COLUMN: All lives do matter, but it doesn't seem like it right now

In a society that has oppressed Black people since its founding, there needs to be conversation on why we advocate for ‘Black Lives Matter’ and not ‘All Lives Matter.’

Keara Shannon is a sophomore journalism major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about human rights and race relations for The Maneater.

A video was spread across social media of an unarmed Black man being murdered by a police officer on May 25, Officer Derek Chauvin pinned this man to the ground, put all of his weight on his neck and would not ease off even when the man begged for his life. The other three officers around him did nothing to help. After seven minutes and 46 seconds of suffocation, he died. Within a matter of days, he became known all around the world. His name was George Floyd. He was only 46 and was ripped away from his 6-year-old daughter.

The U.S.’s disgust led to protests across the country and Black Lives Matter activists once again having to fight for Black voices to be heard.

It’s tiring being Black in America. I have to watch my Black brothers and sisters be murdered in cold blood every week. Unbelievable amounts of bodies are buried because of police brutality and hate crimes. In 2018, the Department of Justice found that 59.6% of hate crimes were motivated by race, ethnicity or ancestry bias. Furthermore, NBC reported that same year that “black Americans have been the most frequent victims of hate crime in every tally of bias incidents generated since the FBI began collecting such data in the early 1990s.”

Additionally, The Washington Post logged every fatal police shooting since 2015 and found that “although half of the people shot and killed by police are white, black Americans are shot at a disproportionate rate. They account for less than 13 percent of the U.S. population, but are killed by police at more than twice the rate of white Americans.”

We are not even protected by those who were hired to protect us. The only people who care are strangers on Twitter. I feel as if every hour I see a new petition being passed along for us to sign to bring people justice. We have to live each and every day in fear when a police car drives by or when we’re driving through an area that feels like we don’t belong. It really does get tiring.

What gets even more tiring is the amount of people who try to silence our voices. People try to say that ‘Black Lives Matter’ is a non-inclusive, hateful movement meant to bring us apart instead of unite us. They fail to realize that the very country they reside in is the one doing this to us.

My people have been oppressed, abused, neglected and pushed away for over 400 years. The very soil we stand on is stained with our blood. We were so devalued that we were thought of as three-fifths of a person. We finally got some type of respect in the generation that my grandmother was born into with the Civil Rights Act of 1957 which was created to protect our voting rights.

It took that long for people to not see us as our skin color, but as human beings. We had to fight a continuous battle just to go to the same schools as white people, to go to the same restaurants as white people, even to vote without having to take a literacy test. Ruby Bridges, the first African American child to go to a white school in Louisiana, is only 65 years old. Eight of the nine students of the Little Rock Nine are still alive and are in their late seventies to eighty years old. The turning points in Black history are fresh, and we still face challenges today.

Not much has changed besides the fact that there are now laws protecting us. People still hold biases against us thinking that we’re dangerous thugs and uneducated, the KKK is still thriving in America and lynching is not a federal crime.

Uproar over the killing of unarmed African Americans began with the death of 22-year-old Oscar Grant. Grant was shot in the back by a police officer in 2009. The officer was sentenced to prison on November 5, 2010 but was released on June 13 of the following year. The next shooting that caught major media attention was the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Martin was killed by George Zimmerman, a member of the community watch. Zimmerman was acquitted of Martin’s killing and is still free today.

Floyd, Grant and Martin are just three names on the extensive list of Black people wrongfully killed by police. There’s Michael Brown, Philando Castille, Eric Garner, Dontre Hamilton, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Laquan McDonald and so many more. Most of the police officers involved in these murders are still free as well. Shockingly, Breonna Taylor’s killer was recently found posing for a picture in Florida. These officers get the luxury of living happily and guilt-free while a family grieves the loss of a loved one.

“Black Lives Matter” does not just stop at police brutality. Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed by two white men while jogging in a South Georgia neighborhood. Dominique Alexander and Robert Fuller were found hanging from trees. Though it is not certain what exactly happened to them, it does seem very suspicious for someone to hang themself in public. Yet, their deaths were ruled as suicides.

“All Lives Matter” was created in 2014 as a counterargument to the “Black Lives Matter” movement. After the killing of the two NYPD officers, the phrase “Blue Lives Matter” began to circle around the internet and “All Lives Matter” was derived from this. It has been used ever since. People like American football player Richard Sherman, politician Hillary Clinton and rapper XXXTentacion faced backlash for using this phrase. Like many, I have several problems with it as well.

Saying “All Lives Matter” is silencing the voices of Black people constantly fighting for justice. We say “Black Lives Matter” because since the founding of this country, we have been told that we are lesser. We’ve been told that we, in fact, don’t matter and turning on the news each day is evidence of that. “All Lives Matter” shows the vision of the United States that history classes teach you in school. In reality, this country is not the land of equal opportunity that we’ve been taught.

Colin Kaepernick kneeled to show exactly that and the reaction to it showed the America we live in. A Black man’s use of his first amendment rights was seen as disrespectful to the very nation that brought him to that point. He was blacklisted and seen as a traitor but in light of recent events, people are finally realizing that he was right.

Yes, all lives do matter. No matter what color your skin is, your gender, sexuality or religion, everyone is equal. However, with everything that keeps happening to us, do you really think that Black people are seen as equal? We keep having to reiterate that our lives should be cherished as much as everyone else, yet more and more things keep happening to prove that isn’t the case.

To the white people of America, don’t say we’re whiny or that we complain too much. You have the privilege and ability to reap the benefits of a country that was made specifically for you. Unless your ancestors were oppressed for over 400 years and you’re still facing the effects of it, you don’t understand what it’s like to be Black in not only America, but the world.

You keep saying all lives matter, but it sure doesn’t feel that way to us.

If you would like to help, here is a link that has many resources not only for George Floyd, but any others affected by police brutality, wrongful incarceration, hate crimes, etc.: https://blmsites.carrd.co

Edited by Sofi Zeman | szeman@themaneater.com

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