Thursday, August 20, 2015

Some Lives Matter

The current controversy over the "Black Lives Matter" movement gives us a clear illustration of the effects of racism in America. While black people find racism everywhere, simply because they are the targets of it, and know too well how it impacts on their day-to-day lives, many white people don't seem to see it anywhere, and would deny that it is a factor in 21st century American society. There is considerable confusion over the slogan "Black Lives Matter" among whites, who don't see what an exceptional claim it is. "Of course black lives matter," they insist. "All lives matter." But clearly, to some Americans, some lives matter more than others.

Tomorrow, August 21, is known as Ninoy Aquino Day here in the Philippines, marking the anniversary of the murder of Aquino (whose son is the current sitting president of the Philippines) undoubtedly by persons in the pay of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos. I wrote a piece on this blog almost exactly six years ago about a curious quote by Aquino that used to be printed on the five hundred peso bill. Like "Black Lives Matter," it doesn't seem like such a remarkable phrase. But Aquino knew that it was:

'Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, Jr. is on the Philippine 500 peso bill, with his words, "The Filipino is worth dying for" on the right hand side. I have often wondered at this famous quote because it doesn't sound the least bit exceptional. Nobody would think of saying that "The Italian is worth dying for", or the Egyptian or the Japanese. Everyone would think such statements were self-evident and didn't warrant stating. But it is only because Aquino's words are not self-evident that they were considered remarkable, even revolutionary - because Ferdinand Marcos was convinced, and tried to convince his followers, that the Filipino was not worth dying for. It was finally Aquino that made the words true. I wonder how many others in the Philippine government really believe in them?' (1)


What makes "Black Lives Matter" such a significant slogan is that, to many Americans - and not just white Americans - black lives obviously DO NOT matter, or don't matter as much as white lives. 

(1) The original post can be found here.

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