Black lives matter. Of course. Who possibly could or would dispute that claim?
Perhaps some small-souled racists here or there who need to disparage the skin color of others in order to feel better about themselves. But those are people to pity, not fear. Inside every racist or racial supremacist is a scared little person terrified that others might see just how unimpressive they really are.
A large-souled, courageous, confident human being finds no value in trying to make his “race” appear better by besmirching other “races.” In fact, a large-souled person isn’t much interested in his own “race” or anyone else’s because he knows that what is most important about any human being has nothing to do with skin color.
And certainly no mind that understands the immutable, self-evident truth of natural human equality—that every human being possesses an equal rightful claim to his or her own natural freedom and personal property—places any moral or political weight on “race,” a category of modern thought that cannot withstand scientific or philosophic analysis.
HIDING IN SHADOWS
Further, racists tend to voice their opinions in private settings. Shine the light of public attention on them and they scatter frantically searching for shadows in which to hide, not unlike cockroaches reacting to a flashlight.
This fact alone is a good sign about the modern United States, especially given the ugly past of American race-based slavery. In many ways, human boldness and timidity are often a function of number. A racist becomes emboldened and talks openly when many others share his racist views. But when a racist is alone in his views, he usually is timid as a mouse and just as quiet when in the presence of others.
As more racists seek shadows in which to hide, therefore, the fewer they must be in diminishing numbers. And fewer racists certainly are better than more.
So let us for the moment leave the racists to their shadows and hiding and hope they get some therapy for their small-souled cowardice and irrational hatred of people who look different than they do.
For now, instead, let’s focus on the recent movement and claim that black lives matter. And let’s begin by agreeing that, yes, black lives matter. Especially American black lives, for those of us who are Americans, for the simple reason that we are fellow citizens living in the same regime under common laws.
The claim in itself—black lives matter—does not require that we deny that non-black lives matters. It is perfectly reasonable to argue that black lives matter and non-black lives matter. In fact, the logic of morals concludes that black lives matter because all lives matter, which includes the lives of those with non-black skin.
So what are the problems or challenges peculiar to Americans with black skin? They are many. And disputed.
Do Americans with non-black skin face those same problems? Some non-black Americans face some of those same problems, yes. Other problems, not so much or not at all.
There is no denying that more than two centuries of human slavery and bondage continued from British North American colonies into the newly-formed United States was a deep moral failure on a wide scale, the cruelty of which is beyond any description words might offer—though many have tried to describe that suffering in words.
We should never forget what was done here, in this land, and we shall pledge that we never allow it to happen again, so long as we can breathe and think and speak and fight for what is right if necessary. That is why we should study and talk and learn and teach others why slavery is wrong, including the principles by which human minds can know it is wrong.
PERFECTION AMIDST IMPERFECTION
If there is any spot of light in dark story of slavery inseparable from American history, it is the fact that the revolutionaries who rebelled against English rule—many of whom were slave-holders!—provided a beautiful foundation for a new nation: The immutable, self-evident truth of natural human equality, the true moral fact that every human being possesses an equal rightful claim to his or her own natural freedom and personal property, regardless of skin color, gender, or any other arbitrary attribute of natural human diversity.
While those founders were not perfect, the idea they articulated as the basis of this nation was. Still is. Always will be.
The idea of natural human equality as the standard by which all moral judgments are formed and all formed laws are judged is: Perfect. That is why Abraham Lincoln referred to that idea as the “father of all moral principles.”
For failing to live according to that perfect moral principle, for subjecting some human beings to the tyrannical control of others, the people of the United States paid an almost unimaginably terrible price to end slavery: more than 600,000 slaughtered men, black and white, entire cities ablaze, a melancholy that Americans could not shake for generations, and a President whose reward for his efforts to end slavery was a bullet blasted through his brain.
“That from these honored dead,” President Lincoln said not long before his own death, “we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom.”
Of course, for Americans with black skin, what followed was anything but a new birth of freedom. While the fires of the Civil War still smoldered, white supremacists formed the Ku Klux Klan. In many places, those in government offices either empowered the Ku Klux Klan or actively joined their ranks.
The ambiguous euphemism “Jim Crow” distracts us from the truth of that period: A systematic and far-flung campaign of raw, race-based terrorism conducted by American citizens who wore their patriotism and Christian piety as badges of honor while they cowardly hid their identities beneath white sheets.
However bad we think Muslim terrorism springing from the Middle East might be, with the beheadings, torture, and assorted acts of violence, it has nothing over the campaign of terror Americans inflicted on black American men and women who more than anything simply wanted to be left alone.
And yet through all of this, we Americans have someone struggled on and struggled together and the United States has survived to see 2016. That is more than many nations can say.
And not only does the United States continue to exist in 2016, it is now a place where racism, generally, is a shameful thing. It’s embarrassing. We no longer fear the Klan parading down our streets because they would look like laughable fools if they did. Again, that’s a good thing.
Are there still Americans who are white supremacists or other forms of racists? Sure. There are. Probably there will always be wherever there are human beings. But they are fewer than ever, at least here in the United States. They have less power than ever. And Americans of all colors have the opportunity to make of their own lives what they will and improve their own lives best they can, if only we can be free men and women, all of us.
So for those who agree that black lives matter, what should they do?
We should begin by recognizing the great power and unmatched danger of government. Government, after all, is the only monopoly on legalized force.
Racism is bad, sure. But there’s only so much injustice an individual racist or even a society of racists can do in their private capacities.
Racism backed by the legalized power and force of government, however, is the recipe by which genocides, holocausts, and institutionalized slavery are made.
So the first thing we ought to do is to insist and make sure that government is doing only the few things necessary to ensure that all citizens, of all skin colors, are secure in their own respective person and private property, whether that property be great or humble, and nothing more.
We should demand the equal protection of the laws for each and every citizen. A citizen with dark skin should be secure in his home, his money and savings and personal belongings should be safe from theft, and he should be free to move about and speak and work productively.
Anyone who injures the person of a citizen with dark skin or steals his property ought to be punished under the laws. And the same is true for all other citizens of all other skin colors.
This should be common ground between and among all citizens of all colors because a government that is allowed to let some hurt others might someday allow others to hurt us.
Beyond that, government should get out of the way of people with dark skin. Leave them alone. Stop harassing them. Stop controlling them. Stop regulating everything they do, including how their kids are educated and how they run their businesses and the conditions under which they might accept a job offer.
And while we’re at it, let’s stop our government from harassing and controlling and regulating the lives and property of all non-black citizens as well! This too should be common ground between and among all citizens of all colors because a government that has the power to harass and control and regulate one of us has the power to harass and control and regulate many or maybe even all of us.
BE THE MODEL FOR OTHERS
If black people, in particular, agree that their own black lives matter, then perhaps they might provide a model for the rest to see what free men and women do and how they think and speak and vote.
Americans with black skin have been voting overwhelmingly—as in, 90% or more!—for con-artists and scoundrels who offer bones of freebies, slight increases in this entitlement program or that, in return for perpetual political power.
This electoral pattern emerged in the 1950s but really became pronounced in the 1960s, precisely when new government entitlement and welfare programs were being created and existing ones were greatly expanded. Ever since, American blacks have continued to vote almost exclusively for those who promise something for free, which usually means voting for Democrats.
Here’s the terrible rub: Setting aside the fact that nothing is “free” and everything is paid by someone, entitlements that appear to be free encourage idleness. If there’s any doubt about this, look at the human results of the last century of American welfare policies. Increasing government entitlement programs leads not to more productivity among recipients, but less.
Where people are not productive, they tend to be idle. And human idleness correlates strongly with all kinds of social pathologies: child abuse, spousal abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, neglect, violence, property crimes, depression, irresponsibility, sickness, and poverty.
Voting for those who offer more entitlements is essentially the same as voting for more abuse, neglect, crime, poverty, etc.
Anyone is free to charge me with not knowing what it’s like to grow up in the United States with black skin. That’s true. My skin is very much on the pale side of the color spectrum.
And still, entitlements encourage idleness, and idleness correlates strongly with all kinds of social pathologies—including many of the pathologies about which the Black Lives Matter movement complains.
The truth of the destructive influence of entitlements and the idleness it encourages does not depend on the skin color of the observer. The phenomenon is real and easily observed by anyone of any skin color.
It’s now been more than fifty years since then-Assistant Secretary of Labor and later United States Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan—who was a Democrat!—published his study, “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action,” in which he acknowledged the effects of slavery on American blacks and surveyed the incredible damage caused by the modern welfare-entitlement state that blacks had come to support electorally.
Mr. Moynihan did then what few social scientists are willing to do today: Study the correlation and possible causation between growing government assistance programs and increasing levels of human pathologies. But just because academicians are too scared or too politically invested to study the destructive welfare state they typically support with votes, people who agree that black lives matter are not obligated to do the same.
Let Black Lives Matter show the path toward dismantling these government programs of human misery. Blacks who support Black Lives Matter can encourage others to vote against these institutionalized tragedies. Who knows better than do black Americans, after all, the deep suffering caused by the dependency and idleness made possible through government programs?
If these three conditions can be made real—
- genuine equal protection of the person and property of all citizens,
- removing government control and regulation from the lives and property of individuals,
- a scaling back of destructive, hurtful, pathology-fueling government programs
—then black Americans might for the first time ever experience the thorough freedom to live and improve their lives however they please.
Blacks should not be enslaved. Blacks should not be bribed. Blacks should simply be offered friendship by those who wish friendship and left alone by anyone else, while everyone enjoys the protection of the laws in their persons and property.
CONDITIONS OF FREEDOM FOR LIVES THAT MATTER
No society can ever engineer human nature so that all human beings are pleasant and accommodating to all others, all the time. Human beings never will be angels.
But we can ensure that the most devilish of humans among us don’t get to steal from or injure others at will. We can make sure that fellow citizens are safe in their person and whatever property and wealth they create and earn. We can control this government of ours, which has not a whit of power beyond what we allow it to have.
Black lives matter most in a nation where all lives matter much. If we are willing to honor how much all lives matter, then let us make sure that each among us is free to live as he or she chooses.
And when next someone says, “Black lives matter!”, let the American people be able to say without a trace of irony or hypocrisy, “We know, that is why we work tirelessly to ensure the equal protection of the equal freedom of all our citizens.”
That is the best we might ever achieve.