Mike Pence Refuses to Say ‘Black Lives Matter’ in Juneteenth Interview
Pence made the remarks during a Friday interview with Philadelphia ABC affiliate WPVI, after anchor Brian Taff asked the vice president if he would say the words “Black lives matter.”
Taff noted that “only really a handful of elected Republican leaders” have been willing to repeat the phrase amid ongoing demonstrations against racial injustice sparked by the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died in police custody.
“Let me just say that what happened to George Floyd was a tragedy,” replied Pence. “We celebrate the fact that from the founding of this nation, we cherish the ideal that all, all of us are created equal and endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights. And so, all lives matter in a very real sense.”
Juneteenth, however, commemorates the end of slavery in America, which happened nearly a century after the nation’s founding.
The distinction between saying “Black lives matter” and “all lives matter” has emerged as something of a cultural dividing line amid the nationwide discussion about racial equality that has been touched off in recent weeks.
The phrase “Black lives matter” has gained widespread use in recent years as a way to draw attention specifically to deadly encounters between Black Americans and police.
“Forgive me for pressing you on this, sir, but I will note you did not say those words, ‘Black lives matter,’ and there is an important distinction,” Taff said.
“People are saying, of course all lives matter, but to say the words is an acknowledgment that Black lives also matter in a time in this country when it appears that there’s a segment of our society that doesn’t agree. So why will you not say those words?”
“Well, I don’t accept the fact, Brian, that there’s a segment of American society that disagrees in the preciousness and importance of every human life,” Pence said in response.
He then went on to describe the efforts the Trump administration has undertaken to “improve” the lives of African Americans, such as the development of economic “opportunity zones” and restoring funding to historically Black colleges.
Activists have repeatedly stated that the phrase “Black lives matter” is not intended to assert the importance of Black people to the exclusion of all others, but rather to reinforce that Black lives have value. Regardless, many detractors have insisted on using the term “all lives matter” instead, which some have come to view as a statement steeped in implicit racism.
The vice president was also asked about a video that President Donald Trump posted to Twitter on Thursday that was labeled “manipulated media” by the social network.
“When you watch much of the national news media these days, Brian, it seems like they focus more every day on what divides us in this country,” Pence said. “And I think the President saw an opportunity with a good sense of humor to once again challenge the media narrative.”