Race riots erupted in the streets of Milwaukee, Wisconsin this weekend. 23-year-old Sylville Smith was shot and killed by a police officer. Smith had an illegally obtained pistol in his possession and refused to put it down when the officer ordered him to. Smith had a history of past arrests, according to Milwaukee Police Capt. Mark Stanmeyer.
Several people responded by rioting in the streets. A lot of destruction took place and several businesses were burned down. Some of the rioters were part of the Black Lives Matter movement, as evident by photographs of rioters wearing their shirts. The rioters were also chanting "black power" and beating up any white person in sight.
The rioters didn't take into account the fact that the officer who shot Smith was black. They also didn't seem to understand how this officer's actions could possibly be justified. Especially with Smith's arrest history, the fact that the gun was stolen, and his refusal to put it down. Instead, hatred and violence came out of many ill-informed people.
Don't get me wrong, I believe there are many well-intended people within the Black Lives Matter movement. I also believe police brutality is a real problem. However, this isn't something that only affects black people. White people are also victims of police brutality, as are Hispanics, Asians, and every other race. I will avoid statistics and comparisons as to which group experiences it more. I don't believe that will help anyone. The fact that it is even happening is enough.
Therefore, it is unsettling to me when I see black-on-black crime go by unnoticed in the Black Lives Matter movement. It seems like the only black lives that matter to them are the ones taken by police officers. This is something Peggy Hubbard knows all too much about. Hubbard posted a rant criticizing the movement. The rant went viral last year and Hubbard appeared on CNN to speak with Don Lemon.
Hubbard pointed out the death of 9-year-old Jamyla Bolden, who died from a stray bullet. Hubbard said that while Bolden's death was mostly ignored, violence erupted from protesters when a wanted criminal was shot dead by cops after he reportedly pointed a gun at them.
"You say black lives matter? Her life mattered. Her dreams mattered. Her future mattered. Her promises mattered," Hubbard said.
I do feel that many of those within the Black Lives Matter movement are going to unnecessary and dangerous lengths. These lengths are dividing and segregating people. This past June, a vigil was being held for the victims of the Orlando shooting at the University of Missouri. Suddenly, three Black Lives Matter members got on the stage. One of them was activist Tiffany Melecio. When Melecio got on stage, she criticized the audience for not coming to their racial demonstrations.
"I was really nervous to get up here because there's a lot of white people in the crowd," she said.
Members of Black Lives Matter Toronto halted the city's Pride parade in July. Co-founder Alexandra Williams said the group was holding Pride Toronto accountable for their "anti-blackness." Ironically, Black Lives Matter Toronto was invited to the parade as its Honoured Group. The parade was halted for up to 30 minutes, until the executive director of Pride Toronto, Mathieu Chantelois, signed a document agreeing to the group's demands.
One of those demands was that the parade can no longer have police floats. Black Lives Matter Vancouver made the same demand. I disagree with this wholeheartedly. This action would encourage the assumption that all police are evil. I don't believe that is the case. I think there are several police officers who are good people. I believe they should have the right to show their support for their city's LGBT community. I find an action like this hypocritical, as I'm sure Black Lives Matter members wouldn't want someone to make a generalization about black people.
I believe the only way to make real progress is for people to unite. I do believe there are some within the Black Lives Matter movement who condemn this divisive behavior. However, it's a shame that the ones with the loudest voices are the ones who are, whether intentional or not, causing more separation. It is not a contest of who's oppression is more important. It is not a question of who's life is more valuable. We're all just human beings and unity is the only way out of this mess.
Perhaps it was best said by Martin Luther King, Jr. himself. "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."