Like most social-justice movements in the past few years, the one that arose after the murder of Mike Brown on August 9 led to a new hashtag, #BlackLivesMatter.
After Bob McCulloch announced that a Missouri grand jury would not indict Darren Wilson yesterday, I updated my Facebook status with two simple sentences:
Black lives matter. My life matters.
Some agreed, but there were also those who did not. I am here to address those people.
A few months ago I wrote an editorial piece about black women’s beauty, and the comment section was overflowing with “I get what you’re saying, but all women are beautiful.” They were missing the point, and those of you that responded to statuses and tweets similar to mine last night with the penalizing “No, all lives matter,” shame on you.
I hoped by now I wouldn’t have to explain myself so much over such a simple concept, but I’ll entertain those confused because it’s Thanksgiving break (and I’m deep-conditioning my hair, so I have an hour or so to kill #selfcare).
When I say black lives matter, I don’t say it to insinuate that white, Asian, Latino, Pacific Islander, etc. lives do not; I say it to say exactly what it means: Black. Lives. Matter. That means my life matters, my brother’s life matters, my dad’s, my boyfriend’s, my beautiful chocolate girlfriends’ lives, all of them. Our lives matter.
I think the real concern here is why I have to say this in the first place. Why is this a hashtag or a saying among the black community anyway? Because for the past 110 days black lives haven’t mattered. Because along with the death of Mike Brown this summer there were the deaths of Eric Garner, Vonderrit D. Myers, Jr. and 12-year-old Tamir Rice in the past three months alone.
Black lives matter because only 33 percent of black males will graduate from college, but 1 in 3 of them will end up jail and because currently 40 percent of incarcerated men are black when they only make up 13.6 percent of the entire population. These numbers don’t show that black lives matter. The decision to not indict Darren Wilson doesn’t show me that black lives matter. The racist tweets making generalizations about an entire race and making light of a serious situation don’t make me feel like black lives matter.
I’m not interested in being cute, politically correct, or inclusive when the past three months alone have showed me that black lives in fact do not matter in this country.
So no, I am not sorry that I refuse to use the hashtag #AllLivesMatter because it is a slap in the face. It creates the idea that we are this melting pot of happiness and that we live in a post-racial society. No, we don’t. Are things better than they were in the 1950s and 1960s? Absolutely. I’m not here to dispute that.
I’m here to dispute the idea that we are all equal. We are not. Not talking about it is not going to make it go away. I want to bring it up, I want to talk about it in class, at the dinner table, in the streets, and on social media. I won’t shut up. I can’t shut up until I can turn on the news and see some justice, not just for Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin, or Eric Garner, but for my peers that can’t walk on campus without being called the N-word, for my mother that is followed around in stores consistently as if she doesn’t have the money to buy basic grocery items, and for my siblings and little cousins who watch newscasts with worried eyes wondering if they are next.
If this makes you uncomfortable, good. If you don’t like it, oh well. Get used to it.
Black lives matter.