Reality Bites by James A. Norton: What do you mean “Black Lives Matter”?


Now that I have your attention, let me elaborate. ALL lives matter. Black, white, brown, beige, yellow, purple – it doesn’t matter – all lives matter, period. This isn’t Ferguson MO or Hicksticks TN – this is Somerville, once part of Boston. I don’t have all the hard crime numbers in front of me, but I can’t imagine that there’s a lot of hate crimes, specifically race crimes, happening in this city in 2015.

So when the Mayor had a #blacklivesmatter banner hung on City Hall last week that was kinda the last straw for me – and I am not alone on this one. The Mayor’s office can go online to Facebook and explain that he knows, of course, that all lives matter and blah blah blah – but what about the population which doesn’t have Facebook or hang on their Twitter feed all day? How do you explain it to Mr and Mrs Old Folks who drove by and saw that banner and by the time they have the chance to ask anyone what it meant, instead of your message being conveyed, it’s someone else’s biased interpretation?


I have personally spoken to dozens and dozens of people who, like me, weren’t fans of that banner. To those people who are still smacking from gentrification issues that have beset this city over the last two decades, it’s another slap in the face. I know black people who didn’t like that sign being hung from City Hall. The seat of local government should be for all people, for all lives that matter. Not just for one group or race – not even for one minute – this should be about us all.


Maybe I missed something, because on it’s surface, this smacks of political pandering at it’s most brazen – and it of course plays well with the “progressive” crowd. It’s not like Somerville hasn’t been at the edge of liberal nirvana for the last couple of decades. So how about we just stop with that kind of posturing and sending the wrong message to the general public. How about doing the real liberal thing and reach across all the race, gender and sexual preference aisles and make it #everyonematters or #alllivesmatter. This isn’t the backwater mid-West or deep South. Just stop.


And not for nothing, but what kind of message are you sending the fine men and women of the Somerville Police Department? Let’s not even go there. That whole explanation fluff piece online with Commonwealth Magazine the next day was super shitty too – I would not be proud of that. I’m sure the SPD isn’t terribly proud that you feel it necessary to make commentary about “institutional discrimination.” You say Chief Fallon supported putting the banner up – well, I’m fairly certain he wasn’t given the right of first refusal on that one and knowing him, he is probably more concerned with actual policing issues that mean something on the streets of Somerville – not some political diatribe that defends itself by insisting that anyone who doesn’t agree with it is in “denial” or wishes to continue racial division – did I really read that?


My point is – there was more violence, racial or otherwise, in this city back in the 60’s and 70’s when the nitwit gangsters were all trying to kill each other. There was even more violence within the SPD’s own ranks for years than there ever was to any particular group of the general public. That’s just plain old truth, whether anyone wants to admit it or not. Let’s all keep in mind that this is one of the most diverse communities in the entire country. There’s no need to point a finger and say that any group matters more or less than any other. That’s what this community stands for and definitely what the seat of local government should stand for, not political grandstanding. That just doesn’t play.



8 thoughts on “Reality Bites by James A. Norton: What do you mean “Black Lives Matter”?”

  1. This isn’t about Somerville AT ALL, not one bit about Somerville, this is about solidarity with the rest of our black brothers and sisters of America. Just because there aren’t any problems here does not mean we should ignore the problems that do not concern us. If we are in Somerville, MA which is in the USA then we should care for all of USA. Our people are dying out there. Our Americans. So why should we not care? This is the problem with people like you. You can’t let anyone else have the attention, which goes to the point of saying #alllivesmatter. You are once again taking away from the cause of someone else that is important and real and making it about yourselves. No, it’s Black Lives Matter because they are facing more than any of us right now and it needs to be known.

  2. Why are you mad though? I understand where you’re coming from but the mayor is just supporting something that’s bigger than just little old Somerville. If this is how you think then I’m even more happy he put it up, and I hope he leaves it. Asshole

  3. I think you’ve completely missed the point behind the “Black Lives Matter” movement and you’re not the only one. It seems like most people’s reaction is to immediately become defensive. The movement was not created to separate people, but to draw attention to the fact that there is systemic inequality towards black people when it comes to crime and arrests (but also economics, health care, etc.)

    I’m proud that the Mayor put that banner up and I don’t know why people are so upset about it, especially in a city that is so progressive and welcoming as Somerville.

    Instead of writing this op-ed piece talking about how this type of structural violence doesn’t happen in Somerville, figure out why it’s happening anywhere. Everyone needs to understand that this happens all over and we need to work together to draw attention to how unfair this all is. I am really encouraging you to do some research into this movement and read the 100s of cases of black people being arrested for things that aren’t even crimes. Just today I read about a group of black women that were thrown off a train and met by police because a passenger complained about them laughing.

    We know white lives matter just in the difference in treatment and, at its base, we know all lives matter, but having that thought hasn’t changed how anything operates. And people that make those claims or argue those points really need to look at the issue: black men and women are dying whether it’s at the hands of police or a citizen. It needs to stop and we (everyone) need to change and work to make that happen.

  4. “This is somerville- once a part of Boston’

    You do realize that Boston has one of the more segregated public school systems in the country right?

  5. #BlackLivesMatter is an acknowledgment that everything is NOT okay in America, that some our communities (black, trans, disabled) are struggling and suffering after decades of systematic oppression and abuse.

    Countering with all lives matter is equivalent to a statement that the status quo is great and should be maintained.

    With a little bit of self reflection and reading about current events like the violence in Chicago, incarceration disparities, police abuse of power, achievement gaps and institutionalized inequalities etc. I hope you come to the conclusion that everything is not okay.

    If your issue is with the phrase “black lives matter” that is your personal challenge to overcome in light of the current state of the world, I just hope you differentiate the phrase from the message – because everything is NOT okay

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