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