I was only seven when I heard about Trayvon Martin’s death. I remember feeling confused. How was a Black boy walking through a white neighborhood suspicious? What could he possibly have done to be killed?
At seven, I didn’t understand what racism really was or how it affected me. But I remember my parents telling my older brother that he should keep his hood down and his hands out of his pockets when he was walking, something they still say today. I didn’t understand why my parents would tell him that.
Then I heard the phrase Black Lives Matter, and I realized something was wrong. If our lives mattered, people wouldn’t have to say Black Lives Matter. If our lives mattered, unarmed, 17-year-old Black boy Trayvon Martin and countless other Black people wouldn’t have been killed.
Knowing that I, or any of my family or friends, could be killed simply for being Black angers and scares me.
Cops won’t hesitate to shoot us just for being Black. They won’t think about whose son or daughter they’re killing, whose sister or brother. They’ll think only about the color of our skin and determine whether or not we are “suspicious.”
Many thousands of innocent Black people have died at the hands of a racist society. Black people are three times as likely to be killed by police than white people. Time after time there are protests, but justice is never served. Many have made Black Lives Matter out to be a hate group because a few of their protests have turned violent —but this isn’t true. Black Lives Matter focuses on holding police accountable for unnecessary aggression and violence towards Black people, not on hating cops.
Hate has never been the purpose of Black Lives Matter, despite how critics have portrayed the movement.
Some people love to say “All Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter” in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. But there is a vital difference between the purposes of Black Lives Matter and All/Blue Lives Matter.
“All Lives Matter” is a slogan used as a response to Black Lives Matter. There is no motive behind it other than to silence and diminish the Black Lives Matter movement. People who say “All Lives Matter” often say things like “Color doesn’t matter” or “Black Lives Matter excludes other people.” They think Black Lives Matter is divisive.
Then there are people who say “Blue Lives Matter”—referring to the lives of police officers—which is no different than “All Lives Matter.” This phrase is also used to silence and diminish the Black Lives Matter movement and deflect attention from the brutal killing of Black people. Both “Blue Lives Matter” and “All Lives Matter” did not exist until Black Lives Matter was founded, which shows they are nothing more than a defensive response, not an outcry because of a problem.
If you still don’t understand why saying “All Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter” takes away from Black Lives Matter, think about it this way:
If you break your ankle and go to the doctor because it has to be fixed, it doesn’t mean that the other bones in your body don’t matter. It just means that, right now, your ankle needs more attention than the other bones.
Here’s another comparison: If one house is on fire in a neighborhood and a firefighter comes and sprays water on that house, it would be ridiculous for a neighbor to say, “Well what about my house?!” It doesn’t mean that the other houses don’t matter; it just means that one specific house is in danger and needs attention.
The recurring theme here is that when something—be it a broken bone or a house in flames—needs more attention, you have to focus on fixing that first.
The lives of the Black community (and the racism our country was founded upon) need fixing right now. That is the focus of Black Lives Matter. Black people are being killed by cops more than any other group. Saying “All Lives Matter” implies that all houses are being burned down or all the bones in your body are broken, which simply isn’t true. Only one house is being burned down and only one bone is broken. And that one bone or one house is Black people.
Ultimately, all lives can’t matter in America until Black Lives Matter.
On May 25th, 2020, a Black man named George Floyd was accused of using a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store. When the employees called the police, Officer Chauvin arrived on the scene along with three other cops. George Floyd was thrown to the ground where Officer Chauvin kneeled on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds. The most harrowing part of this act was that Officer Chauvin casually had his hand in his pocket while George Floyd was begging for his life, implying that George Floyd’s life did not matter. As he realized he was going to die, George Floyd called out for his mother, as anyone of any race or ethnicity would call for their protector, the one they love the most.
I’m a 15-year-old Black girl who would love to just be a child and know what it’s like to experience innocence. But this privilege was never afforded me because I was born Black. Instead, I have to watch my community fight for what white citizens get in this country for free—the right to survive. Which leaves me with this question—am I next?