On Monday night, CNN host Don Lemon spoke over black actor Terry Crews, lecturing him about the Black Lives Matter movement. Crews noted that Black Lives Matter has a broad range of demands far outside the realm of police brutality, and if other black voices try to suggest other approaches to various issues, they find themselves shut down and branded as “Uncle Toms.” Lemon illustrated Crews’ point by speaking over him, dismissing the actor’s concerns about black-on-black crime that has killed innocent children caught in the crossfire.
Crews began the interview noting that “when you issue a warning and a warning is seen as detrimental to the movement,” you get shut down.
“When you have the leaders of the black lives movement who are now talking about, ‘If we don’t get our demands we’re going to burn it down,’ other black people who are talking about working with other whites and other races being viewed as sellouts or called uncle toms, you start to understand that you are now being controlled,” Crews argued.
“Someone wants to control the narrative, and I view it as a very very dangerous self-righteousness,” the actor explained. He suggested that the leaders of BLM view “themselves as better,” that “their black lives mattered a lot more than mine.”
“It’s a great mantra, it’s a true mantra. Black lives do matter,” Crews added. But he insisted, “I don’t want to move from one oppressor to the next.”
“When you look at the city of Chicago, there are nine people who died by gun violence by black-on-black gun violence from June 20 all the way to today,” he noted. Why isn’t the Black Lives Matter movement talking about that issue?
Lemon gave a rather interesting answer. He suggested that Black Lives Matter isn’t about all black lives mattering, but rather only about police brutality. This explanation does not hold up, of course, because the Black Lives Matter movement uses police brutality as a springboard to claim that “institutional racism” pervades American society. Black-on-black crime is an important issue to address when a movement makes grandiose claims like that.
On the issue of black people shot by other black people, rather than police, Lemon said, “I don’t understand what that has to do with equality. … I don’t understand what that has to do with a movement that’s for equality for black people. … It seems like apples and oranges.”
“Black people need to hold other black people accountable,” Crews responded. “This is black America’s version of the #MeToo movement. If anything is going to change, we ourselves, we need to look at our own communities. We need to look at each other and say, ‘This thing cannot go down.'”
“People who are running these neighborhoods with violence and then claiming that ‘Black Lives Matter.’ When you look at the parents of these little kids who are mentioned saying, ‘Hey man, why aren’t they speaking up for me, too?’ … It’s about who is controlling a narrative,” Crews argued. “It’s got to be ‘All Black Lives Matter.'”
He noted that activists came to “cancel” him “because I even challenged it.”
Lemon told him to grow a thicker skin and insisted that the Black Lives Matter movement does not need to be about all black lives.
“The Black Lives Matter movement was started because it was talking about police brutality. If you want an ‘All Black Lives Matter’ movement that talks about gun violence in communities including black communities, then start that movement with that name,” the CNN host shot back. “But that’s not what Black Lives Matter is about.”
Lemon compared Crews’ criticism of the Black Lives Matter movement to an HIV activist complaining about not being included in the “Cancer Matters” movement.
“If someone started a movement that said Cancer Matters, and then someone said, ‘Why aren’t you talking about HIV?’ It’s not the same thing. We’re talking about cancer,” the CNN host said.
“So the Black Lives Matter movement is about police brutality and injustice in that matter. Not about what’s happening in black neighborhoods. There are people who are working on that issue and if you want to start that issue, why don’t you start it?” Lemon challenged.
Crews attempted to get a word in edgewise. “But when you look at the organization, police brutality is not the only thing they’re talking about…”
At that point, Lemon cut him off.
Speaking over Crews, Lemon lectured, “I know that, I agree but that’s not what the Black Lives Matter movement is about, Terry. Black lives matter is about police brutality and criminal justice.”
“I’m not saying that’s not important that those kids die, but it’s a different movement.”
Crews condemned police brutality, but he added, “There’s more there, and if they have more on their agenda we need to ask them about what else is on that agenda, other than police brutality.”
Crews’ warning is quite apt. While the Black Lives Matter movement began by focusing on the issue of police brutality, it quickly expanded to include claims of “institutional racism,” attributing most of the problems in the black community to some white system of oppression. When Americans disagree with this radical claim, activists accuse them of not caring about black lives.
Yet on Saturday, the Fourth of July, an 11-year-old boy was killed in Washington, D.C.’s Anacostia neighborhood. The murdered boy’s grandfather, John Ayala, lamented, “We’re protesting for months, for weeks, saying, ‘Black Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter.’ Black lives matter it seems like, only when a police officer shoots a black person. What about all the black-on-black crime that’s happening in the community?”
Black lives most certainly matter, and that emphatically includes the black children killed in horrific black-on-black shootings.
It also includes the people who died in the riots following the George Floyd protests, most of whom are black. Retired police chief David Dorn was killed by looters breaking into his pawnshop in St. Louis. Chris Beaty was shot while helping two women who were being mugged in Indianapolis. Italia Marie Kelly was trying to leave a protest when she was shot and killed in Davenport, Iowa. Antonio Mays Jr., a 16-year-old boy, was shot and killed outside the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest (CHOP) in Seattle. Secoriea Taylor — an 8-year-old girl — was fatally shot as her mother attempted to park a car near a group of protesters close to the Wendy’s where Rayshard Brooks had been killed by police.
These black lives matter, and it matters that their lives were cut short by lawless riots perpetrated in the name of Black Lives Matter.
The Black Lives Matter movement is a Marxist subversion of America’s values — values of justice and equality that provide opportunity for people of all races. A leader of the movement threatened that if America “doesn’t give us what we want, then we will burn down this system and replace it.”
The riots are a foretaste of what “burning down the system” looks like, and it’s not pretty. The riots — which are still ongoing in places like Portland, Oregon — have destroyed black lives, black livelihoods, and black monuments. Amid the chaos of toppling statues, some activists dislodged the statue of former slave and magnificent American orator Frederick Douglass, on the anniversary of his most famous speech!
Terry Crews is right to worry about moving “from one oppressor to the next.” That’s exactly what happened in the French Revolution. King Louis XVI was an unjust tyrant, but he was nothing like Maximilien Robespierre, the Jacobin leader of The Terror who led a crusade to rename everything in French culture and lop off the heads of the aristocracy — a crusade that eventually claimed his own head. The French Revolution devolved into a French Empire, with a limitless Napoleon Buonaparte replacing the more limited monarchy.
America needs to address police brutality, but the (mercifully few) police shootings of unarmed black men — horrific as they are — do not prove that America is awash in systemic racism. Terry Crews is right to warn of the excesses of the Black Lives Matter movement, and he is right to insist that all black lives matter — because they do, and Black Lives Matter needs to act like it.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.