Mike Pence, Marcellus Wiley, and the Problem of Sloganeering
On June 19, also known as Juneteenth, Vice President Pence got himself into some controversy when he said, “And in this nation, especially on Juneteenth, we celebrate the fact that from the founding of this nation we’ve cherished the ideal that all, all of us are created equal, and endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights. And so all lives matter in a very real sense.” When pushed on declining to say “black lives matter” he added, “Well, I don’t accept the fact, Brian [Taff], that there’s a segment of American society that disagrees, in the preciousness and importance of every human life.”
For right-leaning America the outrage over Pence’s comments was stupid. He did not say black lives do not matter, he simply said all lives matter. What’s the problem?
For others, the problem isn’t the idea that “all lives matter,” but according to them, society does not value all lives. Specifically, black lives. When a member of the community is suffering, you help him. That does not mean others members of the community do not matter, but the priority is to help those who are suffering.
Hence, while the phrase “black lives matter” to Pence is an obvious truism that provides no meaningful insight into police reform or other legislative proposals, to others repetition of the phrase is their way of forcing people like Pence to listen to concerns they have and have had for some time, but feel like nobody has listened to.
There’s another problem with the phrase black lives matter, however. One reason Pence may not want to say black lives matter is because to a right-leaning person like Pence, “do you support black lives matter” often sounds like “do you support Black Lives Matter.”
Former NFL player Marcellus Wiley, a self-described liberal, made this point on a recent episode of Speak for Yourself, talking about the NBA’s decision to paint “Black Lives Matter” on their courts. Wiley said that his most important job in life is being a good father and a good husband, but referenced blacklivesmatter.com which says, “We disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and ‘villages’ that collectively care for one another, especially our children, to the degree that mothers, parents, and children are comfortable.”
Another example not cited by Wiley, was the co-founder of an organization called Black Lives Matter saying in 2015, “We are trained Marxists. We are super-versed on, sort of, ideological theories. And I think that what we really tried to do is build a movement that could be utilized by many, many black folk.”
Do the multimillionaires in the NBA or the crowds in the streets agree that the way to advance civil rights in this country is to embrace a man whose work is responsible for 100 million dead in 100 years? Probably not. Do they believe in blowing up the nuclear family? Probably not, but at least some of the self-appointed leaders do.
The Black Lives Matter movement has a problem and it’s not Mike Pence. Black Lives Matter appears to be a fractured movement of three main factions. One faction being the virtue signalers who post pictures of black squares on their Instagram because they want you know that they oppose bad things like racism and support good things such as civil rights. Secondly, you have the more mainstream people who believe there is a problem and here are some suggestions to fix it. Finally, there’s the radicals like those mentioned by Wiley who propose solutions that have nothing to do with civil rights and embrace totalitarian ideology, from Marxism to graceless cancel culture of both historical and contemporary persons, to the pseudoscience propagated by people like Robin DiAnglo.
A lot of well-meaning people in the second group get swept up by the third, because being anti-racist, an Orwellian phrase if ever there was one, is the goal. But, in politics, it is not enough to say what you are against. You need to say what you are for. The current state of polarization in politics says if someone disagrees with Black Lives Matter, they disagree with black lives matter.
It is the same logic that leads politicians to name their bills The Nice Things Act of 2020, so they can run ads against those voted against it as being against nice things.
Calling your self an anti-racist or anti-fascist does not mean anything. Joseph Stalin was an anti-fascist, that does not mean Joseph Stalin is our role model for combating racism and fascism. Calling yourself an anti-racist does not mean that everyone who disagrees with you is therefore a racist.
If Black Lives Matter (the reasonable one, not the commie one) wants Mike Pence to say black lives matter, then it needs to realize the two are not synonymous and distancing itself from its Marxist and anti-American elements will go a long way to bring about that conversation they claim to want to have.
The sloganeering may be great for protesting, but it’s not great for governing or discussing policy.