There’s a curious new phenomenon in which, if you don’t say that “black lives matter,” you’re part of the problem.
I don’t particularly get it, either. CNN says that “[t]he distinction between saying ‘black lives matter’ and ‘all lives matter’ has emerged as something of a cultural dividing line amid the nationwide discussion about racial equality that has been touched off in recent weeks.”
My personal feeling is that both are truisms, but I’d be willing to say either. That being said, there’s a political import behind both of them — in particular the first, for reasons we’ll get to anon.
Anyhow, a Philadelphia ABC affiliate sprang this question on Vice President Mike Pence during an interview Friday. The subtext, of course, was that if Pence didn’t say it, he didn’t believe black lives actually mattered.
Pence didn’t take the bait.
“Let me just say that what happened to George Floyd was a tragedy,” Pence told WPVI-TV in Philadelphia on the question of saying “black lives matter.”
“And in this nation, especially on Juneteenth, we celebrate the fact that from the founding of this nation we’ve cherished the ideal that all, all of us are created equal, and endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights. And so all lives matter in a very real sense.”
WPVI anchor Brian Taff continued to try to get those three words words out of him.
“Forgive me for pressing you on this, sir,” he said, “but I will note you did not say those words, ‘black lives matter,’ and there is an important distinction.”
“People are saying, of course all lives matter, but to say the words is an acknowledgment that black lives also matter at a time in this country when it appears that there’s a segment of our society that doesn’t agree,” Taff said. “So why will you not say those words?”
Pence was unruffled.
“Well, I don’t accept the fact, Brian, that there’s a segment of American society that disagrees, in the preciousness and importance of every human life,” Pence said. “It’s one of the reasons why, as we advance important reforms in law enforcement, as we look for ways to strengthen and improve public safety in our cities, we’re not going to stop there.
“I couldn’t be more proud to be part of an administration that saw the lowest unemployment ever recorded for African-Americans. We saw the creation of thousands of opportunity zones that are generating billions of dollars in investment to our cities.”
Pence also noted the Trump administration’s commitment to education, including funding for historically black colleges and universities and its backing for school choice.
“We’re absolutely determined to improve the lives of our African-American citizens with more job opportunities, more educational opportunities. And this administration will remain committed doing what we’ve been doing all along.”
But Taff apparently was only listening for three words and not anything else.
“And yet, one final time, you won’t say the words and we understand your explanation,” he said, before moving along.