The Appropriate Response to Black Lives Matter
Start writing a post
Politics and Activism

The Appropriate Response to Black Lives Matter

Dear White People: Now is the time to step back and listen.

The Appropriate Response to Black Lives Matter

Dear white people,

On Thursday night, a candlelight vigil was held at SUNY Purchase for members of the black community who have been affected by brutality and violence, more specifically at the hands of police. I was only there for the last five minutes or so, which I regret, but what I saw was profound; students of all colors coming together to commemorate and honor those lost to senselessness and injustice. Someone handed me a candle. and I listened as someone in the center of the group spoke of those who stayed silent, of how it was their time to speak out.

Before we blew out our candles, I was able to take a picture, which I later put on Instagram.

I thought it was a nice portrait of what solidarity on our campus looked like. How when we come together, we become strong enough to take on, or at least bring forward, the issues that will be most prevalent to us in the future. Apparently, some others didn't see it the way I did; not even a minute after I posted the picture, a man named Scott left this comment:

"Black lives matter is a complete joke to the white community. It is only making things worse for the black community. White people laugh at it."

Comments from Scott also included:

"Nothing is going to change and the problem will only get worse. I know you know that."


"It will never work. White people do not care."

If it wasn't clear just by looking at these comments, Scott is white. His Instagram doesn't have much to offer, either; merely a lone selfie. That's not important, though. What's important are the things he said, and his complete disregard for what I was trying to tell him. So maybe if I tell you all at once, it might stick a little better.

Those of you reading who think like Scott, or maybe even if Scott himself is reading this, please pay attention.

Black Lives Matter is not looking for your approval of their actions. They are looking for you to understand what their actions are saying.

On the official Black Lives Matter website, in a statement about the group's background, this paragraph stands out:

"Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression."

Notice how nonspecific that statement is toward any one cause of oppression. The group isn't out to vilify another group of people, its goal is to broadcast their oppression out into the world, in hopes that something will be done about it. They get into more specifics further down the page:

"When we say Black Lives Matter, we are talking about the ways in which Black people are deprived of our basic human rights and dignity. It is an acknowledgement Black poverty and genocide is state violence... that 1 million Black people are locked in cages in this country–one-half of all people in prisons or jails–is an act of state violence... that Black women continue to bear the burden of a relentless assault on our children and our families and that assault is an act of state violence. Black queer and trans folks bearing a unique burden in a hetero-patriarchal society that disposes of us like garbage and simultaneously fetishizes us and profits off of us is state violence; the fact that 500,000 Black people in the US are undocumented immigrants and relegated to the shadows is state violence;.the fact that Black girls are used as negotiating chips during times of conflict and war is state violence; Black folks living with disabilities and different abilities bear the burden of state-sponsored Darwinian experiments that attempt to squeeze us into boxes of normality defined by White supremacy is state violence. And the fact is that the lives of Black people—not ALL people—exist within these conditions is consequence of state violence."

It has been said by leaders of the movement before that it was never just about police, and that violence on the movement's part is not acceptable. Just like every group of people, there are always those that want only to disrupt. But it is not the end goal of BLM to burn every police car and kill every cop. The movement's focus is to end black discrimination and oppression on all fronts.

Furthermore, it's not about advancing the black race further than the white race. The collective need to rid the country of supremacy is the reason that Black Lives Matter was founded in the first place. The endgame, much like the equally stigmatized feminism movement, is equality.

"#BlackLivesMatter doesn’t mean your life isn’t important–it means that Black lives, which are seen as without value within White supremacy, are important to your liberation... We’re not saying Black lives are more important than other lives, or that other lives are not criminalized and oppressed in various ways. We remain in active solidarity with all oppressed people who are fighting for their liberation and we know that our destinies are intertwined."

When people like Scott say that the movement is only hurting the black community, those people aren't really paying attention. Change is slow, but it's happening. The concept that BLM is hurting its own community by failing to address "Black-on-Black" crime is also preposterous because "Black-on-Black" crime is simply a phrase. As Michael Harriot explains, " Almost all victims of violent crime are victimized by someone they know. White people hurt White people and Black people commit crimes against Black people. Almost every study shows the biggest predictors of violence are socioeconomic status and the relative segregation of the offenders’ neighborhoods. When white men shoot up movie theaters or college campuses, it is never categorized as “White-on-white crime” even though 84% of the white victims of murder are killed by white people. Even though 53% of gang related murders are committed by whites."

As for nothing changing and white people not caring, that's wrong, too. A new survey shows that fifty-one percent of young, white Americans either strongly or somewhat support the Black Lives Matter movement. That's a ten point increase from last year, which proves that BLM has been very effective in getting their message across.

Now, if you're anything like Scott, you still may not be convinced. This is where you need to put your focus. Since you are white, you will never fully understand the necessity of this movement, since you have not been oppressed or profiled the same way black men, women and children have. I will never fully understand it, and I accept that. But I refuse to stop learning about it, and thinking of ways to better the community around me. If you truly care about black lives, you can start by reading more into the movement. Visit the BLM website, pay attention to black voices, like Shaun King, Stacey Patton, Dr. Cornel West, and Ta-Nahesi Coates, speak to black people in your own community. Reach out in any way and yearn to understand.

Read black literature. This problem goes further back than the BLM movement, further back than Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., further back than Solomon Northup. Pick up a book by Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, James Baldwin. Coates' Between The World And Me is an incredible book, a short read, and a great start if you want to learn about our troubled history with race from the perspective of someone who's still affected by it.

Most importantly, if you decide to support and join the movement, you must remember that it isn't about you. The last two paragraphs of the BLM's mission statement are vital to remember:

"When you adopt Black Lives Matter and transform it into something else..., it’s appropriate politically to credit the lineage from which your adapted work derived. It’s important that we work together to build and acknowledge the legacy of Black contributions to the struggle for human rights. If you adapt Black Lives Matter, use the opportunity to talk about its inception and political framing. Lift up Black lives as an opportunity to connect struggles across race, class, gender, nationality, sexuality and disability.

"And, perhaps more importantly, when Black people cry out in defense of our lives, which are uniquely, systematically, and savagely targeted by the state, we are asking you, our family, to stand with us in affirming Black lives. Not just all lives. Black lives. Please do not change the conversation by talking about how your life matters, too. It does, but we need less watered down unity and a more active solidarities with us, Black people, unwaveringly, in defense of our humanity. Our collective futures depend on it.

Nothing will change if we keep telling ourselves that nothing will change. Black Lives Matter has already made so much progress in their goal to be heard. Their protests have become culturally relevant, not just in their culture, but in ours. We're seeing it more and more every day. But in order for progress to be made past that, we have to step back and actually listen to what they're saying. For people like Scott, their distaste comes from the idea that actions speak louder than words. Maybe that's the point; that since their words refuse to be heard, they must speak even louder with their actions until someone hears.

If you're white, it's not your job to judge those who have had the same privileges you enjoy purposefully denied to them. It's your job to listen to them and give them what they need. If you deny them that, then you really aren't listening.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Robert Bye on Unsplash

I live by New York City and I am so excited for all of the summer adventures.

Keep Reading... Show less

The invention of photography

The history of photography is the recount of inventions, scientific discoveries and technical improvements that allowed human beings to capture an image on a photosensitive surface for the first time, using light and certain chemical elements that react with it.


The history of photography is the recount of inventions, scientific discoveries and technical improvements that allowed human beings to capture an image on a photosensitive surface for the first time, using light and certain chemical elements that react with it.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

Exposing Kids To Nature Is The Best Way To Get Their Creative Juices Flowing

Constantly introducing young children to the magical works of nature will further increase the willingness to engage in playful activities as well as broaden their interactions with their peers


Whenever you are feeling low and anxious, just simply GO OUTSIDE and embrace nature! According to a new research study published in Frontiers in Psychology, being connected to nature and physically touching animals and flowers enable children to be happier and altruistic in nature. Not only does nature exert a bountiful force on adults, but it also serves as a therapeutic antidote to children, especially during their developmental years.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

5 Simple Ways To Give Yourself Grace, Especially When Life Gets Hard

Grace begins with a simple awareness of who we are and who we are becoming.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

If there's one thing I'm absolutely terrible at, it's giving myself grace. I'm easily my own worst critic in almost everything that I do. I'm a raging perfectionist, and I have unrealistic expectations for myself at times. I can remember simple errors I made years ago, and I still hold on to them. The biggest thing I'm trying to work on is giving myself grace. I've realized that when I don't give myself grace, I miss out on being human. Even more so, I've realized that in order to give grace to others, I need to learn how to give grace to myself, too. So often, we let perfection dominate our lives without even realizing it. I've decided to change that in my own life, and I hope you'll consider doing that, too. Grace begins with a simple awareness of who we are and who we're becoming. As you read through these five affirmations and ways to give yourself grace, I hope you'll take them in. Read them. Write them down. Think about them. Most of all, I hope you'll use them to encourage yourself and realize that you are never alone and you always have the power to change your story.

Keep Reading... Show less

Breaking Down The Beginning, Middle, And End of Netflix's Newest 'To All The Boys' Movie

Noah Centineo and Lana Condor are back with the third and final installment of the "To All The Boys I've Loved Before" series


Were all teenagers and twenty-somethings bingeing the latest "To All The Boys: Always and Forever" last night with all of their friends on their basement TV? Nope? Just me? Oh, how I doubt that.

I have been excited for this movie ever since I saw the NYC skyline in the trailer that was released earlier this year. I'm a sucker for any movie or TV show that takes place in the Big Apple.

Keep Reading... Show less

4 Ways To Own Your Story, Because Every Bit Of It Is Worth Celebrating

I hope that you don't let your current chapter stop you from pursuing the rest of your story.

Photo by Manny Moreno on Unsplash

Every single one of us has a story.

I don't say that to be cliché. I don't say that to give you a false sense of encouragement. I say that to be honest. I say that to be real.

Keep Reading... Show less
Politics and Activism

How Young Feminists Can Understand And Subvert The Internalized Male Gaze

Women's self-commodification, applied through oppression and permission, is an elusive yet sexist characteristic of a laissez-faire society, where women solely exist to be consumed. (P.S. justice for Megan Fox)

Paramount Pictures

Within various theories of social science and visual media, academics present the male gaze as a nebulous idea during their headache-inducing meta-discussions. However, the internalized male gaze is a reality, which is present to most people who identify as women. As we mature, we experience realizations of the perpetual male gaze.

Keep Reading... Show less

It's Important To Remind Yourself To Be Open-Minded And Embrace All Life Has To Offer

Why should you be open-minded when it is so easy to be close-minded?


Open-mindedness. It is something we all need a reminder of some days. Whether it's in regards to politics, religion, everyday life, or rarities in life, it is crucial to be open-minded. I want to encourage everyone to look at something with an unbiased and unfazed point of view. I oftentimes struggle with this myself.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments