The Black Lives Matter movement has a serious PR problem. Too many people just don't get it.
The problem stems from the name, "Black Lives Matter." The sentiment undelaying the movement is sound, even profound: black lives matter just as much as any other lives. In other words, black lives matter too.
That's what the group should call itself, "Black Lives Matter Too."
The movement's misleading name -- not what it stands for, just it's name -- is the primary source of the rampant confusion, discord and opposition that has sprung up in response to the group.
The "Black Lives Matter" name implies other lives matter less. That isn't the intent, of course. But that's what many people think those words are saying. In their confusion, they counter that all lives matter.
This misunderstanding runs so deep that those who misconstrue the name have proposed a change to "All Lives Matter" that would only make the problem worse, by enshrining their misunderstanding. And that's created even more unnecessary controversy.
This rampant confusion runs deep. In the first Democratic presidential debate a law student asked the candidates, "Do black lives matter, or do all lives matter?" The student fell victim to the trap of thinking those who say "all lives matter" do not support the movement, when really they're confused by the confusing "Black Lives Matter" name.
The law student's question demonstrates how the whole Black Lives Matter discussion has gone down an Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole.
And this confusion about the movement's name seems to have no end.
This week, the head of a Virginia police union wrote on Facebook, "the truth is that 'All Lives Matter.'" Brad Carruthers saw a Black Lives Matter sign displayed by a business in Centerville, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, DC., and called for a boycott.
The easy response is that Carruthers is racist or, at a minimum, insensitive to the discrimination blacks encounter every day in this country.
In fact, Carruthers, like many others, seems to have been tripped up by the movement's misleading name. He undoubtedly thought it meant black lives matter more than white lives. Of course it doesn't, but we shouldn't blame him. The worst he can be accused of is being inattentive to the subtitles of language.
But so can many others. Too many others.
Before Carruthers there was a Harris County Sheriff in Texas, Ron Hickman. After one of his officers was shot in the back for no apparent reason, he said, "We've heard 'black lives matter.' All lives matter. Well, cops' lives matter, too. So why don't we just drop the qualifier and just say 'lives matter,' and take that to the bank."
A host of public officials have also shown how confusing the "Black Lives Matter" name can be. Among them have been Democratic and Republican presidential candidates Hilary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O'Malley, Donald Trump, and Rand Paul. Former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Miami Police Officer Lydia Marquez have also shown they don't get it.
Worse yet, those who misunderstand the group's name aren't just falling prey to a simple misunderstanding of a poorly worded slogan. "Black Lives Matter" is so confusing, it seems to mean the exact opposite of what the movement actually stands for.
This is a marketing problem and has nothing to do with the substance of the movement's goals and philosophy. It's public relations 101.
As a result of the poorly worded slogan, Black Lives Matter finds itself preaching to the choir. Those who get it -- the ones who understand the name -- are not part of the problem.
Those who speak on behalf of the loosely organized movement don't seem to care about -- or grasp -- the confusion. Like the law student's question at the presidential debate, they get caught in pointless exchanges with those who don't understand the movement's goals, rather than fixing the problem and coming up with a name that accurately represents their point of view.
The movement's name undermines its success and sows opposition. There isn't any real opposition to the movement's ideals. No one, except perhaps those waving Confederate flags, would object to the idea that black lives matter too. If the name were changed to accurately reflect the group's primary insight, we could finally have a national conversation about how to make it a reality.
Black Lives Matter Too. That's the point and that should be the name.