This morning, I awoke to a text from a family member asking me if I would mind commenting on one of her Facebook threads that faced devolving into a polarizing and shaming-filled conversation about the Black Lives Matter movement. She figured that since I’d recently experienced first-hand the fallout of what can happen when friends fail to maintain respect in their dialogue, I might be a calm and rational voice to bring in.
I was immediately flattered, but also nervous about what I’d encounter and how I’d want to respond, if at all.
In the end, I actually had a pretty lengthy response (shocking, right?), broken out over several comments back-and-forth.
As I was responding to some of the “All Lives Matter” arguments though, I realized that the biggest issue within this particular conversation seemed to be a misconception about exactly what Black Lives Matter stands for.
So, if you’re confused or getting all worked up about a movement that you think is about chastising white people, or accusing police officers of being racists, then please take a minute to calm down and try to process what I’m about to say.
Black Lives Matter is a movement created to combat racism1 in our country. It’s not about fighting with racists.2
What does that mean?
- It means we want all people to acknowledge that people of color have historically and continually face brutalization and disenfranchisement at an institutional level, which must be rectified.
- It means we want reformation within our country’s legal and social systems — including our policing forces — whose legacy infrastructures and cultures allow for trends of racially-based systematic oppression to thrive.
- It is an extension of the Civil Rights Movement, which also started as a grassroots effort, took on a label that reflected its mission, and advocated tirelessly — while promoting respect and love — to achieve its mission. While some argue that Civil Rights is over, BLM proves it’s not. The BLM movement strives to achieve change where Civil Rights did not, through the same values of dialogue and respect.
Black Lives Matter is not about trying to take down or challenge every individual racist in our country. That’s impossible.
It is not about proclaiming that all white police officers are racists. That’s ignorant.
It is not about promoting “us versus them.” But it’s impossible to have this conversation without comparing the white experience vs. the people-of-color experience, because that’s exactly how this country was founded.
Black Lives Matter calls for us to unite towards something that is very possible, and long overdue: the transformation in how our country’s governing, policing, and social systems operate by acknowledging and addressing racial inequalities. When we say “Black Lives Matter,” it’s to draw attention to the fact that historically and today, our lives have not been and are not governed as though they matter to the same degree as White lives.
1 Racism: Poor treatment of or violence against people because of their race. (Merriam-Webster) 2 Racist: A person who believes that a particular race is superior to another. (Google)