June 12th, 2015

Baton Rouge, Louisiana


 The rallying cry by protesters that has gained momentum after Ferguson and Baltimore is that “Black Lives Matter.” Within the context of all society, that’s a truism. But like so many other older citizens, I volunteered to join the military (something few protesters or politicians do any more) because, liked most Americans, I felt that all lives matter.

But let’s call it like it is in real life. Some black lives do not matter. Pick up a large city daily newspaper, turn to page 9 or 10, and you read too often that a young black man was shot and killed by another young black man. The killing gets scant attention and becomes merely a statistic.

When major demonstrations take place as was seen in Ferguson, Long Island and South Carolina, protesters are too often selective about just who they are demonstrating against. Do black lives really matter to them that much, or is the protest more an effort to scores points against the police?

A case in point is what happened last week in Lafayette, Louisiana. Robert Minjarez had been arrested last year for“making a disturbance” outside a Texaco gas station. He was unarmed when the police came to investigate. Video surveillance cameras at the gas station and dash cam film from several police cars on the scene tell the story of just what happened.

Minjarez had no weapon and had his arms in the air when approached by police with canines in tow. Four officers wrestled him to the ground. ; His voice is heard on the video saying: “I didn’t do nothing to nobody, why are ya’ll doing this to me?” Minjarez continues to scream as the officers struggle with him. “You’re going to kill me, you’re going to kill me!” he exclaimed. “I can’t breathe.” “You’ve got 265 pounds on your back,” one of the officers tells him. “You’re not going anywhere.” Three more times, you can hear Minharez scream that he can’t breathe.

He died five days later, and the coroner’s report stated that the main cause of Minjarez’s death as “compressional asphyxia due to face-down physical restraint by law enforcement officers.” In spite of the video and this report, a grand jury last week refused to indict the officers involved.

Based on past similar confrontations in Cleveland, Ferguson, Long Island, and South Carolina, it would be safe to assume that protesters would come out in droves to demonstrate. But Rev. Al Sharpton did not find his way to Lafayette. Rev. Jesse Jackson was not on the scene. No looting took place. No organized protests. There were no fires burning in the streets of Lafayette.

 So although the hostilities were quite similar, the local community reacted quite differently. There was one major difference. Robert Minjarez was white.

All lives ought to matter. But the high rate of killings has continued. In the small town of Ferguson, Mo., fourteen teenagers alone have been killed since Michael Brown’s death. Half were white and have were black. In Baltimore, 35 people have been killed in the month of May, the highest number in one month since 1999. Cleveland murders could break a record and well top 100 this year. New Orleans, a perennial leader in wrongful deaths, has witnessed 70 killings in the first five months of the year.

The inner city crime problems are so vast that charges of who’s white and who’s black should be irrelevant. But they are not. In some communities, there certainly has been police overreach. Officers will argue there is a growing disrespect for the law. But until both races face head on the degeneration of the family unit, unwed births, drugs, lack of parental involvement, failing schools, and a lack of community concern, then the killings will continue.

It should not be acceptable for nameless young black men, who are obeying the law, to be shot at. Their lives matter. But it also should not be a black and white thing. All lives can be at risk. And all lives matter.


 “The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world.”

Paul Farmer

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at


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