Black lives matter.
It’s a simple statement that stands on its own. Without any context the sentence is pure common sense. Of course Black lives matter. But when an individual oblivious of context goes on to say, “All lives matter,” the legitimate pain of the Black community is eclipsed by uninformed wordplay ignorant to the matter at hand.
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Every life is precious, and that’s the main point of Black Lives Matter. George Floyd’s life was precious. Ahmaud Arbery’s life is irreplaceable. Trayvon Martin was not some kind of disposable person – he was a 17-year old kid with hopes, dreams, and a loving heart whose life was taken from him for wearing a hoodie in the rain while Black.
The mission of the police is to serve and protect. But when so many Black people have suffered from police brutality or violent prejudice, the Black community is forced to ask, “Who’s protecting us?”
Mainstream media loves to focus on rioting and looting to fuel the sensationalistic spectacle that keeps people glued to their TV’s. Criminal activity has always been a side effect of peaceful protests because opportunists are constantly looking to capitalize on chaos. Martin Luther King, Jr. had this to say about riots:
“I think we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard… I hope we can avoid riots because riots are self-defeating and socially destructive.”
King led a successful Civil Rights movement on the foundation of peace and self-expression. From organized sit-ins at segregated diners to the march from Selma to Montgomery, King promoted peaceful protest and freedom of speech as a strategy against the centuries-old institution of American White supremacy.
Education is vital. We must read books and watch documentaries about Black history. Understand the impact 400 years of chattel slavery weighs upon a race and community of people. Educate yourself about the brutal lynchings in post-Civil War America, Jim Crow, The Red Summer of 1919, The Watts Rebellion of 1965, the Rodney King beating, and Ferguson. The recorded history is there for you to learn ad nauseum.
While MLK has earned his own holiday, let’s not forget to study the words of Malcolm X, Angela Davis, Medgar Evers, Fredrick Douglass and so many more strong Black leaders.
However, an even more important and profound form of education is to reach out. Talk to a Black friend, neighbor, or someone you may know only online. Listen. Trust unconditionally what a Black man or Black woman or Black child is saying about their personal experiences. What does it really feel like to drive while Black? How do Black parents feel when their teenage children don’t come home at the expected time? Ask a Black person for anecdotes of their personal encounters with law enforcement. Gain a perspective that you couldn’t get from reading alone.
Social Media has proved a viable tool for building inroads for the Black Lives Matter movement. For the first time in American history, the Black community has a platform to express themselves, share stories, and give messages of hope. Use this moment to make a change. Make a post and let it fly. Now is the time to be heard.