On a bright, sunny evening on a dusty back street of East London, I asked the above question to a few friends of mine and the answer was a resounding, “No!”
I leaned back onto my elbows and felt the warmth from the concrete wall transfer onto my skin. I grinned as I geared myself up to say the words that would explode into an argument.
“You’re wrong, it will do more harm.”
“What?” snapped one of my friends as he wrinkled his forehead and the sun glimmered on his shiny red sneakers.
“You heard what I said. The movement will do more harm than good.”
Both of my friends’ heads looked like they were about to pop from anger.
The one with the red sneakers crossed his arms and fell back onto his car door.
The other one, who was wearing white sneakers, shook his head from side to side as if to stress his dismay. He asked, “How will the movement do more harm than good?”
I skimmed my eyes over my friends and flipped through my mind for the best possible way to construct my words in a manner, which they would be able to process and attain cognition. I said, “By instigating further separation between black and white, which teaches our children that the concept ‘black lives matter’ is a valid and moral concept, which it is not, along with the concept ‘white lives matter’ and ‘all lives matter.’ The only valid concept is ‘individual, volitional, conceptual, conscious lives matter’ because according to reality and reason, this is what all human beings are: individual, volitional, conceptual, conscious entities. Not black, white, brown, yellow, red or whatever invalid concept racists want to use to separate the human family.”
Both of my friends’ faces became subdued for a moment as they absorbed and grappled with what my words concretized.
Red sneakers grinned as I guessed he felt he caught me in a contradiction. He asked, “But bro, doesn’t ‘all lives matter’ mean the same thing as individual, volitional… whatever you just said?”
“No, because ‘all lives matter’ implies that a life of a ‘flesh-eating bacteria’ matters, which it does not, especially if it is destroying the life of an individual, volitional, conceptual, conscious being.”
White sneakers weighed in and said, “So okay, if we agree that individual, volitional, conceptual, conscious lives matter then why are the police acting like they don’t and shouldn’t they be forced to act like they do?”
I took my elbows off the wall and watched a blue car that looked like an undercover police car cruise past. I put my foot on the wall behind me and stood with one leg bent. I said in a slow, calm tone of voice. “No. Because it is up to us to show the police that our individual, volitional, conceptual, conscious lives matter by being compliant, respectful and above all—because we now know for a fact that some police seem to be racist and are looking for any excuse to take our lives—we must be extra cautious in our actions that they do not come across as threatening. For example informing an officer that you have a licensed weapon and then reaching for your wallet in the same instance.”
Red sneakers snapped, “So what are you saying, my man, Philando Castile is to blame for being shot and killed?”
I stood up straight, pulled back my shoulders and pushed out my chest. “Of course not. The officer is at blame because we can assume that the officer either didn’t believe Philando’s firearm was licensed or Philando planned on shooting him due to the high possibility of the officer’s archaic primitive beliefs about race. However, what I am saying is that Philando could have avoided being killed by assuming that the officer was racist and thereby not saying or taking the action he took.”
Red sneakers shook his head as if he was trying to air dry his face. “Na, I don’t agree. Dem police in America that are licking man down are KKK and just like the police here in the UK, they will kill you no matter how polite, respectful or careful you are in not coming across as a threat.”
I swallowed a dry lump in my throat and said, “Bro, that’s arbitrary. Remember, even in places like Jamaica or Africa if you show any disrespect or perceived threat you can end up dead and those black police officers are not KKK.” I placed my index finger on my temple as if I was Malcolm X and added, “Again, to solve this problem is simple. One: Be fully compliant. Two: Don’t argue. Three: Don’t use foul language. Four: Don’t resist arrest. Five: Don’t threaten the officer. And above all – Six: Don’t do anything that may be perceived as a threat. If you do all of that, trust me these cops that you are referring to, as KKK or any police officer throughout the world will not put a hand on you. And if you act in this way they will soon realize that you are not…” I threw up air quotes, ‘…a black man,’ but an individual, volitional, conceptual, conscious being who follows reality, rationality and reason.”
I stared at my friends’ faces. They looked perplexed.
White sneakers said, “Bruv, trust me, following reality, rationality and reason will not work. We can’t bow down to them. We must fight fire with fire. Black Lives Matter.”
I narrowed my eyes and placed my elbows back onto the wall. “Okay, fair enough. You go ahead and teach that philosophy to your children and to anyone else that wants to listen because your ignorance may get them killed. Remember, Ignorance Kills so that’s why I follow reason, gain knowledge and use that to defend myself through the judicial system. And trust me I always win cases against ‘da boy dem’.”
It seemed as if White sneakers and Red sneakers were trying to mentally erase my last words from their subconscious.
White sneakers said, “Bro, we have to pick back up this argument again but we got to go.”
Red sneakers added, “For real.”
I said, “Say no more, my brudders,” and pumped fists with my friends and watched them jump into their cars and drive off down the dusty East London street.