Why does Black Lives Matter only care about black lives when white people are threatening them?
The movement presents an inaccurate and infantilising view of society, which strips black people of all agency.
On a muggy night in August 2016, three laughing Dallas police officers pinned 32-year-old Tony Timpa to the ground, pushed his face into the grass, placed a knee on his back and held him there for 14 minutes until he was dead. The parallels with the appalling killing of George Floyd are disturbing and uncanny. Like Floyd, Timpa was unarmed, pleaded for his life, repeatedly called for help and begged policemen to stop.
But both cases do differ in one significant respect; Tony Timpa was white. The cases and the wildly differing public and political reactions to them expose some disturbing and inconvenient truths for the ascendant Black Lives Matter movement and for society as whole. Timpa’s only crime was calling the police officers (one of whom was black) for help as a result of taking illegal drugs after coming off his medication for depression and schizophrenia.
Floyd on the other hand had been a criminal who, despite being killed during an extended stretch of apparent probity, had served several long stints in prison for violent crimes including breaking into a pregnant woman’s home in the middle of the night and pressing a loaded gun into her belly. Yet Floyd has been deified by politicians and media outlets across the world while Timpa – whose killers have never faced the justice awaiting Floyd’s – is unknown. Why?
It would be both foolish and offensive not to acknowledge the horrendous catalogue of suffering and injustice endured by black Americans like Floyd at the hands of US police. But the death of Timpa and the thousands of other Americans of all colours who have died as a result of police brutality exposes the inflammatory Black Lives Matter narrative of a racist police force specifically killing black people as a myth.
Between 2015 and 2019 black people accounted for 26.4 per cent of all those killed by US police while almost double that figure, 50.3 per cent, were white. Equally, while black Americans account for just 12 per cent of the population they are responsible for 52.5 per cent of all murders, with the vast majority of victims also being black. In London, despite comprising just 13 per cent of the population, almost half of all murder suspects and victims are also black. And of the 163 people killed in British police custody in the past 10 years, just 13 were black.
Every death inflicted by the police is a tragedy. But does the fact that white people are still 25 per cent more likely to die in British police custody than black people really represent the “pandemic” of black people being killed “every day” that BLM and, on occasion, the BBC and broadcasters, have parroted since Floyd’s death? Why then, if black lives really do matter, is BLM perpetuating a false narrative that black people exist at the mercy of homicidal white persecution, and why are they not exposing the reality that the biggest killer of black people is very often our own community? Where is their outrage at the scores of young black adults killed by other young black adults on the streets of London and Chicago? And why are BLM abetted in their campaign of misinformation and incitement by an irresponsible mainstream media and a supine political class?
The answer is clear. It is because BLM feeds into the same wretched culture of victimhood and oppression that has been cynically championed by the left for decades. By continually caricaturing black people as perpetual victims of systemic white racism it infantilises them by depicting us as stupid, helpless and impotent cultural punchbags, forever crushed beneath externalised discriminatory forces beyond our control.
It is a grotesque form of reanimated cultural imperialism that envisages a world in which every black action can only ever be a reaction to white provocation, as if we were little more than flaccid puppet minstrels forever tied to the string of white mastermind omnipotence. In so doing, black people are absolved of our need to take responsibility for our own actions and futures and must instead await salvation by accepting that our own freedom and empowerment are not ours to claim but a white establishment’s to give.
Oddly, it is a cult enthusiastically energised by successful black personalities, with the likes of John Boyega, Afua Hirsch and Stormzy absurdly claiming that the society in which they gained their own success is somehow systemically inclined to withhold it from all their black peers. And this cult is founded on a toxic crucible: slavery. Martin Luther King talked of freedom far more than he talked of slavery. Yet now the civil rights lexicon has been reversed and slavery is now the historical deadweight from which BLM and its liberal enablers refuse to let black people escape.
Yes, the Atlantic slave trade was a horrendous evil. But to claim that a 400-year-old event that adapted barbarous Arab and African practices that had already been in place for thousands of years is responsible for unilaterally framing the life choices and experiences of black people today is as preposterous as suggesting that cruise ship bookings are still hampered by the Titanic. It is also a claim that might attain more integrity were it accompanied by even a scintilla of concern for the estimated 40 million people worldwide trapped in slavery today.
BLM’s twisted narratives have been underscored by a liberal establishment and mainstream media that deploys identity politics to objectify and homogenise black people. In so doing it offensively lumps all black people into a vast cultural tick-box in which, by magical virtue of our pigmentation, we have all been gifted with the telepathic ability to think, eat, act and talk exactly the same way.
Yet by ignorantly conflating the richness and diversity of the black experience into a single diminished entity, patronising, reductionist terms like the black and dreaded BAME “community” invariably flow and perpetuate an embattled sense of “otherness” that merely succeeds in further separating and marginalising black people from mainstream society.
And, like all good liberal pogroms, this homogenisation is specifically designed to disenfranchise individuality, sever the links between black people and our brothers and sisters in other racial groups and, most importantly, to achieve the hallowed liberal goal of glorifying difference. And glorifying difference is exactly what BLM and the Marxist junta it seeks to establish is all about.
True integration – where character matters more than colour and George Floyd could just as easily have become a cardiologist as a criminal – was the utopian vision on which Martin Luther King based his dream, and it should be the goal of all mature Western democracies. But celebrating difference is intolerable to a guilt-ridden liberal elite groggy on the opiate of multiculturalism. Instead it embraced the tyranny of diversity to obscure integration and emphasise what divides us rather than what unites us.
We now see this tyranny being prosecuted in a McCarthyan culture war that seeks to expunge white post-imperialist liberal guilt and self-loathing by unilaterally imposing its revisionist, puritanical values on society and toppling all ideological dissenters from Gone With the Wind to historical statues. But make no mistake, this naïve identinarian purge could not just incite the odious far right but sow enough resentment and division to set back race relations by years.
Racism is real and horrific and must be rooted out wherever it is found. But the UK, and England in particular, has offered sanctuary and prosperity to generations of immigrants who in turn have helped to transform it into one of the most welcoming and inclusive societies in the world. Moreover the way to defeat racism is to not through the divisive rhetoric and crass militancy of a movement that seeks to commoditise black suffering to perpetuate the divisive, defeatist myth of white privilege.
The answer is for black people not to define ourselves by how others may define us but to realise that we and we alone are the key to empowering our lives and claiming the freedom that is everyone’s right. Yes, of course the lives of George Floyd and all black people matter. But so too did the life of Tony Timpa. And the life of the innocent unborn black baby Floyd threatened to execute in its mother’s womb.
Until black people take responsibility for their role in ending and oppressing the lives of other black people and until the regressive liberal elite realises that sowing division and resentment will lead to genuine systemic inequality, then black lives will only continue to matter on the rare occasions when white people take them.
(Architect and critic.)