OPINION: News flash – Black Lives Matter

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Johnson is a senior sociology
major from Springdale, MD.
CHRISTA SCHROEDEL / THE DEPAUW

Yes, you read the statement correctly: Black Lives Matter. Now some of you may be thinking, “Well sure, Black Lives Matter, because all lives matter.” Some of you may be thinking, “Why does this phrase even exist? I mean, why is there (always) a focus on black people? They already have Black History Month.” Others may be thinking, “What about other lives like White lives or Latino lives or LGBTQ lives or poor people lives. Why isn’t there a hashtag for them?” Although I do agree that all lives matter, the phrase simply is not true. If ALL lives truly mattered, then Michael Brown, Amadou Diallo, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Yvette Smith, Aiyanna Jones, Tarika Wilson, Deah Barakat, Yusor Mohammad, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, Penny Proud, Lamia Beard and Taja Gabrielle DeJesus would still be alive.

I would argue that the only time there is a focus on black people is when black people bring it up. And correct, the nation observes Black History Month during February. The purpose of Black History Month, as created by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, was a means to educate both (at that time) blacks and whites about blacks and their accomplishments since their legacies were (and continue to be) left out of the American educational curriculum. It was formed to get around the institutional racial hatred of that era in order to empower blacks with historical awareness as well as educate whites about the endeavors of blacks in order to prevent negative stereotyping.

Similarly to Black History Month, the phrase #BlackLivesMatter was created, by three black females, as a response to the anti-Black racism that continues to permeate our society. One of the creators of the hashtag states, “Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where black lives are systematically and intentionally targets for demise. It is an affirmation of black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.”  

In our American society, a seven-year-old black girl is shot and killed while sleeping on her grandmother’s sofa by a police officer during a police raid. In our society, a seventeen-year-old black male’s body is found rolled up in a wrestling mat in his high school gym. We live in a nation where a twenty-two-year-old black male is killed by a police officer inside a Wal-Mart while holding a toy gun. (Take note that he is the same age as some current seniors and how all of us go to Wal-Mart.) These three reported acts of violence and crime do not begin to scratch the surface of the harsh realities of being black in America.

Living as a black person in America, you are, in a sense, a moving target. Although we no longer live in the era of overt acts of racism and racial hatred such as the every day occurrences of lynchings, we do live in a time where police officers can stop, frisk and search any person, walking or driving, based on assumptions and/or suspicions. We live in a time where professors, students and administrators assume that black students should be grateful for being allowed to attend white institutions or schools based on the assumptions that they were admitted only because of their race. We live in a time where more people of Color, especially blacks, receive hasher punishments and sentences for committing the same crime as their white counterparts. Yet, we still live in an era where black lives are taken by white males in authority, regardless if they are hiding behind a white sheet or a blue badge.

In spite of the centuries of enslavement, the many years of Jim Crow laws and the continued acts of individual and institutional racism, black people have been able to and continue to resist, withstand and sustain themselves. Yes, we have made many strides towards justice and equality, but we still have more battles to fight. As the nationwide recognition of Black History Month comes to a close (because I celebrate Black History Month every month), remember that blacks in America have a history of violence, hatred, crime as well as resistance, healing and resilience. For black people, remember, “say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud.” For both black and non-black people, remember Black Lives Matter