EDITORIAL: No lie: Black Lives Matter

York Dispatch Editorial Board

If true, it’s beyond disappointing.

The operators of a Twitter account called We See What You’re Doing are alleging that Shallow Brook Intermediate School Principal Scott D’Orazio shared a social media post questioning the motives of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

The meme, purportedly posted by D’Orazio on his private Facebook page, characterizes the movement as “a leftist life.”

More:Northeastern principal allegedly called Black Lives Matter 'leftist lie'

D’Orazio’s Facebook page is private, visible only to his friends, so it’s not yet known whether he’s disseminating this unfortunate characterization. But this much is known: There’s plenty of that type of thinking out there. And it’s wrong.

Let’s start at the beginning: If your response to “Black Lives Matter” is “All Lives Matter,” you’re missing the point. Badly.

Supporters aren’t saying only black lives matter, or black lives matter more; they’re saying black live matter too. It’s a simple statement of dignity and equality; an insistence of fair treatment in society and under the law. “All lives,” or for that matter “blue lives” or “white lives,” are not snuffed out with regularity (and without cause) at the hands of police or gun-wielding vigilantes.

At its peak, about 100 people gather in Continental Square in peaceful protest for George Floyd, to remember those who have died at the hands of police and to celebrate the communication experienced throughout the week between community members and officials in York City, Friday, June 5, 2020. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The international outpouring of protest that has followed the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police is a sustained, anguished and, yes, angry response not just to Mr. Floyd’s killing, but to the racial injustice and police brutality of which it is just the latest example.

Mr. Floyd’s final moments — face down on the ground, Officer Derek Chauvin’s knee on his neck for almost nine minutes — were all too familiar. From Alton Sterling to Philando Castile to Tamir Rice to Michael Brown to Water Scott to Freddie Gray, we’ve seen too many examples of unarmed men of color killed in police custody. Even Mr. Floyd’s final words — “I can’t breathe” — echoed those of Eric Garner, a Staten Island man choked to death in 2014 by an off-duty police officer while being arrested for selling loose cigarettes.

Shallow Brook Intermediate School Principal Scott D'Orazio allegedly posted an anti-Black Lives Matter meme on his Facebook account. The situation is under investigation by Northeastern School District legal counsel.

That Mr. Floyd’s death should follow so closely on the cases of Ahmaud Arbery, an African-American jogger chased down and shot to death by a father and son in Georgia, and Breonna Taylor, an African-American EMT fatally shot in her own apartment by Louisville, Kentucky, police executing a late-night, no-knock warrant, magnifies the issue.

Whether under arrest for a petty offense (Mr. Floyd allegedly attempted to pass off a counterfeit $20 bill), jogging down the street or asleep in one’s own bed, black Americans are never safe from being accosted, assaulted and, potentially, killed; never secure that, in America in 2020, their lives matter.

Suggestions that this unjust state of affairs is a “lie,” leftist or otherwise, are not just offensive, they ignore reality.

And the reality is that the overwhelming majority of black Americans continue to endure not only a hostile criminal justice system but unequal treatment and opportunity in terms of housing, health care, education, employment and economic policy.

Scott D’Orazio

Does Shallow Brook Intermediate School Principal D’Orazio acknowledge this reality? Because dismissive assertions that efforts to rectify these systemic inequities are somehow a lie have no place in the halls of a middle school whose population is nearly one-quarter minority.

The Northeastern School District’s solicitor is looking into the issue, although neither he, the school board president, nor D’Orazio have commented publicly.

One Facebook post ought to be inconsequential given the magnitude of the issue. Except for what it represents:

  • Failure to acknowledge the pain and suffering that generations of black Americans have endured and continue to endure owing to systemic racism.
  • A willful disavowal of any responsibility to confront and counter racial bias in all its forms.
  • Perpetuation of policies and practices that dilute opportunity and diminish the dignity of some 15 percent of the American population.
  • The refusal to acknowledge a simple tenet that should be neither questionable nor controversial: Black Lives Matter.