What is it about Democrats having to kiss the ring of the “Reverend” Al Sharpton?
In recent remarks before Sharpton’s National Action Network—an activist group primarily geared toward keeping Al’s name in the headlines and the donations rolling in—Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who has seen his profile rising as of late amongst the horde of Democrats vying for the 2020 presidential nomination, told the audience what he thought they wanted to hear, appropriating the language of the Black Lives Matter movement in advocating for criminal justice reform. He said:
It should enhance — not diminish — the value of a good police department when we assert what should go without saying, but in these times must be said clearly and again and again, that black lives matter.
All of which is well and good—because when it comes to dealing with law enforcement, there’s no argument that blacks are far more likely to be on the harsh end of those encounters. In all likelihood, Buttigieg‘s comments would have simply passed as run of the mill campaigning in an attempt to court the minority vote—that is, until another speech he gave back in 2015 “surfaced,” no doubt from oppo research conducted by his Democrat rivals, in which Mayor Pete sang a somewhat different tune.
“There is no contradiction between respecting the risks that police officers take every day in order to protect this community, and recognizing the need to overcome the biases implicit in a justice system that treats people from different backgrounds differently, even when they are accused of the same offenses,” Buttigieg said in his State of the City speech. “We need to take both those things seriously, for the simple and profound reason that all lives matter.”Emphasis added.
This being 2019 and all, Buttigieg immediately went into damage control mode. When asked by reporters if he stood by his earlier statement, he replied:
“So at that time, I was talking about a lot of issues around racial reconciliation and … what I did not understand at that time was that phrase just early into use especially into 2015 it was coming into use as sort of a counter-slogan to black lives matter,” Buttigieg said.
Buttigieg went on to say that, “So, the statement … actually wound up being used to devalue what the Black Lives Matter movement was telling us, which was what we needed to hear, because, unfortunately, it was not obvious to everybody how black lives were being valued in the streets.”
“So, that is the contribution of Black Lives Matter, and that is the reason why — since learning about how the phrase was being used — I have stopped using it,” he added.
Gotta hand it to Mayor Pete, his answer was pretty slick. Plausible even. It does, however, offer a sad commentary on the political moment we live in, when it’s actually controversial for a Democrat to say, “All lives matter.” Is that in any way untrue? Does it diminish the value of one person’s life when we also value another? And is the sympathy for for victims of violent crime really so limited that we have to assign different quantities to different people based on the color of their skin?
One thing all human beings share is the grief we feel at losing someone we love. That should serve as a reminder of how, at heart, we have far more in common with one another than all of our differences might lead us to believe. Buttigieg‘s line of thinking, however, and the political pressures that led to it, only divide us further. It is cynical, it is destructive—and it creates division on an issue that should unite us all.
But that’s rather the point, isn’t it?