When I wrote to the Premier League a week or so ago about their decision to put 'Black Lives Matter' on the players' shirts, I wanted to be very clear that I understand and support the basic principle of what they are TRYING to achieve. They're trying to support a stance against racism. That's great and something that 99% of us would back, and indeed often have backed. There are some racist people in the UK, I have no doubt about that, and it shouldn't be acceptable.
The point I made though is that whilst what they are TRYING to achieve is very positive and laudable, what they will ACTUALLY achieve by choosing to support 'Black Lives Matter' is to increase and further entrench division.
When you start to push everyone to identify themselves by the colour of their skin, that is not a good thing! When you start to single out characteristics that divide you from others, you create an equal and opposite reaction. A rise of the far left will create a reactive rise of the far right, and the whole debate is then characterised by those extremes rather than understanding the vast majority of normal people caught in the middle. Most of whom in my experience support a strong stance against racism, but don't support the divisive politics that comes with this campaign.
Most people don't naturally see skin colour as a defining characteristic. In the 21st century the first thought in the heads of most people when they tell you about themselves is not "I am a white man" or "I am a black man". Most people don't care what colour your skin is... until movements like this make a huge thing about pointing it out, and excluding people from the 'unity'.
Black Lives Matter as an organisation isn't just about racism, it's also got a core message as an organisation of ripping down our establishment; the Police, our institutions, capitalism... They are its stated aims. It's divisive and controversial. It's even villified other BAME people who disagree. As we speak they're outside the gates of Parliament chanting about how Priti Patel's experience of racism is false. It's not unifying in the way that, for example, Show Racism The Red Card is unifying.
What is created, when a phrase like 'Black Lives Matter' is the rallying cry, is an inequality. Many people will question why it's ok to say Black Lives Matter, but White Lives Matter is something to be ashamed of. Some BLM campaigners will point out that they thinkg BLM means that black lives matter too, and that doesn't detract from the rights of others. In which case surely the exact same wording the other way round means the same? No? The inequality is in the assumed negative intentions towards one, with a blanket pardon for the other! 'Black Lives' is a positive campaign. 'White Lives' is divisive and racist.
In reality, neither phrase is helpful! Both versions are divisive! Like I said, going out of our way to point out skin colour is not bringing people together. Neither phrase should be banned, because we live in a country where we value (I hope) free speech, but we should all seek to highlight all inequality and deal with it.
If Black Lives Matter is a cry for help from communities who feel that they don't have a fair chance in life, then can the 'White Lives Matter' or 'All Lives Matter' reaction not be the same? Why the assumed negative intent? Why is it fine one way, but racist the other way?
I don't condone the banner, I think it's deeply unhelpful and equally divisive, but it's most likely not about racism. It's simply pointing out that there are some very poor white communities who statistically have some of the worst outcomes in our country - in places like Burnley actually, or Mansfield - which we don't talk about enough or deal with enough. It's literally exactly the same argument as those supporting BLM. It's pointing out that poor white girls are being groomed for sexual abuse and poor white lads are failing at school. That is equally as valid and important.
Therein lies the inequality that BLM creates... the more were pushed to identify ourselves as 'black' or 'white' the more the colour of our skin becomes an issue. The more it sits at the forefront of people's minds. The right thing to do is to deal with inequalities wherever we find them, not to rank the inequalities in a false order of priority and set people against each other.