Misconceptions about the “Black Lives Matter” Movement

by Rosalyn Morse / Civil Rights Chair

To understand the power of a movement that began in 2013, we must jump back nearly 400 years and grasp onto perhaps the same struggle the Black community fought then; the idea that all people should be treated fairly in the eyes of the law and every institution. The creation of the Black Lives Matter was a response by the black community to give a voice to black Americans affected by the increase of wrongful deaths due to law enforcement and vigilantes that wanted to take the law into their own hands. But let's be real. This has been going on for so long that it seems like we are stuck in the past. After all, we just celebrated the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This man spoke loud and often about social and economic injustice, segregation, inequality, and poverty for people of color. He understood that while racism was (and is) a tremendous oppressive force in our land. The thing that could bring us together was the fundamental understanding that no one should have to struggle from paycheck to paycheck to survive. I understand the process of converting what Dr. King had imagined or dreamed to what we are still experiencing today is disheartening. So, we continue to march and protest for equal protection under the 14th Amendment of our Constitution. "No state shall… deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law". Here it is, the year 2022, and we're still waiting. Then comes a new group of protestors called the "Black Lives Matter" movement demanding that the equal protection clause in the Constitution be applied to people of color like it was designed?
The movement's goal was not only to stop the unlawful killing of black men and women but restoring Black people to a respectful and honorable position of self-worth was a top priority. Some have even hailed the movement as the second wave of the Civil Rights Movement. But instead of seeing the movement as a bridge-builders that highlights the experiences of racism, discrimination, and inequality both politically and socially against black people. Some deemed them a terrorist group whose intention was to destroy the white race. After all, Dr. King, who preached non-violence, was investigated and criticized in the 1960s by the FBI for inciting "hatred and violence."
I think February, Black History Month is the perfect time to reiterate the purpose of the Black Lives Matter movement and why it's time to have those difficult conversations about racism with the people you encounter daily. "Let me start by saying that black lives matter doesn't mean that other lives do not." While protests against police brutality are happening worldwide, echoing the cries of the "Black Lives Matter "movement through the streets and the media. And as we all listen and try to make sense of the news and think about how to respond and participate at such a pivotal time, it's important to recognize what Black Lives Matter means and why the phrase "All Lives Matter" is problematic.
Hearing the phrase "All Lives Matter" sounds like a we're-all-in-this-together statement to most people. Some may be using the phrase to suggest that all races should join hands and stand together against racism, which is a sentiment that comes from a good place. After all, that was the one phrase that stuck with me from Dr. King's "I have a dream" speech. "I have a dream that one day we can live in a nation where we will not be judged by the color of our skin but by the content of our character." The phrase actually takes the focus away from those who need it. Saying "All Lives Matter" redirects the attention from Black lives, who are the ones that are being bullied, beaten, threatened, and sometimes even killed in the streets. Instead, it's essential to understand what drives the Black Lives Matter movement and what it means by using the phrase. It can be an uncomfortable experience for many of you, especially if you're someone that hasn't taken the time to examine your role in the systemic oppression that exists in our society.
What Does Black Lives Matter Mean?
Black Lives Matter is an anthem, a slogan, a hashtag, and a straightforward statement of facts. While it is not a new movement, it is a movement that is necessary if we are to expose systemic racism. To be honest, the message of the Black Lives Matter movement is the same message the protestor was chanting during the walk from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Here it is the 21st Century, and we are still marching for civil rights, voting rights, and systematic racism. The Black Lives Matter movement is necessary if we are going to eradicate police brutality, inequality, discrimination, and systemic racism. Since the deaths of George Floyd, Elijah McClain, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, 12-year-old Tamir Rice, and the thousands of violent incidents that happen to people of color that aren't recorded, aren't reported, or aren't afforded the outrage they deserve. While racism in the United States goes back hundreds of years, beginning with slavery, it is unfortunate that the Black Lives Matter movement is still trying to shine a spotlight on issues of racial injustice and disparities within the criminal justice system.
Remember Ahmad Arbery? He was killed because of a law still on the books that allowed people of color to be hunted down like animals and even killed in the streets. This law, called the Citizen's arrest, was a law in the 1860s that was designed to control the black population; instead, they were still enslaved as well as those that were legally free. Is there any doubt in your mind that the legacy of slavery still exists today? Since then, the name has been changed to a new law called "Stand your Ground." This law allowed a man to shoot and kill an unarmed teenager and then claimed he was afraid for his life. George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, a sixteen-year-old black kid dressed in a hooded sweatshirt leaving the store with a bag of skittles. If you recall, initially, the police opted not to arrest Zimmerman, but the
case sparked protests and ignited national debates about racial profiling and the stand your ground laws. That's an acquittal of Zimmerman was the pivotal turning point that started the Black Lives Matter movement. The statistic shows that when a person of color was killed under this so-called self-defense law, 73% of the cases were acquitted. I will repeat it, the goals of the Black Lives Matter movement are to raise awareness that we, as a nation, need to reconsider, reevaluate, and remove those laws that are a death sentence for people of color.

So, instead of listening to the desperate cries of the people. It was counted with the response to chant "All Lives Matter." Suppose the phrase is intended to put everyone's life on equal footing or convey a sense of unity when responding to "All Lives Matter," too. You are correct. All lives do matter. But if you think there is no difference between the two phrases, "All Lives Matter and "Black Lives Matter," you're just fooling yourself. It's more divisive than unifying. The reason being you're discounting and diminishing the focus on the violence and discrimination people of color are facing every day in this country.
It's a natural reaction if you have never experienced racism to counter negatively with the response to the group voicing its experience with, "But what about all lives?" or "Isn't my safety important, too?" But the truth is, Black Americans are disproportionately impacted by police violence and systematic racism in our nation than any other group.
Asserting that "All Lives Matter" reaffirms — or at best ignores — the actual reality that the system is broken when it comes to people of color. Of course, every life is valuable, but not everyone's lives are in danger due to their skin color. Saying "Black Lives Matter" isn't equivalent to saying other lives don't, rather than Black lives should matter equally as much as other lives if you have never had" The talk" with your sons and daughters about the importance of just making it back home safe when encountering a police officer. Now I understand why your response would be, "All lives Matter too.  I would be remised not to mention our very own Sheriff Chris Swanson, who made national headlines for putting down his riot gear at a "Black Lives Matter" protest and simply asking the protestor, "How Can I help"? The answer was simple, "Walk with us". And he and his fellow officers joined the people that were protesting police brutality as he vowed that his office, "Were not going to just be an office of words, but we're going to be an office of action." That was a historic symbolic display of unity, and courage, right here in Flint. "The idea that we should have to ask certain groups for permission to exercise our rights that the Constitution already guarantees us; that's a huge disconnect, and I think it's one of the reasons why we have a difficult time talking about race.
" At the end of the day, I challenge you to "Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better." ― Maya Angelou