O’Malley’s Explanation for White Lives Matter

As you’ve no doubt heard the Presidential forum at Netroots Nation was interrupted by a Black Lives Matter action, with probably about 50-75 people (mostly, but not entirely, African Americans) who interrupted the discussion between Jose Antonio Vargas and Governor Martin O’Malley chanting the names of Sandra Bland and others who have been killed by cops. The action virtually ended O’Malley’s discussion, which only got worse when he tried to respond and said, “black lives matter, white lives matter, all lives matter.” The term “white lives matter” got used by white people using other racist comments in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. Effectively he was responding to an expression of outrage by repeating language used by people who want to suppress that expression.

I attended a roundtable with Governor O’Malley shortly after the forum.

Angélique Roché, an African American political consultant who serves as a Director at the Women’s Campaign School at Yale, asked the first question. She asked how, across a number of issues (including Black Lives Matter, but she named several others), he is ensuring a wide variety of voices are represented: not just people of color, women, orientation, class, but also generation and region. O’Malley responded by talking about keeping a broad circle of advisors, and suggested that,technology allows you to do that in ways that weren’t possible [a few] years ago.” Roché reiterated that to really hear that kind of diversity represented, you really need to work to make that happen.

Later in the round table, someone asked O’Malley to explain his “white lives matter” comment. He explained that he had first used that term about 90 days ago, and that in the moment he used it again. He hadn’t upgraded his lexicon to reflect the new connotation the term has taken on. O’Malley said, “that was a mistake and I shouldn’t have said it.” (He has since given a similar statement on This Week in Blackness.)

I’ll have more to say about the action — which I think fits squarely within a tradition of such confrontations at Netroots Nation — later. But I did want to explain part of what happened right after.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

7 replies
  1. ess emm says:

    My understanding of why white lives matter or all lives matter is offensive is because whites and all others are not being routinely killed by cops—and (at least until some recent killings) NOTHING being done to bring the killer cops to justice.

    The white lives matter phrase was used last summer by whites to show they were even-handed and sensible to condemn violence while at the same time erasing the violent oppression that blacks have suffered in this country for hundreds of years. It’s anti-blackness and it was declared as such last summer.

    it was offensive long before June 2015

  2. orionATL says:

    o’malley is a personal favorite of mine for his competence/effectiveness in governing. i don’t know anything about this issue, but i do hope it does not derail his efforts to become better known – and notoriety is not what i mean by better known.

  3. Splicer says:

    Do gay lives matter? It seems to me that the African American community who rightfully pushes back against hate and the murders by police is tone deaf, even righteous, about their own disdain for gay people.

    I understand that a lot of black people are religious and that their brand of Christianity is filled with hatred towards LGBTQs. That doesn’t get glossed over because of Sandra Bland or Eric Garner or a slogan. Please remove the beam from your own eye.

    • bevin says:

      Congratulations, Spicer, your comment makes O’Malley’s racism and pandering seem mild in comparison with your equation of slavery, Jim Crow and centuries of hateful mistreatment with the treatment of sexual dissidents.
      Allow me to recommend Edward Baptist’s The Half Has Never Been Told, if only for the bibliography.

  4. Larry says:

    Wow. What a political sellout piece of crap. Did this douche nozzle really apologize for saying all lives matter. Suck enough dick and you can become Martin. YOU SUCK.

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