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As the death of George Floyd has sparked ongoing protests across the nation, the phrase “Black lives matter” has become a cultural divider amid growing conversations about social injustices, systemic racism, and police brutality.
Now, it appears that Mike Pence is yet another individual who, unsurprisingly, refuses to utter the phrase. In an interview with Philadelphia’s 6ABC Action News, Pence contended that “all lives matter.”
“Let me just say that what happened to George Floyd was a tragedy,” Pence told the news station when pointedly asked if he would say that Black lives matter. “And in this nation, especially on Juneteenth, we celebrate the fact that from the founding of this nation we've cherished 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.”
Pence’s dismissal came just after Juneteenth, the day that commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S.
The phrase “Black lives matter” largely reflects the current cultural zeitgeist; in the last month, more attention has been drawn to the violent encounters that Black Americans have with the police, with the phrase “all lives matter” being seen as a detractor.
“Forgive me for pressing you on this, sir,” 6ABC anchor Brian Taff said to Pence, "But I will note you did not say those words, ‘Black lives matter,’ and there is an important distinction. People are saying, of course, all lives matter, but to say the words is an acknowledgment that Black lives also matter at 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. “And it's one of the reasons why as we advance important reforms in law enforcement, as we look for ways to strengthen and improve our public safety in our cities, that we're not going to stop there.”
“And yet, one final time, you won't say the words and we understand your explanation,” Taff said.
Pence then praised the Black unemployment rate before the pandemic, as well as the cultivation of economic “opportunity zones.” He also added that the administration is “absolutely determined to improve” of Black Americans.