Black Lives Matter
In Support of
BLACK LIVES MATTER
A DCWOC Position Paper
All too often, when presented with the “Black Lives Matter” assertion, whether on a placard held high in protest or in print in a newspaper opinion section, one hears in response, “Of Course! All Lives Matter!” Even when well intentioned, this reaction misses the point—that all lives cannot matter until Black lives matter and that Black lives are, and have been, at especial risk. Moreover, it is beyond presumptuous to believe that without having lived Black experiences and absorbed the history of Blacks in this country one can speak from their standpoint. To respect Black Americans’ perspective is to acknowledge that Black Voices matter. The first mandate of solidarity, then, is to listen and to accept the verity of life experiences told in the first person.
Furthermore, with “all lives matter,” it is simply too easy to sweep aside appalling and abundant racist realities, both current and historical, and to deny the implicit prejudices rooted deep in us all. Until such time that there is a truly level playing field in the legal, socio-economic, and civic lives of all Americans—Black, white, brown or other—we must reject this mantra of false equivalency and recognize instead the harsh disparities that have led us to such riven standpoints in the 21st century.
It has been said that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." By remembering our nation’s history, we can illuminate patterns of discrimination and learn to deconstruct and reject them.
From the time of the Boston Tea Party, Americans have rebuffed taxation without representation, the exploitation of one group for the benefit of others. Yet for Black Americans, the issue remains entrenched in our civic structure. School funding, employment law, legal and penal policies, social support and healthcare programs, and job training opportunities all depend on legislators who understand and advocate for their constituents. Electeds of color fall short of proportional representation, due in part to voter suppression targeting communities of color. Residents of Washington, DC (47% Black) still have no vote in Congress. Allies can make up some of the shortfall, but never truly replicate genuine Black representation at all levels of government.
Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was signed into law on January 1, 1863. Yet it took more than two years for the President’s “Promise of Freedom” to reach the last of
America’s Black slaves. Like slavery itself, the delay allowed slaveowners to eke out every profit from the bodies of the Black men, women, and children. Ownership, forced labor, and dehumanization enriched white owners and set the stage for decades of racist marketing and stereotyping that survived outright slavery. Uncle Ben, Aunt Jemima, Mrs. Butterworth, and Little Black Sambo are just a few of the images co-opting, distorting, and profiteering off Black Americans. Corporate America is learning, under public pressure, to disengage from cultural exploitation. We must maintain that pressure.
While salesmanship promoted nonthreatening images of Blacks, negative messages more than flourished in counterpoint. Racist portrayals of thugs, fools, violent criminals, freeloaders, drug lords, and welfare queens conjured an us-against-them mythology that is deeply woven into the American narrative. George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, John Crawford III, Sandra Bland, and Charles Kinsey are but a few of the modern casualties of an enduring pattern. Orange County has its own guilty past, with a Ku Klux Klan presence dating back to the 1920s. Violence flared repeatedly in Anaheim and Fullerton. In Huntington Beach, where many white southerners had relocated to work in the oil fields, KKK members appeared in the annual July 4th Parade and, in 1926, a beach club for Blacks was torched just prior to its opening. Shamefully, threads of white supremacy still run through the County—and the country. They must be recognized, exposed, and eradicated.
Why “BLACK LIVES MATTER” Now?
The Democratic Club of West Orange County recognizes that we have come to a watershed where barriers that white Americans have placed before Blacks for over 400 years cannot be ignored. Now is our opportunity to change our country and our world. We must listen, learn from, and accept Black narratives. We must recognize and strive to eradicate racism deeply embedded in ourselves and our society and structures. We must stand up as allies and witnesses for our brethren of all colors. We must root out racist commodification, stereotyping, and bigotry in all forms. Silence is not an option. Failure is not an option.
The Executive Board of the Democratic Club of West Orange County
“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people but the appalling silence of the good people.”
MARTIN LUTHER KING, Jr.