, and of that percentage contraband was found on whites the majority of the time. Don’t want to believe that, go to the New York Civil Liberties Union website to get all the information.

Blacks are 4 times more likely to be arrested for possession than whites (Latinos are twice as likely), even though usage rates are about the same.

And those numbers are just about men. The numbers when you compare black, Latina, and white women are even more dramatic.

At some point there does need to be the recognition by white people in America that in most cases, race trumps class.

As someone who has been involved with the criminal justice-/prison-/drug law- reform movement since I was 17, I know that there are class differences and issues in how laws are enforced. However that does not change the facts that, regardless of class:

-African Americans and Latinos are detained more often than whites for the same crime/infraction or alleged crime/infraction

-African Americans and Latinos are detained at a younger age than whites (whether or not a crime has been committed or alleged to be committed) [read The Essence of Innocence: Consequences of Dehumanizing Black Children]

-African Americans and Latinos receive harsher treatment while in detention

-African Americans and Latinos are charged more often than whites for the same crimes/infractions

-African American and Latino children are more likely to charged as adults than white children [see The Essence of Innocence]

-African Americans and Latinos are more likely to receive higher-level charges than whites for the same crime/infraction

-African Americans and Latinos are more likely to receive harsher sentences/penalties than whites when convicted of the same crime/infraction

-African Americans and Latinos are more likely to receive harsher treatment while in jail/prison

These are the facts.

Someday in the distant future, we as a nation might be able to say #AllLivesMatter, but it’s not right now.

The killing of unarmed civilians by agents of the state is always tragic. However, let’s be real; if this were happening in any white community every 28 hours on average, there is no way that white people would let racial minorities co-opt their movement by saying–in essence–“yeah, it’s a shame what’s happening to you, but that’s not as important as these cases where it happened to us too.” I might have been born at night, but it wasn’t last night.

Right now it’s #BlackLivesMatter because, when it comes to law enforcement and criminal justice, far too often we don’t. We can talk about #alllivesmatter when they actually do.

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One thought on “Not ‘At Risk’ But ‘In Risk’ (or Why #BlackLivesMatter and #AllLivesMatter Are Not The Same)

  1. Pingback: Remembering the Holocaust, conversations about #BlackLivesMatter, and more « uuworld.org : The Interdependent Web

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