Originally published November 25, 2014.
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 the revival of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter.
After Bob McCulloch announced that a Missouri grand jury would not indict Darren Wilson on November 24, 2014, 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. The comment section was overflowing with “I get what you’re saying, but all women are beautiful.” Those people were missing the point, and those of you that respond to Black Lives Matter with the penalizing “No, all lives matter,” are too.
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 shouldn’t have to say it in the first place. It seems that no one in the all lives matter camp stops to realize that when Black lives matter is used, it’s because one of our own has been shot and killed by police, again. Because we know no matter what their murderer did, it is the black person who will be painted as angry, dangerous and a thug. The system is tearing families apart, taking dads from their kids and children from their mommas.
Since the first slave ship landed on American soil black lives haven’t mattered. Because along with the death of Mike Brown in the summer of 2014 there were the deaths of Eric Garner, Vonderrit D. Myers, Jr. and 12-year-old Tamir Rice. They all happened within 90 days of one another.
Between the Charleston shooting, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Sandra Bland and so many more, summer 2015 and 2016 were no different. This summer we’ve seen Charleena Lyles, a pregnant woman and others who haven’t gained large media attention die at the hands of police. Police who are supposed to protect and serve, not kill and destroy. For four years our summers have been plagued with nothing but murders.
Black lives must matter because only 33 percent of black males will graduate from college, but 1 in 3 of them will end up jail. 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 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 summers alone have shown me that black lives 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 a melting pot of happiness and inclusivity, that we live in a post-racial society. We don’t.
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 at work, 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 Charlenna Lyles, 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 like she doesn’t have money to buy groceries, 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.