Richard Sherman's gripe with 'Black Lives Matter' is glaringly misguided

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During a recent press conference, NFL cornerback Richard Sherman shared a sentiment about the Black Lives Matter movement that many found divisive.

“I think as long as we have black-on-black crime and, you know, one black man killing another … if black lives matter, then it should matter all the time,” he opined.

People like Sherman, who believe that the black community needs to “fix” their internal problems before pursuing equality in their own country, perpetually bewilder me.

While these “new black” celebrities are so set against aligning themselves with a movement to stop the brutal assaults and executions of unarmed black people, what bewilders me the most is how easily these celebs trot out the “black on black crime” motif without spending any time analyzing how inner city gang warfare came to be.

They utter statements like, “why doesn’t anyone care when black folks kill each other?” (a statement that is rich with hyperbole and faulty logic), but I don’t ever hear any statistics or references to studies that analyze how these problems manifest.

Richard Sherman may have a diploma from Stanford, but he has no damn clue about the role state-sponsored violence is playing in ravaging his hometown, other cities across America just like it, and the everyday lives of people who share his skin color.

He believes that if and when we cleanse our communities of any possible problems, then, and only then, would we finally be in a position to express grief and anger over 7-year old black girls being shot to death in their beds in the middle of the night, and 12-year old black boys being murdered for daring to play with a toy gun in an open carry state. So, let’s examine what that would look like.

First, we must tap into the respectability politics playbook and define the issues that must be handled internally.

  • “Black-on-Black violence”
  • Gangs, hustling and trapping
  • Out-of-wedlock children
  • Absentee fathers
  • Black children’s apathy towards education
  • Joblessness
  • Excessive slang usage
  • Rap music
  • Sagging pants
  • Elimination of the word ni**er as a term of endearment
  • No littering in our own communities

Although it’s impossible to prioritize everything in order of importance, let’s just imagine that blacks of all socioeconomic classes, religions and backgrounds came together to fix these problems.

Let’s say we…

  • Washed and cleaned our neighborhoods
  • Rebuked the word ni**er
  • Only wore suits and long dresses
  • Eliminated rap music
  • Began speaking “properly”
  • Stopped accepting social welfare
  • Black children took school seriously
  • Fathers were present in the lives of their children
  • Men and women were married before having children
  • Got rid of gangs
  • Ended “Black-on-Black” murders

Once these problems have been addressed (to white people’s liking), then we could hop on social media and proclaim #BlackLivesMatter. But, here’s the kicker: communities of “respectable” black folks have already existed in America.

In  Tulsa, Oklahoma, the “Black Wall Street” had clean and beautifully manicured aesthetics, few gangs, and a community where black men were actually marrying black women at a rate higher than white couples. The community had over 600 businesses, a library, a bank, and even its own airport. It represented the pinnacle of black respectability, yet it didn’t help to end racism; it just incited racists to enter the community and bomb it to the ground.

Although Tulsa represented black excellence in the early twentieth century, African-American communities thrived (based on the respectability politics playbook) all over the United States in places like Chicago, St. Louis and Harlem (Harlem Renaissance). It’s what happened between the early 20th century and the early 21st century that tells the tale of the black community in America.

When bank foreclosures of family homes were occurring at a high rate due to the great depression, the National Housing Act of 1934 was passed, resulting in the predominantly white Home Owners’ Loan Corporation creating a map to identity which neighborhoods should receive investment and which neighborhoods should not — and the mostly black areas were left out in the cold. While white folks were saved by their government, black people were then met with the National Housing Act of 1937, which lead to the creation of public housing and further racialized segregation.

What kept many of the families in these environments afloat was the access black men had to low-skilled labor jobs. But in the 70’s, as factories and other business began to close up shop, tens and thousands of black people from Los Angeles to Detroit were finding their jobs slashed, cut and burned.

Then, in the 80’s, when Reagan entered the White House, he slashed billions from social programs that helped the poor and working class, he slashed Medicaid which resulted in many Black families losing coverage, and at the end of his term the homeless population in America went from 500,000 in 1980 to 2 million in 1988.

The 80’s also saw a prison building boom that was quickly followed by a black prison population boom. In 1980, there were 143,000 black men in jail or prison. Today, black people comprise almost 1 million of the 2.3 million people locked up in prison — a rate six times higher than white people.

In short, we were segregated officially and unofficially, we were locked out of government investments and bail outs, our communities were tormented and targeted by police, money for our children’s schools was routed to the creation of prisons and our communities were flooded by guns and drugs.

In his speech, Richard Sherman said that we need to stop pointing fingers and deal with the issues directly affecting us. So, I wonder, knowing all that we know about America’s history with racism, how would our collective community be saved without addressing the impact of discrimination and racist policy?

How do we clean up our communities with no money? How do we end gang violence when we have no funds to support after school programs? How do we fix the prison industrial complex and its direct targeting of black people? I am now demanding that people like Richard Sherman inform us all on how blacks achieve social equality without addressing the pervasive white supremacy that envelopes our lives.

If he, or others like him, don’t have the desire to do so, then they should just admit that they actually don’t give a damn about the black community and leave those of us who believe #BlackLivesMatter to our own devices.