Yes, Black Lives Still Matter. No, We Won’t Let You Forget It
In 2016, I wrote an article title, Black Lives vs. All Lives and Blue Lives: Why are non-Blacks threatened by the Black Lives Matter Movement? Sadly, the recent video recorded police shooting of Pamela Shantay Turner in a Houston, TX suburb showing an officer using deadly force, shooting her five times, as he attempted to arrest her for outstanding warrants, has brought the Black Lives Matter movement back to the forefront as it brings back disturbing memories of the police murders of Walter Scott, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.
Black Lives Matter, the social justice movement created in 2012 after the murder of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of his killer sent shock waves through the black community, is a movement that has stood against racial oppression and the dehumanization of Blacks in America by uniting Black people in an effort to fight against the deprivation of our human rights.
While Black Lives Matter is a powerful movement bringing attention to the issues that face Black people nationwide, the term “Black” in Black Lives Matter has garnered almost as much attention as the movement itself. In response to the impact and popularity of Black Lives Matter, there was a surge of non-marginalized groups responding with their own movements, including “All Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Matter.” Following the shooting of Turner outside of Houston, we have again seen these groups emerge, as they continue their attempt to de-emphasize the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement and bolster the unfounded claims that Black Lives Matter is inherently exclusionary and therefore divisive. They also seek to explain away the abhorrent actions of the officer involved by focusing on the actions they believe the victim should have taken, instead of the non-lethal options the trained officer could have and should have employed in this situation.
However, it is not simply the term “Black” in Black Lives Matter that has those who oppress Black people in America concerned — and, in many cases, outraged. The true concern surrounding Black Lives Matter stems from the potential strength that Black Americans will gain against institutional racism if and when we unite. The Commission for Racial Equity defines institutional racism as “those established laws, customs, and practices which systematically reflect and produce racial inequalities in society. If racist consequences accrue to institutional laws, customs or practices, the institution is racist whether or not the individuals maintaining those practices have racial intentions” (Racism.org). The Black Lives Matter movement is giving Black people a united voice in our fight for our human rights. Removing “Black” and replacing it with “All” or “Blue”, is not an attempt to include, it is an attempt to oppress Black voices and weaken (or outright destroy) the Black Lives Matter movement. As Assata Shakur said, “It is our duty to fight for our freedom, it is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
The idea of Black people breaking loose from the chains of systematic and institutional racism is a threat to our oppressors because collectively we are powerful, and it is that power that has truly sparked the fear and backlash against Black Lives Matter. As Huey P. Newton said, “There’s no reason for the establishment to fear me. But it has every right to fear the people collectively — I am one with the people.”
The strength that comes from the Black Lives Matter movement is a threat to the oppression, dehumanization, and inequality that Black people face in America. The word “Black” does not undermine the movement.
Any person or group that attempts to lessen the strength and power of the movement by placing “All” or “Blue” in place of “Black” is a part of the oppressive society that Black Lives Matter is determined to change. As we see these police murders continue to take place, often with no punishment for the officers involved, we must remember that Black Lives still matter — always have and always will, and we will never let anyone forget it.