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You May Have Good Intentions, But Let's Take A Closer Look
Black Lives Matter was created after the 2012 murder of Trayvon Martin, and George Zimmerman was acquitted for the crime. However, the movement skyrocketed and gained national attention after the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014. In both cases, unarmed black men were killed, no justice was served, and throughout the trials these men were continuously dehumanized by the media. Words like “thug” were used to rationalize and justify their deaths.
It’s important to note that Black Lives Matter is a movement. They have a website, specified guiding principles, and chapters across the United States. All Lives Matter has none of these, and does not exist on its own; it is a phrase that was created as a reaction to the Black Lives Matter Movement. While the idea of all lives mattering in the eyes of our government is nice, it fails to acknowledge the presence of racism in America. All Lives Matter was created because when black people said that their lives were important and deserving of respect, all that the egocentric white supremacy that exists in this country heard was that the lives of white people somehow didn’t matter. By saying the phrase “All Lives Matter”, you may have good intentions, but you are erasing the voices of African Americans, and other people of color, and essentially implying that what you have to say is more important than their lives.
The methods used by Black Lives Matter echoes some of the tactics used in the Civil Rights Movements. Similar to sit-ins, the Freedom Riders, and Martin Luther King Jr.; they believe in using the tactic of nonviolent, direct action. One small but vital aspect which sets their nonviolent protests apart from those of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), is their apparent disinterest in assimilation. Black Lives Matter does not aim to please white audiences in their fight for justice. On their website, they answer the question “What does #BlackLivesMatter mean?”:
“When we say Black Lives Matter, we are broadening the conversation around state violence to include all of the ways in which Black people are intentionally left powerless at the hands of the state. We are talking about the ways in which Black lives are deprived of our basic human rights and dignity.”
It’s no secret that racism exists in America. We were created on the ideas of freedom and liberty, but we can’t deny how slavery built up our economy, and for some time, our country. The “system” is not rigged against people of color by accident; it was built that way. From the beginning, Africans and African Americans in this country were legally (and morally) treated as property, and eventually were considered to be only three fifths of a person according to the Constitution in 1787. Fast forward over two centuries, according to a 2013 analysis at the Pew Research Center, in 2010, black men were more than six times as likely as white men to be incarcerated in both state and federal prisons, as well as local jails. In addition to this, according to a CNN report in 2014, over 27% of black Americans live in poverty, almost three times as many as the less than 10% of whites living in poverty.
So while the phrase “All Lives Matter” may sound inclusive, it is quite the opposite. It ignores the daily struggles of African Americans and other people of color. All Lives Matter pushes back against the fight waged by people of color who promote equality not only for heterosexual black men, but black women and members of the LGBTQA+ community as well. You may not agree with the tactics of Black Lives Matter, but you cannot deny the importance and relevance of their message. As the South African archbishop and civil rights activist, Desmond Tutu, once said: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor,”. To be blunt, by saying the phrase “All Lives Matter” rather than acknowledging the message behind “Black Lives Matter”, you are choosing the side of the oppressor.