Julia Maher ’23
Since Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi founded the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement in July 2013 after the acquittal of George Zimmerman’s murder of Trayvon Martin, some conservatives have profoundly politicized the organization. Contrary to what they think, BLM is a “decentralized movement advocating for non-violent civil disobedience in protest against incidents of police brutality and all racially motivated violence against black people.” This definition emphasizes what BLM is at its core—a nonviolent, anti-racist movement that seeks basic human rights for black individuals through the eradication of institutional racism. Its simple yet easily misconstrued philosophy is that police and other authorities should not murder black people. This is an extremely basic and seemingly obvious idea; however, many conservatives misunderstand and disregard it. Rather, they falsely believe that BLM is a highly violent, radical left-wing movement that gives black people too much power and will somehow take away the rights of white people. This idea, however, is a myth. BLM seeks to dismantle systemic racism at the hands of law enforcement, like police, and strives to eradicate racial inequities and disparities that Black individuals face in their everyday lives.
The fact that many conservatives cannot simply say “Black lives matter” reveals their deeply ingrained culture of personal racism and white supremacy. They think that this phrase implies that Black lives matter more than any other lives, so they resort to saying “all lives matter”; however, this is terribly incorrect and does not address the racial inequities through which black people disproportionately suffer. Unfortunately, some conservatives misinterpret it and believe that it means that Black lives matter more than other lives, but the BLM movement actually strives for racial equity across the board, with a focus on the disproportionate injustices toward Black individuals. Conservatives act very offended when somebody says that Black lives matter, which does not make sense because dismantling racism and anti-Blackness will not affect white people’s rights at all. If they truly were anti-racist, then they would have no problem saying that Black lives matter because it simply means exactly what it says. Rights are not a pie; just because one group receives equity does not mean that another group will experience inequity. In other words, when we dismantle systemic racism, white people will not experience the inequities that Black people experienced. Since white people do not face inequity and racism merely on the basis of their race (the definition of white privilege), the phrase “all lives matter” perpetuates our culture of white supremacy and disregards the injustices black folks face. The BLM movement advocates to raise awareness of the inordinate disparities that Blacks face, compared to other races, and it seeks to eradicate systemic racism perpetuated by police brutality.
There are many statistics to support the prevalent existence of systemic racism against black people. Police disproportionately stop and search black drivers, although they tend to find less contraband. Black men are 2.5 times more likely than white men to be killed by police, and 1 in 1,000 black men will die at the hands of the police. Also, Black individuals are far more likely to be arrested and then killed for petty crimes, including failure to signal, marijuana possession, or a counterfeit bill, in the case of George Floyd’s horrific murder. Upon reading these statistics, it becomes incredibly difficult to deny that a racist system, sadly, forms the foundation of our culture.
It is atrocious that some conservatives selfishly politicized the phrase “Black lives matter” at the expense of innumerable Black lives. The phrase “Black lives matter” is not a debatable opinion; it is a cold, hard fact. BLM, therefore, is a human rights movement more than a political one. The fact that law enforcement should not brutally murder Black people is common sense and a matter of a human’s right to life. Not only do Black lives matter, but Black lives are worthy, beautiful, and strong. We should all wholeheartedly agree, regardless of our political affiliations, that Black lives matter—period.