My Turn: My sign is gone, but Black lives still matter

For the Monitor
Published: 10/18/2020 1:00:12 PM

My Black Lives Matter sign is gone. I had placed it further back on my property, away from the six campaign signs lined up to let travelers on the state road know who I support. The campaign signs all remain, despite Biden-Harris signs being trashed regularly in surrounding towns. But, the message of Black Lives Matter was the lightning rod, strong enough so someone trespassed and stole from me. I am dismayed, but not surprised.

Many of us believed the protests this summer after George Floyd’s murder were a turning point in our country, a sustainable commitment by a majority of Americans to finally confront racist policies. The number of white people who came out to stand with Black people, to call for an end to our country’s long history of devaluing Black lives, and to recognize the systemic pillars of racism was new. The spread and size of the protests was remarkable. Estimates put the number of people across the country who protested police violence against Black people in June between 15 and 26 million, the largest movement in U.S. history.

Public support among adults who expressed at least some support for Black Lives Matter rose to its highest level ever, at 67% in June. Broken out by race, 60% of white adults said they supported Black Lives Matter.

The worry that the increased recognition of systemic racism and support for the Black Lives Matter movement might not sustain was justified. In a Pew Research Center Survey in mid-September the percentage of adults who said they support Black Lives Matter was down to 55%. White adult support fell to 45%. Support among Black adults has remained high at 88%.

The partisan split in support for the Black Lives Matter movement is even more uneven than the divide between white and Black Americans. In June, 37% of Republican and Republican-leaning white adults supported the movement. By September that figure fell to 16%. In contrast, support among Democratic and Democratic-leaning white adults moved from 92% to 88%.

With numbers like that, it’s hard to ignore the likelihood that my sign was stolen by a white person, probably Republican-leaning and probably a male, given the gender concentration of men in white supremacist groups.

Individuals who denigrate the Black Lives Matter movement ignore the evidence that Black lives haven’t mattered in our nation since the beginning. Black Lives Matter does not mean blue lives don’t matter or all lives don’t matter, or white lives don’t matter.

Black Lives Matter is an affirmative counter to the acceptance of violence against Black people as if their lives don’t matter, a core message in our country since the need to justify slavery. It’s long past time to challenge that core message.

While the drop in support for the Black Lives Matter movement is discouraging, the levels of support among American adults is still higher than it was before George Floyd’s murder and the subsequent demonstrations. This is important. Every increase in the number of Americans who grasp the pervasive, near-invisible nature of systemic racism makes a difference now and in the future, as those numbers grow.

The decrease in support among white Americans for Black Lives Matter and for the recognition of racist policies in our country is similar to changes in public attitudes to other social issues. When there’s a lot of media coverage of an issue, the public pays more attention. Political science research has found that the effects of events on public opinion generally only last as long as they’re at the forefront of the country’s attention.

School shootings are a good example. Once the latest horror drops out of the news cycle, the urgency of the problem decreases for the public.

It’s up to white Americans to keep the light shining on racist policies and their effects on Black lives. Regardless of whether we asked for it or individually acted to create it, white Americans have more power in our society and we have to put that power to work against racism. Because of everything that tilts in the direction of positive responses to white people and negative responses to those whose skin is darker, white people who care about any kind of justice need to keep racial justice at the top of the list.

White Americans need to keep speaking up, showing up and reminding everyone, even those who would steal your declaration, that Black Lives Matter.

Now I have a Black Lives Matter flag pinned to the back of my barn, very visible, but at a greater distance. It is there with a diversity flag, just beneath an American flag waving in the breeze. Trump tweeted a complaint last week that people who have Black Lives Matter signs don’t fly American flags. Like most of what he tweets, that’s not true.

(Grace Mattern lives in Northwood.)

Concord Monitor Office

1 Monitor Drive
Concord,NH 03301


© 2021 Concord Monitor
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy