Response to the "All Lives Matter" Columnist in the Bishop's Stortford Independent
Hertford & Stortford Constituency Labour Party would like to take this opportunity to respond to the article published in the Bishop’s Stortford Independent (24/06/2020) featuring the opinions of an All Lives Matter counter-protestor. This follows the Black Lives Matter demonstration held in Sworders Field on Saturday 20th June.
There were several opinions in this article misrepresented as fact, and in authoring the piece Mr Clements has wilfully misled residents on the motives of the Black Lives Matter movement and race relations in the United States and UK.
In his article, Mr Clements has also made use of dog whistle racism and half-truths often deployed by the far-right to stir up anti-black resentment and stoke racial tensions. We also note, with great concern, that Mr Clements made no attempt to back up any of his claims with properly referenced sources.
Mr Clements central claim that the Black Lives Matter slogan alienates, and that in fact we should say “All Lives Matter,” deliberately misses the point. Saying that black lives matter doesn’t mean that other lives do not. While the phrase “All Lives Matter” suggests a sense of unity, the reality is that it pulls focus away from those currently in peril and causes more division.
Would Mr Clements say to those advocating for Save the Children, “why don’t you save the adults?” or to Help the Aged “you should be helping the middle-aged too?" Of course not. If a house is burning there is a need to attend to the burning house, not all houses at that point. Black Lives Matter is not exclusionary; it is focused on where the need is NOW.
A response of “All Lives Matter” to BLM, discounts and diminishes the focus on the violence and discrimination faced by black individuals. The truth is that black Americans are disproportionately impacted by police violence and systemic racism, entirely contrary to the falsehoods in Mr Clements’ article.
In one paragraph Mr Clements carelessly employs the racist trope of “black-on-black violence,” and suggests that African Americans are more likely to suffer violence at the hands of their own community than from outside. This introduction of the stereotype of “black-on-black violence” is notoriously used as a subject change to deflect attention from the structural racism faced by black people and – to some extent – to excuse it. Most white people are killed by white people, but “white-on-white” violence is never cited as a factor here.
Statistics tell us that black Americans are in fact three times more likely to be killed by police than white people and are also 1.3 times more likely to be unarmed compared to white people. A paper published in December 2019 reported that a bias in police records resulted in many studies underestimating, or even entirely masking, the levels of racial bias in policing.
Mr Clements also goes out of his way to misrepresent the aims and objectives of the Black Lives Matter movement, and suggests that it is one homogenous group, rather than the loose collective of activists from across the world with broad aims that it is.
At the end of his piece, Mr Clements casually introduces – with no evidence to back it up – the contention that white working class men are “the most disadvantaged group in society”. This is simply untrue. Whilst it is known there is a worrying attainment gap amongst white working class boys, this is something that should lead to actions to redress deprivation amongst the working class in general rather than used to dismiss racism and discrimination against black people. Furthermore, in 2018 4% of white people were unemployed, compared to 9% of black people, a statistic that rather undermines Mr Clements’ claims of disadvantage. The government’s own statistics show that people from the White British, White Irish and White Other ethnic groups were the least likely out of all ethnic groups to live in the most income-deprived 10% of neighbourhoods.
By publishing this individual’s unedited column - rather than interviewing him and challenging his racist misrepresentations - the Indie has provided a platform to blatant racism. Though there were several pages of coverage of Saturday 20th’s demonstration, Mr Clements was the only individual given the opportunity to espouse his views through the Indie.
Why was equal space not given to an opinion piece from someone from the Black Lives Matter movement, the local Herts & Essex Girls School Campaign or the Stortford Against Rhodes campaign?
This is not representative of “balance” in the local press, which is disappointing as the Indie had been broadly supportive of local Black Lives Matter demonstrations up until this point.
Many in our community, myself included, hope that the Bishop’s Stortford Independent will seek to provide equal space for the many anti-racist campaigns in our local area to share their opinions and will in future challenge blatant racism expressed by individuals like Mr Clements. This is a challenge and responsibility for us all.
Hertford & Stortford CLP BAME Officer & Bishop’s Stortford & Sawbridgeworth Labour Party Branch Chair