Why ‘Black Lives Matter’ Matters

Annette Bernhardt
Annette Bernhardt

Black Lives Matter. #BlackLivesMatter. Black lives matter. It’s a phrase, a hashtag, a saying, a declaration, an affirmation of resistance, and above all, a call for change to an American society that is unjust in its treatment of black people.

Unfortunately, not everyone believes black lives matter. This may be a function of bigoted racism – the belief and insistence that black is less than, not equal to; seemingly inferior. But more than this blatantly racist belief, there is a certain ignorance that prevails in the mischaracterization of what black lives matter actually means.

There are those who believe that black lives matter translates to only black lives matter. There are those who believe that the phrase is “divisive” to the American culture as a whole. And yet still, there are those who feel the desperate need to diminish the attention that ought to be paid to black lives specifically, by insisting that all lives matter.

The notion that all lives matter, strikes me as more than anything else, a stance that is willfully ignorant to the context in which black lives matter is affirmed. This is also true for comprehending this phrase as divisive or deeming that a silent “only” exists before its utterance. Context is not only key, without it, the phrase becomes an empty pronouncement.

There is no romanticization of history when you live in a disenfranchised body.

As it has been uttered many times, the reality of this nation is that from its birth, all lives have not mattered. Some have had to endure struggle and time and change, in order to “earn” their significance as ordinary human beings under the law. From its inception, the United States declared black people three-fifths of a person in law. When the law was changed, black people then had to fight explicit laws of segregation and discrimination. And when some of those laws were changed, black people then had to fight covert laws of discrimination. That’s the fight that we’re in right now, and through all these fights, there has always been an ongoing one: to be treated fairly and equitably not just by the law, but by one’s fellow humans, as another human.

These are uncomfortable truths about the United States, but they are truths nonetheless; each generation inheriting the sins of the last – the sins of one’s forefathers. Some people like to declare that they are not responsible for past sins. Unfortunately, the world doesn’t work like that. We are all tied to the history of each other, and the history of our cultures and our peoples. If you enjoy any privileges because of your history, then you must also endure responsibility for any pain.

The backstory of black lives matter is one of pain. Certainly, it is a response to specific situations that were brought to national attention – the specific response to the fatal interactions of black individuals with many times, police personnel. But it is a response, I believe, to the reality of blackness in a space that has enslaved it, segregated it, devastated it, stolen from it, appropriated it, hated it, and still demanded its silence. Black lives matter is a response to this history of not mattering at all; of not mattering by the very existence of one’s humanity.

Aside from the derailment to the affirmation of black lives matter discussed earlier, there exists a dangerous notion that black people do not treat each other’s lives as if they matter by the erroneous argument that is “black on black crime,” or classist and racist commentary of the black and poor. When these are made, I often find it confusing how people fail to also bring up the history of institutional racism that plague the black and poor. For example, that the ghetto is public policy, or that it is difficult for a community of people who were historically disenfranchised for hundreds of years, and only granted civil rights within baby boomers’ lifetime to “pick themselves up by their bootstraps” – that odious and deceitful cultural catchphrase.

The resistance to black lives matter is a token of the historical amnesia that penetrates a certain Western culture, a certain American culture, where the historically disenfranchised are asked to forget. But how can one forget when the present sometimes eerily mirrors the past? There is no romanticization of history when you live in a disenfranchised body. The pains of those who came before you live inside the very skin that contains your body.

Of the past, it is also easy to believe that during the time of slavery or segregation or civil rights, one would have done the right thing – the human thing. It is easy to think that you would have been an abolitionist or advocated integration, or protested and marched with Martin Luther King Jr., or been sympathetic to Malcolm X, or sat alongside Rose Parks, or at the very least understood, and did your own bit in your tiny part of the world. Some people did – many whose names are not mentioned in the history books. It is easy think you would have been one of these. To those I ask, what do you say of Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown? Do you know the stories of Freddy Gray or Walter Scott? Has Sandra Bland been on your mind? And what do you do for Tamir Rice? Because if you are silent now, you would have been silent then – do not tell yourselves otherwise.

So yes, black lives matter matters because thus far each generation of American history is littered with stories that it doesn’t; that we don’t – our generation is no different. Black lives matter matters because it is an acknowledgement of the truth that a nation, and perhaps a world, has sought to deny throughout time. Black lives matter matters because we know that we are human, and we know that our humanity matters, but we are in the unfortunate position of having to demand that we get treated accordingly. TC mark


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  • http://globalcrossroadscapital.com sincityfinancier

    “Black lives matter” Really? then why are 94% of blacks shot and killed by other blacks who aren’t police. Quit pretending like you care hypocrites.

    • http://leafrosewatson.wordpress.com Leaf Jerlefia

      Hey, I’m curious about your position, can you explain your comment? Because how I’m understanding it is that you think because black on black crime happens so often that the group affirming that black lives matter is hypocritical; when really black on black crime happens within the notion that the victim’s life, itself, doesn’t matter and not that their black life doesn’t matter. What black lives matter means is that black lives matter, because a white policeman who shoots a black person because their black life doesn’t matter is very different from a person shooting someone because their life doesn’t matter. Both are evil and horrible, but one focuses solely on racial hate-crime.

      • http://leafrosewatson.wordpress.com Leaf Jerlefia

        Shooting me because of the colour of my skin, is VERY different from shooting me because my actions. The former is completely out of my control.

      • http://globalcrossroadscapital.com sincityfinancier

        Your grandstanding rhetoric does not dismiss the facts.. which was quite clear except for those in denial. But I will repeat myself with the facts. 94% of blacks nationwide are killed by other blacks nationwide that are not a cop. 5% killed by cops were actively involved with a crime and armed when confronting a cop. 1% were unarmed and not involved with a felony crime when confronting a cop and were killed often by accident and not by racism. Fact is racism rarely is an issue in police shooting of black and is just a smoke screen used by race baiters. PS this blogfeed is for finance business and not a political forum Have no ideas why you even wrote unrelevent issue. Don’t waste your time replying here. It will be discarded.

      • http://leafrosewatson.wordpress.com Leaf Jerlefia

        My grandstanding rhetoric? LOL Here are some more facts: 32% of black people killed by police in 2015 were unarmed, as were 25% of Hispanic and Latino people, compared with 15% of white people killed. 29% of those killed by the police, or 135 people, were black. Sixty-seven, or 14%, were Hispanic/Latino. 67.2% of people killed by police are minorities, and you’re twice as likely to be shot and killed by police if you’re an unarmed black male more than any other race or sex. So we can both spew facts if you like, I’m up for it, your argument will not discredit the percentage of blacks that are killed BY ACCIDENT, as you say. First, you’re just another drone buying into Fox News’ bullshit on “race baiters;” It doesn’t matter how many blacks are killed by other blacks, that will not discredit the percentage of unarmed black males, and even minorities, that are killed by the police. The fact of the matter is, government authority is held at a much higher standard than that of civilians, and if they are given such a power and position they shouldn’t abuse it. Blacks killing each other in the street are not viewed in the same light: yes, those killings matter, yes, they should be protested and discussed, but that is not the issue at hand, which is about power structures, race and how a force of powerful people are abusing their power. It makes sense that you’ve called this movement hypocritical, because clearly you fail to understand the movement’s message since you’re too busy wallowing in your own ignorance. Finally, I could care less what your blogfeed is about; if you didn’t want any responses to your clearly political comment, than don’t make them through your finance business account. You cannot be silly enough to believe no one would reply to your bullshit, so its your own fault for posting such a comment.

      • http://globalcrossroadscapital.com sincityfinancier

        It’s yours and every other black for being a hypocrite. Send your sob story else where

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