Racial integration

The egalitarian, typically centrist white response to the “BlackLivesMatter” hashtag is “AllLivesMatter”. But this response is frequently rejected by black people as a distraction from the issue at hand: the alleged* imbalance in law enforcement’s use of lethal force against black suspects as opposed to white ones.

Framing the issue of police brutality in racial terms makes sense from a black perspective. Whether it is losing a loved one to a policeman’s weapon or the possibility of being targeted with lethal force themselves, black people have legitimate reasons to see in the pattern of news stories about people killed by police a special cause for alarm, whether rational or otherwise. On top of that, existing political and cultural infrastructure supports a racial framing of the issue and its BLM hashtag (can it be called a movement?), as do potentially a number of other factors, making alternative framings irrelevant before they are even considered.

However, this way of framing is also an example of black people voluntarily cementing a division (one more, it could be said) between themselves and white people. The AllLivesMatter response, then, can be seen as evidence of concern among egalitarian whites over the implications of BLM on the broader goal of racial integration, something many of them presumed was a priority shared in common with blacks since the Civil Rights era. In reality it may not be.

Racial integration was never well-defined. It went from “end racial discrimination in the public sector” to “end anti-black discrimination in the private sector” to “expect racial equality of outcomes, including in the use of lethal force by police but also in education, economic attainment, representation in the media, and so on” as well as other definitions, some still evolving.

If this entry had been written in the one-liner style more typical of this blog, it would be: Goalposts in motion tend to stay in motion. Any attempts to define racial integration–to drive a stake into the sand and apply an “outside force” against the motion of the goalposts–inevitably yields either something that the aggrieved party is not satisfied with, or something that almost nobody of any race actually wants.

If there was a definition that defied both of these obstacles, it would have been implemented already, and so there probably isn’t one. That’s what scares me. What is an enormous, racially diverse nation to do, going forward? What course of action will be sustainable?

On the other hand, why aren’t things worse?

*The claim is “alleged” because statistics and arguments can be found arguing either for or against, and in the end it may come down to a higher-level philosophical disagreement over how the law ought to be enforced. I have my own opinions on these issues but not a high level of confidence in them, and they are not relevant to this blog entry anyway.

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