I feel compelled to share some of my thoughts on racial injustice in the United States and the Black Lives Matter movement.
All Lives Do Not Matter
All lives do not matter. We have proved this time and time again. When a police officer shoots a black man in the back eight times,1 we demonstrate in the most tangible sense that all lives do not matter. Or when a police officer shoots a black 12-year-old in a park within two seconds of arriving at the scene.2 And when a police officer pulls over a black man for a broken taillight and fires four bullets into the car (with a woman in the passenger seat and a child in the backseat) when the man reaches for his wallet,3 how can we say that all lives matter?
This the entire point of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.
The #alllivesmatter reaction dismisses the cries of black people in the United States, and tells them that their situation is no worse than any other race’s situation. It says, “hey, we’re all equal here.”
But it’s easy to see our situations are not equal. Consider that black men were more than six times as likely as white men to be incarcerated in federal and state prisons, and local jails in 2010, according to a Pew Research Center report.4 In other words, 13% of the US population is black,5 yet blacks comprise 37% of male inmates under state or federal jurisdiction (from 2013).6
I know broad generalizations can be dangerous, so here’s a disclaimer that America is a large and diverse country and there are many races in many socioeconomic climates. However, in sum, the situation for black people in the US is significantly disadvantaged.
We cannot say that #alllivesmatter until we can say that #blacklivesmatter.
What Can We Do
One of the most important things—in my opinion—that the Black Lives Matter movement has done (and is doing) is making our society acknowledge that racism still exists.
I am not a lawmaker. I am not a police officer. By any stretch of the imagination, I am in no position to enact any significant change to systemic racism. I have feelings of helplessness and guilt for not being able to do something tangible, right now. Here’s the thing: we are not going to solve systemic racism.
By “we” I mean anyone that is alive right now. Despite being over 60 years since the start of the civil rights movement, it seems like reconciliation is multiple generations away.
Looking Inward, Forward
We are still racist. Only when we confront this reality will we start to make headway. We need to identify our own prejudices, correct them, and ensure those do not get passed on to future generations. By starting with our own biases, we can move the needle toward progress.
Seeing the message of Black Lives Matter spread on social media and seeing all races participate in protests gives me hope. Hope that things are getting better. Hope that as a society, we are willing to fight injustice. Hope that one day we’ll be able to say that “all lives matter” and it won’t be ironic.