It’s common cultural knowledge at this point that “black lives matter” has gone beyond just a hashtag and become a cultural phenomenon, a slogan that people on and off of the net are embracing to encourage the masses to recognize a very specific point of racial inequality.
Black men are being murdered at a startling rate, and even more frightening, it can be at the hands of law enforcement. I’m not talking about hostage-taking gunmen robbing banks and murdering cops, I’m talking about things like what happened to Eric Garner, being unlawfully put in a choke hold while begging for their life. This was ruled a homicide, yet many people feel Garner “had it coming.” They were breaking the law, right? Yes, because suspicion of selling untaxed cigarettes warrants murder, amirite?
This is hardly a standalone case. I’m not going to bombard you with links; either you already know what I’m talking about or you can do your own damn research. The point is, simply on merit of being black, people are losing their freedom, losing their lives, sometimes for committing no crime at all.
So people are attempting to open a national discourse, to bring light to these events and get people to understand what unjust tragedies they are. #blacklivesmatter. Right?
Except nearly every time someone uses that hashtag, some white knight rides in announcing that “ALL lives matter.” Well thank you, Captain Obvious. If you hadn’t shared that information I’m sure black people would have banded together to exterminate every other human being on the planet, since our lives don’t matter. Bravo on stopping genocide.
But we all know that shit isn’t the case. #blacklivesmatter =/= #whitelivesdonotmatter. Valuing black lives and valuing non-black lives are not mutually exclusive. What’s being talked about is how black lives are consistently, institutionally, politically, and personally undervalued in a way that specifically white lives are not. It’s calling attention to the inherent racism in the system, not calling for the eradication of everyone who’s not black.
I stand behind the hashtag, and I have people come at me with “all lives matter,” telling me how racist I’m being, how I’m saying white people don’t matter. Newsflash: I am white. My child is white. If you seriously think I’m arguing that our lives don’t matter and someone should come put bullets in our heads, you’re fucking delusional. I’m just acknowledging that the chance of that happening to us is greatly diminished by the fact of our whiteness. If I walked around a white neighborhood at night in a hoodie, donning skittles and tea, a neighborhood watchman wouldn’t deem me a “thug” and murder me in so-called “self-defense.” If my child was playing with what was obviously a toy gun, cops would not point very real guns in their face and risk my child’s life. But this shit happens to black people, purely by nature of being black. And admitting that does nothing to change the fact that I’ve got bucketloads of white privilege.
Others have said it better, but I’ll repeat anyway: Would you burst into a cancer research gala demanding that they acknowledge that “all diseases matter”? Or do you maybe understand that everything has its time and place? It’s time to stop making everything personal, and recognize the cultural trends that are negatively affecting black people. Black lives matter, but society at large doesn’t agree…yet.