Christine Flowers, 3/26/2015 [Archive]

Black (and White) Lives Matter

By Christine Flowers

Usually, the color of a dead man is irrelevant.Lives lost are lives lost regardless of the amount of melanin in the skin, the texture of hair and the width of a nose.

Some people try and make that color relevant, as when they create self-serving hashtags that say "Black Lives Matter," or when they decry police brutality against one particular demographic.Color is not allowed to be irrelevant, even when it is.

But it helps advance careers if you make it seem as if there is a war on one particular shade of person, and that the warriors are armed against the minority.

Some of the people whose careers get advanced, like the Rev. Al Sharpton, are dismissed as irrelevant stereotypes of the angry man, as they should be.Some others who actually speak intelligently about race relations, like the great Shelby Steele, aren't given the publicity they deserve.Some race baiters are white, and some are black, some are male and some are female and some don't even think they're pandering to our lesser angels.

But the saddest part about this whole "Black Lives Matter" campaign is that it is so one sided and so capable of manipulation that it makes those of us with good intentions very angry when a white life is taken by one of those black lives that supposedly mattered.

James Stuhlman was a valuable white life.I hate to use his color to define him because that was the least of who he truly was, but the antagonism of Ferguson, Long Island and Philadelphia force me to do so.When I see a father, a brother, an uncle, a classmate, a businessman, a dog owner and a truly kind man gunned down because three thugs allegedly saw him as an easy mark, I can't help but wonder just how much their lives mattered.Because they were black,and because they saw a helpless white man in their 'hood.

As a lawyer, I will do what lawyers are trained to do and give them the benefit of the doubt.They "allegedly" killed a man.I will also consider the possibility that color had nothing to do with the crime, and they might have gone after a black man who looked "weak" just as quickly.

But I will say that it angers me that the media have assumed race was irrelevant to the killing. There have been no hashtags about white lives being important, there have been no marches through the streets protesting this senseless murder, there have been no stories about how the District Attorney and Police Chiefs have called the victims widow and family to offer their condolences over a "suspicious" death.

You will read this and say, "Damn, Christine, why did you have to stir up that whole race controversy here?Don't you know that the Trayvons and the Michaels and the Erics and the Brandons are all symbols of a very real problem in society, the destruction of our young black generation?"

And I would respond that had we not pushed this whole "Black Lives Matter" campaign as if race is always an issue when a black youth dies, I might not have noticed the absolute silence when a white man is murdered (allegedly) by callous black youth. Had we just mourned the loss of people to senseless criminality, had we pointed to guns and poverty and drugs as the match that lights the powder kegs of societal violence, had we expressed profound sadness for the nihilism that has been engendered by a loss of respect for life I might not feel that color mattered in the death of James Stuhlman.

But why should we look away and pretend that his white skin didn't play a role in his death? What pointless rule of etiquette, fueled by a desire not to make waves and stemming from the depths of a white guilt described by Shelby Steele forces us to just cry about this man, someone who his friend Larry described as saying "I just want to be a good person" and not point the finger at his killers and say-was this a hate crime?

I'm sure people will read this and look at my photo and shake their heads.The white, middle class lawyer doesn't get it, they'll say.Yeah, her dad went to Mississippi a lifetime ago to make things better during the civil rights movement, but his daughter is clueless about bigotry.

The daughter is not clueless, folks.She's just angry that fifty years on, her father's work seems pointless.

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©2015 Christine Flowers. Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, and can be reached at cflowers1961@gmail.com.

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