All Black Lives Matter: A Reader Forum

Continuing the tough but crucial discussion on the disproportionate loss of black lives in America

From the main edition of the Dish this week, a reader continues a comment on the “psychological cost of black deaths”:

There’s also the deferment of accountability. Deep down, I suspect many black Americans are terrified of acknowledging that the responsibility for so much community misery is slowly shifting away from the horrible things that white people did in the past to the horrible things that black Americans are doing all on their own. Since both still exist, it’s very tempting to pick the target that requires the least amount of painful self-scrutiny.

Lastly, it’s a sign of times. It’s quite the rage to pick lopsided views of real events that give us an implicit sense of control. COVID-19 isn’t some random horror; it was *done to us* by the Chinese and we can stop them. Autism isn’t an unpredictable and devastating disorder; it was caused by a profiteering racket of commercialists and we can stop them. We didn’t lose this election because of our own mistakes; it was taken from us by a cabal of foreign powers whom we can defeat. The illusion of an adversary is the illusion of purpose, especially if there are grains of truth to build upon.

Another reader pushes back on a previous one:

I was disheartened to see an uncritical platform given to The Spectator’s George Parry. Using Parry as a source, your reader claims that George Floyd “died of a self-administered fentanyl overdose,” a claim that shows a poor understanding of opioid overdose and toxicology reports. It’s curious that Parry doesn’t use one medical professional as a source in any of his articles. Here is Dr. Bernard Hsu explaining why George Floyd did not die of an overdose:

Another reader points to a very different kind of violence:

It’s long been my opinion that with its “Oh my God, what if this makes me a racist?” fear of acknowledging what everybody knows is true, liberalism is throwing away what could be powerful evidence against cultural conservatism. After all, if corporal punishment worked the way its defenders think it does, Blacks should have a lower crime rate than whites.

This article by Stacey Patton, author of “Spare the Kids: Why Whupping Children Won’t Save Black America”, it worth a read. It begins:

A 2015 Pew Research survey found that black parents are more than twice as likely as white and Latino parents to use corporal punishment on a regular basis, and they are far less likely to never spank their children. But while hitting children is prevalent in black communities, contrary to popular belief, it is not an intrinsic cultural tradition. Black parents have legitimate fears about the safety of their children, and the overwhelming majority believe physical discipline is necessary to keep black children out of the streets, out of prison or out of police officers’ sight. And far too many parents argue that “whupping” children is a distinctly black tradition. This belief, however heartfelt, is wrong.

Another reader points to a different kind of black life — and a controversial topic wrapped in an even more controversial topic:

A 2018 column in the Wall Street Journal by Jason L. Riley addresses the rate of abortion within the black community, and notes that, “In New York City, thousands more black babies are aborted than born alive each year, and the abortion rate among black mothers is more than three times higher than it is for white mothers. According to a city Health Department report released in May, between 2012 and 2016 black mothers terminated 136,426 pregnancies and gave birth to 118,127 babies.”

To add anything more to the debate, we’re always at dish@andrewsullivan.com. To recap, Andrew’s original column exploring the civilian toll on black lives is here, followed by dissents from conservative readers here and liberal readers here. This next reader illustrates how the issue of black lives — and the way it was framed this summer — can tear families apart simply by discussing it:

When my daughter-in-law asked me to “say his name” (George Floyd) after getting into a heated discussion on police brutality, I gave the name (Ayshawn Davis) of an 11-year-old boy killed in a drive-by shooting near my town. When she asked me again, I said the name of another child killed in similar manner. When she stopped and asked me who these people were, I explained who, why I am saying their names, and if she did not know them, why not? Were their lives less important? Did they not matter?

I did not get an answer, of course. She had been very cold to me ever since the Floyd killing because I am a Minneapolis native and my grandfather was a Minneapolis officer for over 30 years. She even had the nerve to ask me how many Black men my grandfather killed, since that was all Minneapolis officers knew how to do. I have not spoken to her since.

There are family fractures on the Christianist-Trump right too, of course, as this reader attests:

I attended a born-again, evangelical church from my mid teens to my mid 20s, so I know the Christianist culture. I have an uncle and a cousin who are still evangelicals, and my cousin considers himself part of the larger patriot movement to take this country back, has guns, and is just itching for a second Civil War. God is always in the conversation.

My brother and I wonder what happened to my cousin. He’s not dumb, but he has become dumb. He literally gets all of his news from Tucker Carlson and YouTube. I’ve tried numerous times to have conversations with him, but the last time we spoke, he hung up on me after I told him he was blinded by hate. We haven’t spoken since, and although I left the door open, I don’t believe we’ll ever speak again.

There is absolutely no reasoning with Christianists because, as you said, this is all about belief and they don’t need proof. It is both maddening and terrifying. Perhaps you could do a followup on how this is tearing families apart, because it is.

Has it torn your own family apart? Not just a bitter disagreement, but a deep rift that caused you and your loved one to no longer talk — or worse? Please write us at dish@andrewsullivan.com, telling us your story of family strife — either from the Trump right or the woke left. If you’re a Dish subscriber, you can also share your story via the comment box below. Perhaps by airing such turmoil, we can glean a little insight on how to repair it.