On its face, “All Lives Matter” sounds like an “all of us are in this together” statement. Looking on the positive side, this phrase suggests that everyone, regardless of race or other factors, should come together and stand up to the racism around us. But the problem is, this phrase takes the attention away for the people who really need that attention right now. Saying “All Lives Matter” takes the attention away from Black lives, the ones that are in danger in this country. It’s important to know what the BLM movement really is and what saying “Black Lives Matter” means.
So what does Black Lives Matter mean? One of the largest protest movements in US history, “Black Lives Matter” is a hashtag that grew into a national movement, one that is revived on American streets after deaths of African-Americans at the hands of the police. BLM speaks out against the police brutality and systemic racism that caused the recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and Breonna Taylor, as well as thousands of violent incidents that happen to Black people that aren’t recorded, or reported. One of the goals of the BLM movement is to raise the awareness to everyone around us that systemic oppression DOES exist, even if you try to deny it, and that the United States, as ONE nation, needs to reconsider its priorities.
How did Black Lives Matter start? In 2013, a volunteer in Florida shot and killed a Black, unarmed 17-year old, Trayvon Martin as he was walking to his father’s house. When the volunteer was cleared of the killing, Alicia Garza, an activist from Oakland, California, wrote a passionate post on Facebook which ended with “Our Lives Matter.” The term took off a year later when pictures of the deaths of Micheal Brown in Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York City. Both Black men killed at the hands of the police, sparked the movement “Black Lives Matter.” They were very soon followed by protests over deaths caused by police in Cleveland, Chicago, Baltimore, and many other cities. The movement returned to global headlines and gained more international attention during the George Floyd protests in April 2020 following the murder of Minneapolis native Goerge Floyd and his murder by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin and three other officers. So how big is the problem? An advocacy group, Mapping Police Violence, reported numbers covering ALL forms of police killings. The group said that 24% of those killed by police in 2019 were African-Americans, who make up only 13% of the population. It was also reported by the Washington Post, that 99% of officers involved in the deaths were NOT charged. According to studies done by the Bureau Of Justice Statistics, from 2002-2011, amongst the people who had contact with the police, African Americans were more likely to perceive threats or use of force, than whites. Now the question is, did any of that REALLY happen? Well.....YES! Now, if you ask, is there any proof? If so, is it reliable? The answer to both those questions is also YES! The use of bodycams has been widely adopted, including in New York and Los Angeles. The brutal killing of Micheal Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, led to expanded use of body-worn cameras for police. In 2014, President Barack Obama suggested that the federal government reimburse localities half the cost of implementing body-worn cameras. In September 2015, it was announced that the Department of Justice had paid out $23.2 million in grants to expand the use of body-cams. The footage from these body-cams were released to the public, in relation to police shootings all over the country. Black Lives Matter, or BLM, engages in direct action tactics, and advocates to defund the police and invest directly into black communities and alternative emergency response services. This has sparked some opposition to the movements. A counter-movement knows as “Blue Lives Matter” advocates that those convicted of killing law enforcement officers should be sentenced under hate crime.
People also turned to the #alllivesmatter, which advocates for the fact that all lives are equal and African-American lives do not need special treatment. BLM supporters respond that they aren’t looking for special treatment of African-Americans, but EQUAL treatment. Saying “ALL LIVES MATTER” ignores the basic fact that Black lives haven’t mattered for hundreds of years in this country. While the intention of the phrase “All Lives Matter” may put everyone’s life on equal footing and show a sense of unity, saying “All Lives Matter,” instead of “Black Lives Matter,” is actually more divisive than unifying. An analogy that has really helped me understand why “ALL Lives Matter” is NOT the same as “BLACK Lives Matter,” is the broken arm analogy. Let’s say that you broke your arm and you go to the doctor, and the doctor tells you “all you bones matter, not just your arm.” You’re gonna think “Yes, all my bones matter” but my arm is the one that needs the attention and care right now. BLM is that arm. No one is saying all lives don’t matter, in fact, every sane person knows all lives matter, but until 2020, BLACK lives haven’t mattered and are in danger at the hands of the very people who are supposed to protect us. Saying “Black Lives Matter” isn’t the same as saying other lives don’t, but that Black Lives should matter as much as White lives. Yes, your life matters too, even if you're not Black, and yes your safety is also important. But the raw truth is, African-Americans are impacted by police violence and systematic racism in our nation, and our social structure revolves around “Whiteness” as a default.
Police brutality against the Black community has gone unnoticed for too long. Now, what can we do to change that? It’s simple, get involved. At this moment in July 2020, going out to protests and donating to organizations that support BLM might be difficult with COVID-19, but there are many alternatives. The first step to fighting racism in your own racism is listening and educating yourself. Listen to others and their points of view on the movement. Listen to those in your own society that have gone through racial discrimination and listen to what they have to say regarding the movement. If you can, vote in your state and national elections. The use of social media is our biggest tool, especially in 2020. Using social media to spread awareness and educate others, can have a bigger impact on the country’s approach to police brutality and racial discrimination. Support racial justice organizations and Black businesses around your area.
We can all work together to destroy the racial bias that exists virtually under every aspect of this world. It’s going to be hard and it IS going to be uncomfortable. But I truly do believe that we can achieve the goal of a world, free of racism. A world where our children can live peacefully, without being afraid to walk down the street or to go buy something at the 7/11 or even ask a police officer for help without fearing for their life, no matter the color of their skin, or where their ancestors are from.
Post written by guest writer Sarah Shivakumar
The headlines are always the same. Just variations of different cases, different people, different murders. Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy shot dead for holding a toy gun. Stephon Clark, a 22-year-old father of two shot dead for using his cell phone. Atatiana Jefferson, a 28-year-old female shot dead in front of her 8-year-old nephew. George Floyd, a 46-year-old man suffocated to death for buying groceries. It angers me that we live in a country in which a person’s skin color can carry a death sentence. In which being black means being up to six times more likely to be killed by the police. Isn’t America supposed to be the land of equality and opportunity?
In fact, these murders are nothing short of modern-day lynchings. In the 18 and 1900s, lynchers would hide behind the color of their skin. Now, they hide behind a blue uniform and a badge. Few are put on trial and even fewer are charged for their crimes. How can we expect a change in police shootings if they are not held responsible for their actions? What message does it send to other policemen if they know law enforcement can get away with murder? Too many of our black brothers and sisters have died for us to continue to stay quiet. We cannot let the Black Lives Matter movement be a trend that dies down. Because even though the trending hashtags on Twitter and Instagram may fade with time, the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many more will never truly disappear. They have left an unforgettable hole in our society that serves as a constant reminder of the blatant oppression and racism in the United States. And recently, I have noticed a lot of performative activism on social media: people who post about BLM frankly because it’s a trend. But the truth is, performative activism does not have any substantial impact on the actual black lives matter movement. Instead of posting about BLM solely to not attract criticism for being racist, take some time to read up about the issue. Learn and educate yourself about the injustices taking place in our country.
We as a community have to stop acting like racism does not exist in our town or that it ends with justice for George Floyd. Racism does not exist in small pockets of our country. Instead, it’s deeply buried in this nation’s history, institutions, and mindsets of its citizens. Prejudice against people of color and against immigrants has been normalized to the point that it is treated as a “joke” or a simple comment. With the growth of COVID in the United States, Asians have also been targeted for their ethnicity. People are using their fears and anxiety over the coronavirus in order to justify their xenophobic beliefs. Whether it’s accusing a Chinese person of eating a bat or subconsciously moving away when a black man walks past, racism exists everywhere around us. Each of us has a personal responsibility to hold people accountable for their actions and uphold the justice and equality that we want this nation to be built on.
Post written by guest writer Vaishali Bansal
It has now been about a month since the death of George Floyd, and there is growing pressure to address Black oppression in our nation. Although the oppression of Black individuals isn't a new topic, Floyd's death has played a vital component in the momentum of the Black Lives Matter Movement. Since Floyd's death, I have seen a lot of my Asian-American community standing in solidarity with our Black brothers and sisters. However, I have also seen comments questioning where all of this solidarity was when Chinese-Americans were facing racism due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. A couple weeks ago, not that long after the death of Floyd, I came across an Instagram video of comedian David So addressing the situation of another Asian-American Influencer receiving backlash for her "what about us rhetoric". In this video and another he talked about how there is a time and place for everything, he didn't deny that Asian-Americans face discrimination, but he said it wasn't our time and place right now. His message is essential and something that we all must process, however, the feelings expressed by this Influencer that received lash back also needs to be addressed.
When I decided that I wanted to write a piece about the importance of the Asian Community's solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, I realized I was missing something. For weeks, I wondered how to address individuals of the Asian-American community adequately, especially those who faced xenophobia in the wake of COVID-19. After reflecting on the words of this Eastern-Asian Instagram influencer for her public comments that gave off the "All Lives Matter" rhetoric, I was forced to reflect on my evolution of thinking. As an Asian-American who was born and raised in a predominantly white community, I experienced my share of not being seen. And I have also failed to recognize my racial privilege in the past, because even though I am POC, I carry racial privilege as an Asian-American compared to individuals in the Black community. It was when I forced myself to stop looking at myself as a victim, and instead look at the whole picture that I fully accepted the racial privileges I have. In the past, I have fallen victim to the "what about me?" rhetoric because I felt invisible and insecure, growing up in a White community. However, I recognize now that while my experiences are valid, they are not at the same level of oppression that Black individuals face every day since the beginning of their existence in the United States.
To any Asian-American individual that has felt anxious, has been physically affected, or knows an individual affected by xenophobia in the wake of COVID-19, I see you. I see your pain, and I validate it. However, in the wake of Floyd's death and an ever more presence of racism and oppression that Blacks have continually faced and we as a society have turned a blind eye too, we must focus on validating the oppression of the Black community. A mentor once said to me, "you don't know what you don't know" in regards to the privilege we carry in not recognizing racism. Each of us carries a certain level of privilege based on our race in America. And based on this privilege, we either completely, partially, or not at all understand racism. As a teenager living in a White town, I didn't know that I still carried racial privilege that I was turning a blind eye to. To any individual affected by xenophobia as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, I encourage you to use what you know to lift the Black community. The COVID-19 pandemic did result in racism towards the Eastern-Asian community, however it doesn’t equate to the systemic oppression Blacks face on a daily basis since the beginning of their presence in the United States. By all of us rallying and standing behind the Black community, nobody is denying the oppression of other Non-Black POCs. Instead we are focusing on the community that does not have the same basic human rights that the rest of us do.
Post written by guest writer Sofia Molvi
This idea of “staying quiet” and “it’s not our business” that prevails in most South Asian and some East Asian communities needs to end right now. The Asian cop could’ve been any South or East Asian. I KNOW that if they put what they’ve been told since birth over their morals or even their religious beliefs, they would do the same and do NOTHING. If they had the decency, if they truly followed their morals, if they followed WHAT MAKES THEM HUMAN, if they followed their emotion, if they followed their instinct, if they followed what is right, if they followed the principles set forth by Islam, by Christianity, by Judaism, by Hinduism, by Sikhism, and any religion, THEY WOULD DO SOMETHING. THEY WOULD HAVE TOLD HIM TO STOP. THEY WOULD HAVE DEFENDED THEIR BLACK BROTHERS AND SISTERS. THEY WOULD HAVE AT LEAST DONE SOMETHING.
We are told to care about what people think. We are told to live life the way the powerful want it. We are told to bow down to Whites. Our culture equates a lighter skin tone to more beauty. We are told that we are UNEQUAL. We are divided against each other. Where is the idea that we are all human? There is a search for gossip and drama. We work to keep our jobs and be successful but nothing about appreciating our humanity. This is toxic.
The foundation of the country is our Black brothers and sisters. THE VERY MOVEMENT THEY FOUGHT FOR GAVE US THE RIGHT TO COME IN AND SUCCEED. Us as the “model minority” is created as a result of their struggles and fight for civil rights that have allowed us to have some voice in the country. It is our duty to support them. We can’t continue to fear the idea of being human. We can’t reject the idea of being human. We can’t perpetuate an inferiority complex onto ourselves. We need to protest, raise our voice, and support the Black Lives Matter movement.
Post written by guest writer Sasha Afroz