This week, in one of the latest examples of Black Lives Matter supporters taking things too far, a woman named Mary Burns decided to bully and insult an innocent person who was cleaning up the sidewalk.
On Tuesday, Burns was riding her bike through Watertown, MA and saw a man mopping away messages that had been written in chalk on the sidewalk. The messages expressed support for the Black Lives Matter movement. The man mopped away some of the messages and erased the word “black” from the phrase “black lives matter” so that it simply read “lives matter.”
Burns decided to accost the man and pick a fight with him, and then tweeted about the interaction:
Burns was interviewed by 7 News. “Well you are erasing everyone else’s First Amendment rights,” she said she told the man. “So black lives don’t matter, just your life matters? It is outrageous… Can you not acknowledge killing anyone, unarmed, is bad, and is your hatred so bad you cannot allow these men and women be honored in chalk?”
The man, who identified himself to 7 News as David, said: “I didn’t stop anyone from writing words on the sidewalk in this area but it is also my right to erase those words with a wet mop. As an American citizen, I believe in the right to express yourself. I am, in a social sense, color blind. I do not recognize any race or people.”
Burns is 100% wrong in this situation, and David is 100% right.
David did absolutely nothing wrong by mopping away the messages. It absolutely is his First Amendment right to do so. I also think that the views about color and race that David expressed are highly admirable. To see people as people, as opposed to generalizing about people based on race, is the exact opposite of racism. These are the exact types of views that those advocating for racial equality should support.
Burns’s behavior, on the other hand, was bigoted, aggressive, irrational, mean-spirited, and simply wrong.
First of all, David was not erasing anyone’s First Amendment rights, as Burns alleged. The First Amendment does not give anyone the right to have the messages that they wrote in chalk on a public sidewalk preserved for all eternity. Just as whoever wrote the messages had a right to do that, David had a right to erase the messages.
Second, Burns is a bigot, as is demonstrated by the fact that she described David as “an old white man” in her first tweet. This is ageist, racist, and sexist. What is the relevance of the age, race, or gender of the person doing the mopping? Why did she feel the need to mention these things?
Third, it is preposterous that Burns called the Watertown Police Department and then complained that they “could or would not come,” as she did in her second tweet. Burns went out of her way to verbally attack an innocent person, and then she called the cops when a bystander came to the innocent person’s defense. What did she expect the cops to do? To tell David and the other individual to stop talking so that Burns could criticize them unchallenged? Believe it or not, Mary Burns is the only person on earth who has a right to express opinions. She does not have the right to accost and berate whoever she would like without anyone standing up to her. Burns deserved to be yelled at and sworn at. She was the aggressor. She caused a conflict and then decided to call the cops when someone had the courage to stand up to her.
Fourth, it is awfully ironic that Burns accused David of being filled with hatred when she is the one who stopped her bike ride in order to start a fight with a stranger.
Fifth, it was completely wrong of Burns to accuse David of thinking that black lives don’t matter and only his life matters, as she said to 7 News. David literally changed the phrase “black lives matter” into “lives matter.” That means that all lives matter. It is the exact opposite of thinking that only one’s own life matters. Burns is the one who seems to think that only her life and opinions matter (or at least only the lives and opinions of those who think similarly to her).
And finally, the phrase “lives matter” is unquestionably an improvement over the phrase “black lives matter.” The phrase “black lives matter” singles out only one race, implying that some races ought to be treated differently than others. David was 100% correct in calling this divisive and offensive, and he should be saluted for replacing it with a more just, fair, and inclusive message. The Boston.com article about the incident reminds the reader, “With the outpouring of solidarity around the message ‘Black Lives Matter,’ supporters have reiterated again and again the rallying cry is not a message of division but essential in acknowledging the systemic and institutional racism against Black people in the United States.” But the fact that people have reiterated something again and again does not make it true. There is no systemic or institutional racism against black people in the U.S.; therefore there is no legitimate reason to use the phrase “black lives matter” as opposed to “all lives matter.” Singling out one race for special treatment is racist. Including everyone is inclusive and non-racist. Period.