Explaining why #BlackLivesMatter

Although I am sure whoever created the hashtag #AllLivesMatter had very good intentions behind it, it quickly became a negative force that undermined the message of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement. While it should be a certainty that all lives matter equally, and many of us have been told “all lives are equally valuable” while growing up, this is not reflected in the justice system, especially when it comes to treatment of minorities. Police brutality against black people as witnessed in Ferguson, Tulsa or in North Charleston (or other, as one of the Yik-Yakers eloquently put it, “sensationalized” cases) are not isolated incidents: according to Mother Jones, data from the FBI collected over a seven year period found a Black person was killed by a white police officer nearly twice a week.

Between 2000 and 2011, 20,334 African Americans were shot by NYPD officers, and out of these 6,667 people were killed. In comparison 2,750 white people were shot by the NYPD and out of these 1,583 were fatal. This is not just limited to the police; studies from the Urban Institute show that in states with Stand your Ground Laws white-on-black homicides are 345% (let me repeat that: 345%!) more likely to be ruled justifiable than white-on-white killings. Now please tell me again how society values all lives equally.

This asymmetry is what the #BlackLivesMatter movement addresses, and it is why we need it. The movement is trying to bring these issues to light, and although I am sure the Yakers would like to claim differently, by no means does the it advocate that Black lives are more valuable in society than any other race. It is about bringing about a change in the structural racism in this country that many of us white people fail to realize because it does not affect us (I can honestly say I have been guilty of this myself). White is not considered a race in the same way Black, Asian, or Latino is. In our society white is the “normal,” and everything else is seen as a deviation from it. Don’t believe me? Why is tanning lotion marketed to “normal skin?” Why are beige Band-Aids referred to as “flesh colored?” I never have to be reminded of my race on a daily basis; likewise, I will never be reminded of my race when I try to sign up for insurance, health care, or a lease and notice that my premium is higher just because of the color of my skin. Furthermore, as a white person I have the luxury of choosing when I want to address and talk about racial inequalities. Last week, I was lucky enough to share a table with Dean Terhune, who said, “As a white person, we [sic] can choose to turn off our racial identity and tune out of the discussion when it makes us uncomfortable. But as a person of color, this is something you have to take with you and be conscious of wherever you go.”

You are free to think that #AllLivesMatter is more “inclusive” or “applicable,” or that it doesn’t “discriminate,” but you should be aware of the ignorance that comes with it.

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