#BlackLivesMatter Explained By A White Guy

iStock_5179418_SmallerDon’t worry.  It is not my intention to change this pharma/regulatory/technology blog into a political platform, but after the events of last week, I think it is appropriate for all of us to step back and examine how we can make our country better.  I believe I can make a positive contribution by explaining my sincere interpretation of #BlackLivesMatter.  I first heard the phrase “Black Lives Matter” back in 2012 when Travon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida.  Like most people, when I first heard the phrase, I thought it was clearly wrong.  I thought, what they should say, is “all lives matter”.

Since then I have heard lots of explanations of the phrase and after a lot of thought, I have come up with my own explanation that is based on my own experience and observations.  And I now “get it”, and I believe it is exactly the right phrase to proclaim today.  So I join in the chorus.  Black lives matter.  Here is how I explain it.

When our founding fathers declared independence from the British Empire in 1776, they proclaimed:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

This is nearly a perfect statement of some important things that are self-evident…that is, things that need no additional explanation because your heart tells you they are absolutely true.  I say, nearly perfect, only because the statement can be improved by changing the word “men” to the word “people”, so it would read “…all people are created equal…”.  I don’t think the signers of the Declaration of Independence would quibble over that minor change given our ensuing history as a nation.

Surprisingly, the real quibble from those men would likely come over the definition of the word “all”.  The existence of slavery at the time proves that very few, if any, of those men really meant “all” people (or even just “all men”).  It does not appear that they meant the word “all” to imply that “black men are created equal” (to say nothing of black women) or they could not have continued treating most black people as property, which is what many of them did.  You can see this in the way the U.S. Constitution was first written by many of these same men a few years later, where Article 1 says that slaves were to be counted as 3/5 of a person.  That clause stood until slavery was abolished after the end of the U.S. Civil War, but neither the great Emancipation Proclamation, nor the end of the war, nor the adoption of the Thirteen Amendment resulted in widespread agreement in the hearts and minds of white U.S. citizens that “black people” are included in the phrase “all men are created equal”.

How can we know that?  All you have to do is read through the Civil Rights Acts of 1866, 1871, 1875, 1957, 1960, 1964 and 1991, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, to understand just how hard it was to ensure that all black citizens were offered equal protection under the constitution and the law, let alone equality in the hearts and minds of those in positions of authority.  The length and the tenacity of this struggle can only be explained by some very powerful people doing everything they could to block our government and society at-large from treating black people as if they were created equal.  Like our Founding Fathers, they did not define the word “all” in the “self-evident” way.

What this means is that we have a historical problem with the definition of the word “all”.  Its definition is not quite as self-evident as we might think.  And, while greatly decreased since 1776, the ambiguity persists today.  In my lifetime I have personally seen some shocking examples of every-day, very nice white people doing some pretty devious things  clearly intended to ensure excessive discomfort and inequality of black people.  And I am not just talking about watching events on television, these events happened right before my eyes.  Hearts and minds are hard to change, but I can also say that things appear to have improved noticeably during my lifetime.  Progress has been made, but we are not there yet.  Progress has always been too slow.  It is time for faster progress.

There have been way too many events captured on video showing non-life-threatening black people encountering Police officers, only to be treated as if their lives and their dignity do not matter.  As shocking as these videos are, the thing I find most appalling is when the victim of deadly force by a Police officer is not offered any assistance while they are still alive, but instead are allowed to bleed to death.  In my view, this is proof that the officers involved in these situations see no value in the life of the victim.  Even if the victim is guilty of a crime—even of a serious crime—human dignity demands that officers do what they can to keep the person alive, especially after they have stopped fighting, and especially when backup officers arrive on the scene.

Networked video has brought to the attention of white people that these problems are as bad as they were reported to be, and, in some cities, they are too frequent to be explained by “a few bad apples”.  Other cities are great examples of clear attempts to address these problems.  Dallas, Texas is the shining example, but sadly just down the road, Waller County is the opposite example.

These events require us to clearly communicate where we stand.  We need to show our leaders and our Police that we expect them to protect and serve all of us.  We expect them to treat all of us as if our lives mattered.  The problem is, as we have seen, we have a historical problem with the word “all”.

We cannot just say “all lives matter”.  That phrase is now too ambiguous.  It allows the speaker to hid their true intentions behind this historical ambiguity.  No, there is only one way to make our intentions crystal clear in the face of what we have all seen in these videos.  We must firmly and boldly proclaim “black lives matter”.

And BTW, if you still have trouble with that phrase, then just say the phrase “black lives matter ­too!”.  That has the same meaning but still without the ambiguity.

Next week we will be busy moving our home and office closer to our kids so I will rerun one of the better essays from the last year.  After that I will return with a new essay focused back on “the intersection…“.  Thanks for sticking with me.



17 thoughts on “#BlackLivesMatter Explained By A White Guy”

  1. Thank you Dirk Roger for your comments and your view of the phrase “Black Lives Matter”. As an African American woman, it is sometimes a challenge to explain to my white colleagues why we still have to protest for equal rights. However, I believe in order for ALL Americans to be treated equally, we must first understand that ALL Americans are not treated equally.
    We can change, we will change!

    Kisha Garner

  2. If you want to end racial divide you have to say “All Lives Matter” under God. You have fallen into the trap of the media.

    1. John,
      I don’t think I’ve fallen into any traps because my thought process is my own. But maybe I am the media!


  3. Hi Dirk,
    Hope you and family are doing well.
    The piece above is great, thoughtful and well written, really appreciate it. Its time we all find a way to bring peace, every mind matters and can be harnessed in building our great country.

  4. I thought this was a great piece Dirk. I think it was absolutely appropriate. We cannot just decide that our professional lives and our beliefs about right and wrong are separate. We all have an obligation to speak up and speak out. If our education and experience give us a platform, I think we are obliged to use it. Thank you.

  5. Do #AllBlackLivesMatter?

    How about the 4000+ black on black homicides every year? Silence.

    My daughter through adoption is black. If she was shot by another black in the inner city, would BLM care? BLM wouldn’t even consider my daughter black. She would be an Oreo. Black on the outside, white on the inside. A product of white privilege.

    Are there cultural and/or behavioral traits which have led to the association that black males are a higher risk for violence? DOJ statistics show that from 1980-2008, the majority of homicides are by black males between ages of 18 to 49.

    Was there situational bias to a heightened level of risk? e.g. past record of violence, nearby armed crime occurred, etc.

    How long will these grievances be an excuse for violence, antagonism, and rudeness? 50 years? 100 years? Forever?

    Are blacks the only people to ever have been aggrieved in history? No. Many groups have/are being aggrieved. e.g. Muslims feel aggrieved, LGBTQ feel aggrieved, Christians are starting to feel aggrieved, the UK remainers feel aggrieved, etc.

    Do other groups have a history of homicidal violence as retribution for aggrievances? No, but the ones that do we tend to call terrorists.

    If this was about just color of skin, why aren’t all African-Americans posting their negative interactions with police? Why are numerous African-Americans voicing contrary views and showing solidarity with the police?

    Maybe it’s not about color, but cultural behavior now associated with a targeted demographic which includes color, along with DOJ statistical history showing a higher risk of homicidal violence by African-American males between the ages of 18 and 49. (http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/htus8008.pdf)

    It’s been 150 years since the Civil War. Over 50 years since Civil Rights Act. How long will it be acceptable to hold onto grievances as an excuse for homicidal violence? Seems like today everyone is aggrieved over something; white, black, male, female, gay, straight, Muslim, Christian, doesn’t matter.

    Maybe, just maybe, if the African-American males want to stop being viewed as a high risk for violence, they can start with each other in the inner city. It’s their cultural acceptance of absentee fathers, misogyny, violence, and lack of respect for life that is the root of the issue.

    The first thing you learn in Sociology is that we want three things: power, privilege, and prestige. The problem is you have some in society who get it through education, hard work, networking and risk taking, while others get it through violence and intimidation, and some by both. Education for many young black males is a failure due to absentee fathers, single mothers or a grandmother who doesn’t have the time to instill a love for reading and learning at a young age, so the young male is left to be raised by the streets where education means little and violence and intimidation mean everything. Then the cycle repeats.

    Finally, how would you react if everyday you had to interact with people who are aggressive and hostile towards you just because of the color of your skin (white) and/or the color of your uniform (blue)? Personally, I don’t walk in the cops shoes. I am usually pretty safe and secure in my mostly white, educated, and civil work environment at a business where any act of aggression or violence, even yelling or swearing (no matter how aggrieved I had been) would ever be tolerated. So why do we tolerate it in black communities? Is it our own soft bigotry of low expectations for the African-American community?

    1. James,
      Thank you for your reply. You raise a lot of very interesting points, but to be clear, my essay was simply to explain the proclamation “black lives matter” and not necessarily the organization that bears that name.

  6. Stuart,
    I would be willing to post your comment if you would use your real name and your real email address. You also might want to shorten your comments, focusing as much as you can on the topic of my essay, the proclamation “black lives matter”.

  7. Hi Dirk,

    I agree with you. What people really mean when they say ‘Black lives matter’ is that ‘Black lives matter too’ because so often it seems that black lives don’t matter. When someone counters by saying ‘All lives matter’ then they conveniently forget the existing disparity seen today. I notice that in almost all parts of the world, those who have privilege never seem to understand the privilege they have.

    ‘Black lives matter’ is more a cry to be treated as equal rather than to say that others don’t matter.


  8. Hi Dirk,
    Fair play for using your blog to discuss this issue. I’m in Europe and it’s shocking to hear/see these murders being committed by your police force. I am saddened this happening under Obama’s watch, it’s almost bizarre.

  9. @Dirk, I do appreciate the discourse and opening up your blog to exchange these ideas on this topic.

    You quoted the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…”. This precept is rooted in Scripture that we will all die and face Judgment by God and that God does not show favoritism in this Judgment. (Hebrews 9:27-28, Romans 2:5-16)

    The root issue is that we all want to be treated equally in regards to Justice. I support that. But when the name of the group is aligned with and promoting people yelling “death to cops”, “slaughter the pigs”, etc. I cannot in good conscious support that.

    It would be similar to if Hamas had instead called themselves “All Palestinians Matter” or Al Qaeda called themselves “All Muslims Matter” or ISIS called themselves “All Syrians Matter”. The rhetoric used incites followers to violence and murder. I want no association with such violence, aka terrorism, foreign or domestic.

    Nor can I support conclusions that have no basis in empirical data, but rather perceptions, half-truths, and some down-right lies. I am not for trial by media which goes against the very precept of equal Justice, even for police officers. I refuse to be pulled into mob rule.

    I can be for “equal Justice under the Law” and “Lex rex”, without being for BLM. In fact, the larger threat of “Justice Inequality” now pertains to the ruling class being above the common class, e.g. too big politically to indict, thus turning us back into a nation governed by the principle of “Rex lex” which our fore-fathers (black and white) fought so hard to throw off.

    We are straining the water so we won’t accidentally swallow a gnat, but we continue to swallow a camel! (Matthew 23:24)


    1. James,
      I see. It sounds like you can agree with the concept but not the actual words because the words “black lives matter” are too aligned with people who say other things that you view to be wildly inappropriate. That’s fine. You can say that same important concept in an entirely different way. In your latest message, you almost said the important concept in your own words and I’m wondering if you can agree to make some small changes to bring it into full alignment with the point I was trying to make in my essay.

      You said “The root issue is that we all want to be treated equally in regards to Justice. I support that.”

      The point I was trying to make in my essay is that the word “all” is ambiguous because the founding fathers and many people in our justice system over the generations since the founding fathers did not seem to include black people when they said the words “all men are created equal”. You just used that ambiguous word, “all”, so if I reword your declaration to eliminate that ambiguity, can you agree to it? We are so close to agreeing on this…

      “Just like everyone else, black people are right to expect to be treated equally in regards to Justice.”

      President Obama and I think this same concept is summed up in the phrase “black lives matter”, but if you want to word it as above, then we are saying exactly the same thing. So what do you say, can you say that?


      1. With rights come responsibilities. What is missing from the discussion is the responsibility for each of us to conduct ourselves civilly. There is a broader issue related to cultural norms which has lead to demographic-based differences in behavior, e.g. what has led to African-American males being statistically more prone to violence than other demographics.

        IMO, BLM is not the solution. It may raise awareness, but the awareness is only focused on the perception that white cops are targeting black people. Most of the use cases which have been reported have resulted in the cops being exonerated from wrong doing once all the facts were made known and reviewed.

        If people think they can do a better job policing, then please sign up to serve and to protect. Most of us probably know a police officer whom we would say would never respond to one of these situations with deadly force, yet, if you ask them the police officer would say they would have responded in the exact same manner. I’ve asked the ones I know. There is a disconnect between us judging the anonymous cop vs how we would perceive and judge a police officer we know. Most of us are ignorant of the conditions and environment which lead to these deaths by cop. Most of us never place ourselves outside the safe confines of our gated community or corporate office.

        Are cops more apprehensive or on a higher state of alert when engaging with African-American males? Yes. But, the reason why is not that they are racist or bigoted or trigger happy. It is because daily experiences have conditioned them to be based on reality.

        BLM doesn’t address the reasons which have lead to African-American males to be more violent, statistically. I am not in favor of #hashtag activism, in general, because it does not address the root causes of issues. At best it raises some awareness, but at worst it gives the false impression that slogans and platitudes result in core changes. Has #BringBackOurGirls freed the girls who were enslaved by Boko Haram? “Be the change you want to see” is not agreeing with a slogan. It is taking on the roles one feels are not being performed properly.

        It seems our country continues to find it difficult to move past slavery, as if slavery was a uniquely African-American experience in history or unique to America. Bondage is universal, whether you call it slavery, indentured servitude, or generational poverty. Bondage has and still is a very common practice. It is much more of a one percenter issue, rather than a white issue or a southern issue. Still is. Why is it, that in America, the grudge continues to be against “whites”, especially “White Anglo-Saxon Protestants”? Why isn’t the grudge against the 1 percenters, both black and white, who owned the vast majority of peoples in bondage and continue to exploit the disadvantaged and poorest in our society? Why isn’t the grudge against the Muslims who have and continue to enslave 100 times the number of Africans than America?

        What will it take to finally get past the “stain of slavery”? When will the policies that have lead to the urban blight and multi-generational African-American poverty be scrutinized? Probably, never, because it doesn’t fit the narrative that keeps the ruling class overlords (both Republicans and Democrats) in power.

        Why is the solution always to punish those who were not guilty of the original injustice? The police officers who have been gunned down as a result of the heated BLM rhetoric had nothing to do with the various shootings.

        If I were to apply a Pharmaceutical analogy, the current situation would be like blaming the manufacturer and the line operators for contaminated drugs which led to patient deaths when it was the API that was received that was contaminated. However, the API contamination cannot be changed because it would offend the company or country where the API was produced. How can you expect to execute CAPA changes to fix the contaminated drugs when the RCA is unable to address all areas of the issue?

        As a “white guy”, I long ago realized there was little I could do to improve the lives of African-Americans. I studied Sociology in college thinking I could be a difference as a minister or social worker. I worked at a community based receiving home for children in support of juvenile justice, aka minimum security juvenile jail. I soon learned I could not and I was going to starve trying.

        The best I’ve been able to do is adopt an orphaned African child who needed a father and family to love her and to teach her norms and values which will allow her to be successful in civilized society, no matter her skin color. At the time of my daughters adoption, my wife was an elementary teacher at an inner city school in Louisiana, so we received plenty of input. We were advised by many African-American mothers (the principal, fellow teachers) that we would have to be “rough”, “loud”, and “in her face” to keep her “in-line” as she grew older. We rejected these African-American cultural norms regarding child-rearing. Being “coarse” and “crude” was not going to be part of her upbringing. She would be raised to produce “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23) We seek out role models of strong, independent black women who have not let the color of their skin nor their gender define them.

        Sorry for another long post. The root cause of the violence, poverty, poor police relations, etc. within the African-American community is cultural which makes it challenging to address in the current climate, which is the point. BLM doesn’t address the root cause and deeper issues. It only inflames existing divisions and hostilities, because the leaders of the movement have and continue to be dividers and not uniters. They only seek to point a finger at others, instead of also looking at the three fingers pointing back.

  10. Dirk, as always, wonderful insight provided based on historical fact. Would you allow this piece to be posted on Linked In or Facebook? I would love to share it with a broader audience….always a fan!

    1. Julie,
      Thanks for your comment and your support. The right way to share RxTrace essays is to copy the URL from the address bar of your browser and paste it into your destination. It’s fine to copy and paste the first paragraph or so as a teaser, but not the entire essay.


  11. Dirk,
    Actually it would be great if the blog was a safe space and respite from the politics of the day (FDQ excluded ). However, I find your piece wrong in several respect many made in prior comments . All lives matter, we will only be a better society when everyone truly accepts that. The BLM movement infested with hatred and prejudiced (where every event is prejudge before all evidence is seen and most evidence ignored) , often undisguised. At the same time, it ignores bigger root causes on specific actions and far larger problems, and distracts from critical analysis (social FMEA and CAPA).

    One other point– the constitution— you seem to miss the reason for the 3/5th ststus. It relates to the census and apportionment of representatives in congress. The slave states wanted slaves to fully count so that those stats would have a legislative advantages over the abolitionist states (which argued that slave states should not be entitled to additional voting power based on pepole held in slavery). Rather than denigrating slaves (including white indentured slaves ) it stood for the proposition that slavery was to be ended. You should also note that black freeman in North and south were fully cpunted as full persons for the cenus.

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