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Why “Black Lives Matter” Matters

If you live in our world and have access to any form of media, you may have found yourself coming across the words “Black Lives Matter” from time to time. How can you not, when over the past two years it has become the war cry of Black people across the country?  Whether in the form of a tweet or an echoing chant from the mouths of protesters, the phrase has become somewhat of a phenomenon. Despite its popularity, the Black Lives Matter movement is not a fad that will slowly disappear over the years. Black Lives Matter is a direct response to the institutionalized racism that has plagued America since its establishment. While there may be a plethora of differing opinions in regards to Black Lives Matter, the movement’s primary message holds an objective truth.

In America, Black people are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of their White counterparts. While 14 million White people have reportedly used illegal drugs, Black people are ten times more likely to be sent to jail for drug use, despite the fact that only approximately three million Black people have ever been reported. In simpler terms, almost five times as many White people than Black people have been reported for drug use, but Black people are still more likely to be incarcerated for drug offenses.

The high rates of incarceration amongst the Black population only lead to problems within the Black community.  Rather than obtaining an education or finding work, Black people are forced to spend their time in jail cells.  Not only is incarceration in America inherently racist, but it is also fairly ineffective, as our system does not typically offer rehabilitation of any kind.  Rather than providing an environment in which offenders may learn to correct their past mistakes, those who are jailed are sent back into the world after their time is up.  American jails do not exist as corrective facilities as much as they exist as prolonged timeouts.

The disparities between the treatment of White Americans and Black Americans by law enforcement are anything but latent.  Not only are Black people jailed at a significantly higher rate than White people, but they are also killed at an astronomically higher scale.  If you are a Black American, you are three times more likely to be shot and killed by law enforcement than a White American.  Not only are you more likely to be killed, but also there is a 30% chance that at the time of your murder you will be unarmed.  It does not matter if you are an educated young woman who simply forgot to signal a lane change, like Sandra Bland, or if you are a twelve year old boy who is playing in the park with a toy gun, like Tamir Rice. Anti-black sentiment will still find a way to hurt you.

Clearly, racism is still present in America.  The struggles that Black people face in this country did not magically disappear when Rosa Parks sat down on the bus. In spite of what the typical narrative concerning race might suggest, racial equality is still something to fight for in America.  This ongoing struggle is what makes phrases like “All Lives Matter” or “Blue Lives Matter” sound rather redundant.  In history, there has never been an implication that “blue” lives or, rather, the lives of law enforcement do not matter.  The ideal that blue lives are important has always been clear.  “Blue Lives Matter” only exists to derail the Black Lives Matter movement.  Similarly, the use of the phrase “All Lives Matter” does not do anything to better the lives of Black people in America.  Instead, it takes the attention off of the problems that are specific to the Black community.  While yes, all lives do matter, the purpose of the Black Lives Matter movement is to shine a light on the struggle of leading a Black life in our country.

Really, the emergence of Black Lives Matter was inevitable.  Considering the rates of Black-specific violence in America, the degree of public unrest and dissatisfaction should come as no surprise.  The Black Lives Matter movement is not an unnecessary rebellion amongst the Black community.  Rather, it is a call to action. In a country where 97% of police brutality cases result in no conviction, it is easy to feel displaced or unimportant.  The movement exists to enforce the reality that Black people are not disposable.  Black Lives Matter is meant to teach all Americans that they must start treating Black people like they are significant because they do, in fact, matter.

2 Comments

  1. Rachel Hall October 7, 2016

    Thanks so much for this very important editorial.

  2. Ms. V October 7, 2016

    Ife, You have done a beautiful job of explaining the meaning and significance of this phrase and movement.  You should post it on socia media.

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