Editorial: Why Black Lives Matter

By Cynthia Prairie
©2020 Telegraph Publishing LLC

You say “All Lives Matter?”

Let me be clear that Black Lives Matter now because they have never mattered.  They haven’t mattered to the majority of white Americans and white America holds all the cards and all the privileges.

As a nation, we have enslaved black lives to prop up our agriculture and international trading systems. We have raped black bodies and hung them from bridges and trees. We have burned black towns to the ground, dug mass graves for their bodies and buried this history and felt no shame about it.

We have used black bodies in medical experiments without permission. The Tuskegee syphilis and gynecological  studies are two.

Our government legally sanctioned redlining black communities to make it either impossible or impossibly expensive for black Americans to get bank loans to buy their homes and repair them.

Despite outlawing redlining, discrimination in housing still occurs. Black renters are told vacant apartments have been rented, while white renters are let through the door. And black homebuyers are ushered away from some neighborhoods and into others.

When major roads, industrial and commercial projects come in, the communities to get displaced are disproportionately African American. The minority villages that once made up what is now New York City’s Central Park are good example.

Today, black Americans are systematically denied bank loans at much higher rates than white Americans.  The subprime housing loan crisis of 2008 hit poor and black communities particularly hard, causing a huge loss in homeownership. Many had been specifically targeted for those loans.

How does one build up equity and a good credit rating when the system constantly works against you?

When we finally acknowledged that our black Americans could serve in our wars, we put them on latrine duty cleaning up after white soldiers. And when some returned home in uniform, we killed them for wearing that uniform. We also denied them access to the G.I. Bill, a bill that gave my father a college education upon his return from the European Theater in World War II.

We allow vigilantes to still kill our black lives and when they do, we disparage the victim to justify the killing. Trayvon Martin and Amaud Arbery. Say their names.

Our police pull over, arrest and kill black Americans at several times the rate that their percentage of the population would indicate.

If you are a black American, you are up to 3.5 times as likely to die at the hands of police than a white American.

You can call this the one bad apple theory of policing, but I am afraid you would be wrong. It is institutional, just like our white privilege. This history behind this cannot be ignored. When a white person commits a crime, he’s a rogue. When a black person does the very same crime, white America disdains all black Americans.

And every day, black Americans face discrimination based on skin color, hairstyle, name, manner of speech, dress, anything that white Americans can think of to prove our own superiority.

So don’t give me this “All Lives Matter” bull until you can prove to me that Black Lives Really Do Matter to you.

To learn more:

The Tulsa Race Massacre.

African-Americans and Medical Research.

Central Park and the loss of Seneca Village.

The G.I. Bill and African-American Soldiers.

“Not in My Neighborhood, How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City,” by Antero Pietila.

African-Americans hit particularly hard by the housing crisis.

Mapping police violence against black Americans.

A historian explains how racist policing took over American cities.

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Filed Under: CommentaryTelegraph Editorial

About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 30 years. She has worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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  1. Karen Levian says:

    Cynthia,

    Thank you for publishing your editorial.

    Especially at this time the words of a black law school classmate resonate. She said, “When I go out of the house, everyone sees who I am right away.”

    Conversely, as a middle aged white female, I am relatively invisible.

  2. Cynthia Prairie says:

    At the bottom of the editorial are links to where you can find more information. Other sources said up 3.5 times and I should have linked to them as well.

    But here is one: https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/10.2105/AJPH.2018.304559 which was also cited here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/police-violence-pandemic/2020/06/05/e1a2a1b0-a669-11ea-b619-3f9133bbb482_story.html

    And this as well: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/08/study-claims-white-police-no-more-likely-shoot-minorities-draws-fire

  3. Nelson Abbott says:

    Just curious as to where you got your stats. In particular, the ratio of blacks likely to die at the hands of police. The facts published by the FBI paint an entirely different picture than your info.

  4. K. Zuppinger says:

    Brilliant. And to the point.

    Thank you.

  5. Tim Roper says:

    Hear! Hear!

  6. S. Goodfellow says:

    Thank you !!!

  7. Helen Ellis says:

    Thank you, Cynthia.

  8. H. Chase says:

    Amen

  9. Linda Diak says:

    Thank you.

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