For a long while, the term "white privilege" really struck a nerve with me, being that I didn't grasp the true meaning when hearing the phrase. From my perspective, I grew up with my own set of problems: low-income, single parent home, and living in an undesirable area. I resisted the idea that I could possibly be considered privileged.
I grew up in the "bad part" of town, where the sound of gunshots seemed to ring on cue every evening. For me, the sight of a police car driving through the neighborhood made me feel safe. Seeing them drive slowly down the street ensured me that in that moment I'd have no need to worry. But not everyone saw it that way.
In a Gallup poll collected between 2011 and 2014, results showed "Blacks in the U.S. have a significantly lower level of confidence in the police as an institution than do whites." For perspective, only 37% of African Americans polled said they had "some" or "a great deal" of confidence in the police. The same institution that was a symbol of security for me was a threat of harm for my neighbors, which is one example of my white privilege.
Our nation has seen many instances of police brutality in the last few years regarding the African American community; sparking the conversation of racism in the United States. Yes, racism in 2016. The stories of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and as of recently Alton Sterling and Philando Castile have prompted the use of the hashtag #blacklivesmatter on varying social media platforms. The phrase is used to mourn the loss of a life taken while drawing attention to corruption within the police and criminal justice institutions.
While many have shown great support for the "black lives matter" movement, there are--of course--those who oppose it and choose to fire back with the hashtag #alllivesmatter. The thinking behind the phrase is that media has an agenda to give special treatment to the minority. The idea behind the "all lives matter" response is that no bias should be made.
Here's the thing: they're right. All lives do matter, but that's not the point.
The black lives matter movement is to spotlight a problem. To vocalize the pain felt by this community. To create true equality.
Saying "all lives matter" in response to "black lives matter" is like showing up to a stranger's funeral and ranting about how you too have felt loss. Or camping out at a Relay for Life race with a megaphone saying how other diseases also kill people. Yes, there are other diseases that kill people, but today we are talking about cancer. It's not that hard to understand.
The phrase "black lives matter" is not saying other lives don't matter. Fighting for another person's value to be recognized will not diminish your own.
By responding to a cry for equality with #alllivesmatter, you are stifling voices, thus perpetuating institutional racism. Furthering the black lives matter movement paves a path for a future where we will no longer have to remind people that black lives matter, but that it would be a given; without the faintest hint of bitterness or contempt. It's at that point that there will be true equality.
I don't know what it's like to be black. My parents never had to teach me about people who would dislike me for the color of my skin. I can't fully comprehend the pain that comes from prejudice and racism, but I can empathize with you.
So for now, until every African American is treated fairly: black lives matter. Until unarmed African American men are not shot down in the street: black lives matter. Until our African American friends and family feel safe around white police officers: black lives matter. Until there is true equality between races: black lives matter.