Unarmed People of Color Killed by Police, 1999-2014
After far too many deaths of unarmed black men AND women at the hands of law enforcement, the motto of the movement to fight against this enduring injustice is “BLACK LIVES MATTER.” Folks have seen this phrase on protest signs, t-shirts, hats, Facebook cover photos, as twitter hashtags, etc… Usually, there is some brown person iterating the phrase and trying to convince this disjointed society the sentiment is indeed true, despite all the bloody evidence showing too many folks in positions of authority do not believe it. Though I am saddened by the thought there is even a need for black folks to advise the world of their worthiness to live, I support the campaign wholeheartedly and often repeat the phrase for my benefit and the benefit of those with whom I come in contact. Despite the absolute truthiness in this phrase, there is now an effort to minimize the poignancy of the phrase by simply saying, “ALL LIVES MATTER.”
Look, the value of life has been touted by the majority since the beginning of time. Respect for human, animal, and plant life is always discussed through popular media, activism, and other information avenues. There are sit ins, shut ins, and die ins all focused on informing the public and protesting against “the establishment” in the interest of protecting what matters. People are assaulted, arrested, and vilified in their efforts to protect the sanctity of that which is relevant for the greater good. In all this protest and activism, there is finally a phrase that embodies the sentiments of black and brown folks everywhere – that our lives have meaning, that we are people, not animals, that we live, breathe, and bleed, and that we, like every person, every plant, and every animal- MATTER. Now, there is an effort to detract from that movement by simply reminding the world that ALL lives matter.
First of all, of course they do. One would be hard pressed to find someone within the BLACK LIVES MATTER camp sans respect for life in general, but that isn’t the issue here. The problem is those opting to gloss over the terrorist-like actions of certain law enforcement entities snuffing out the lives of black folks because they do not believe BLACK LIVES MATTER. Those who murder us when our hands are up, when we are on our knees, when we sit in our cars, or when we dare to simply be existing on the street do not believe our lives matter. They look at black folks and see problems instead of people and therefore, it is imperative we remind them the black lives they so cavalierly take MATTER.
Secondly, the world already knows white lives matter. Let’s face it, when folks change BLACK to ALL, it’s really a whitewashing of the belief BLACK LIVES MATTER. It is a reminder of what anyone in this country was raised knowing – white life matters unequivocally. From TV shows to school history books, we all know white is relevant. What isn’t apparent is the equally relevant value of black life. A hundreds of years old history of being treated as less than has a way of convincing others black life really isn’t that valuable. BLACK LIVES MATTER exists to chip away at that flawed thinking. Just as we’ve all been told repeatedly how much white life matters, we must ingrain that same thinking in the world when it comes to black lives.
Lastly, black folks do not have to explain why their lives matter. The fact we are humans is reason enough to know we matter. The fact our lives are often disregarded is evident when we are questioned about why we insist on reminding the world we matter. The very fact we need a campaign to spread this very basic and innate fact is evidence our existence is devalued regularly. If going out into the world and launching a campaign to let all people know what they should have always known is required, so be it. I will continue to write, text, tweet, and status update my way through to promote the relevance of black lives and I will do so without apology.
The harassment, assault, and murder of unarmed black folks, the lack of indictments for those murders, and the ensuing claims that we are thugs, criminals, and intimidating figures and therefore deserve to be murdered, armed or not, is indicative of the need to spread the message that BLACK LIVES MATTER and folks should shout this fact until their voices are hoarse and fingertips bloody from typing. No apologies and no take backs.