For those touchy subjects that divide us all.

What it really means when we say Black Lives Matter?

Protest Racism Black  - Anacarooo / Pixabay

We live in troublesome times. The fight for power has never been more frightening, more vicious, more bloody. Police brutality seems to get worse with each passing year. Currently, it’s with each passing day. Cries of “Black Lives Matter” are echoing throughout the streets, raising awareness now more than ever.

What does Black Lives Matter even mean?

It’s simple. A hashtag, a slogan, an anthem. The idea behind it is nothing new. The message is as old as the United States itself. It is a fact. It is a statement calling for action, reminding everyone that if we don’t stand tall now, we might never get up from our knees.

The recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and Tony McDade are only the tip of the iceberg, which is threatening to take everything down with it. There are thousands of violent incidents which are never reported to the police or they don’t get the national coverage, so people don’t hear about them. But, that doesn’t make them less important, less tragic.

Unofficial research shows that African Americans are twice as likely to be killed by a police officer, even when unarmed. This is tragic. People who aren’t even a threat are considered one simply because of the color of their skin. How is this possible in this day and age? Racism in the United States spans back hundreds of years. Hasn’t there been enough racism already?

So, yes. Black Lives Matter. Unfortunately, many people in the United States seem to believe that this isn’t true. They behave as if black lives DON’T matter, as if we as a country, as a leading force in the world, don’t need to change our priorities. We do. We need to get rid of this white supremacy that has been plaguing us for far too long. We need to prevent the unnecessary violence inflicted on Black communities, on African Americans as a whole. We need fundraising, education and focus on the beauty and joy of a culture that is different, yet equally mesmerizing and important.

When someone says Black Lives Matter, there is always someone else who will say that All Lives Matter. While this as a sentence taken out of context makes total sense and has a perfectly valid point, it is crucial to keep it within the context of current events. Some people even seem to believe that centering on Black Lives is taking away from other lives. However, that is not true.

As one of the creators of the BlackLivesMatter hashtag, Alicia Garza provided an explanation:

“Black Lives Matter doesn’t mean your life isn’t important – it means that Black lives, which are seen as without value within White supremacy, are important to your liberation. Given the disproportionate impact state violence has on Black lives, we understand that when Black people in this country get free, the benefits will be wide-reaching and transformative for society as a whole. When we are able to end the hyper-criminalization and sexualization of Black people and end the poverty, control and surveillance of Black people, every single person in this world has a better shot at getting and staying free. When Black people get free, everybody gets free.”

Others offered a more practical explanation on why All Lives Matter isn’t an appropriate answer. For example, if you get in a car crash, and there are a few people who ended up getting hurt. Several of them have only bumps and cuts, nothing all that serious. However, one person has a serious head injury. When the ambulance arrives, who should get priority? Of course, anyone will reply that the person with the head injury should be examined first. Still, this doesn’t mean that he is more important that anyone else or that he should get a special treatment. No. The real reason is that he has been affected more severely than the rest of them. The same message could be reached with another example. Let’s assume your house is on fire and you call the fire fighters. You’d want them to focus on putting out the fire in your house first, and not check other houses to see if there’s a fire there, too? All houses matter equally, but not if only one of them is on fire.

The bottom line is clear. Black Lives don’t matter more than other lives. But, they are the ones most affected by inequality, by racial discrimination at work, getting lower salaries and being skipped for promotions. The Black experience in the United States is not the same as non-Black experience, and this is why the black voices need to be heard. They need to be raised to the same level as all other voices, because we are all the same.

This is why the first step to any big change in the world is simply to listen. It doesn’t matter where you are, who you are or where you come from. Goodness can be found in the heart of any person. Listen to other points of view. Listen to Black celebrities, the change-makers who have made it their life goal to root out prejudice . Don’t shy away from awkward conversation and protect those whose voice can’t be heard yet. Vote and let your own voice be heard, and use it for good.

There is still a long way to go. The road is wrought with difficulty, and no single man can walk it alone. This is why we all need to work together. It won’t be easy. It won’t be pleasant. But, we can do it. We can create a world where our children will be safe, and when the police won’t base their willingness to help on the color of their skin.