Why Do #BlackLivesMatter?
Kristina Acheampong | Resources
Editor’s Note: Kristina Acheampong, a campus summer intern wrote this article for her school and is reposted here with permission from The Insider Media. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely her own and do not necessarily represent the view of Milestone Churches or its leadership. However, we do wholeheartedly support the author and share her desire to influence change.
Photo from a katz via Shutterstock
I was 12 years old when Trayvon Martin was murdered. I remember being heartbroken and upset that an unarmed teenager got shot walking home with a pack of skittles and an iced tea. I was 13 when Trayvon’s murderer, George Zimmerman was found not guilty, though it was clear that he was. The immense anger and frustration shared by the community knowing an innocent life had been lost and instead of providing proper justice, the system protected the murderer. Today, I am 20 years old and nothing has changed.
Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd’s recent deaths were a reminder for black people that law enforcement does not protect nor aim to save our lives. We have reached a breaking point, which is why today you might see #BlackLivesMatter trending.
Why do we say Black Lives Matter, don’t all lives matter? Let me clear up the common misconception that by saying Black Lives Matter does not mean that other lives don’t. Regardless of your race, you might experience hardships and challenges or times when you personally felt wronged and faced injustices. It is important to know that the privilege is not an indicator of your immunity to struggles or a telltale sign of how good your life is, but is rather the unearned advantages bestowed by society due to their identity. We say black lives matter to bring light to black individuals’ lives and their rights to equal justice and fairness.
Think about it this way: imagine if there are six houses on your street and one house catches on fire. Do you call the fire department and tell them to spray all six houses with water or just the one house that is on fire? “But my house matters too!” Yes, your house does matter.
But your house is not the one in danger at the moment. We want to bring attention to the house that IS on fire, especially when this house has been on fire for hundreds of years and has yet to be put out.
One of the most upsetting parts that come with your house fire is when all your neighbours come out to observe what the commotion is about, but none of them make a move to help. Some might stand and watch the fire burn but won’t dial 911. Some might see the fire but return to their homes and go to bed because it’s not their fire, not their problem. Some might go as far as to say the fire was deserved, even though unlike the other houses, this house was built without a fire safety system. It hurts to be blamed for your fire when your house was not built equally in the first place. It hurts when the people around you know you are suffering but don’t bother to help. It hurts. Silence hurts. To remain silent means you are okay with what is going on. There is no such thing as neutrality in this situation, you are either for or against. Silence is compliance.
However, I know and believe there are many people who do not want to remain silent anymore. These are people who acknowledge their privilege in society and want to use their voice for good. Being an ally is not simply the want to no longer be racist, it requires much more than that. It might be difficult to know where to start, but I have provided things you can do as a non-black person to be an ally to the black community and the #BlackLivesMatter movement:
- It may not be easy for some black people to talk about the issues because they relive the trauma, so before bombarding them with questions, your first step should be to educate yourself.
- There are articles, infographics and videos on racism, police brutality, systematic racism and injustice, and allyship that you can find through a Google search.
- A good place to start is YouTube. Videos such as Systematic Racism Explained and What the World Needs to Know About Black Lives Matter can provide you with information in simpler terms and direct you to other topics you should look into.
- Check out the blacklivesmatter.com website which gives history on the movement and shows ways you can support.
- Read books and watch tv shows/movies such as When They See Us and The Hate U Give , which tackles topics such as racism, systemic injustice, police brutality and activism and showcases the realities of black lives.
- It should not be the responsibility of the black community to make sure YOU are educated, there are many resources available to help you. But by all means, ask about what you don’t understand, just only after doing the research yourself.
- It is not your place to tell any person, regardless of race, how they should or shouldn’t feel about issues affecting them and their community. Listen and be empathetic.
- Seek to understand and do not interject. You do not need to respond with your own opinions; instead try to understand and listen to the people’s experience and source of frustration.
- Although having this conversation may make you uncomfortable, discomfort provides an opportunity to grow and learn . If you don’t feel uncomfortable about the situation, you won’t be motivated to act, so get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
- You have the privilege of a voice, do not be afraid to use it. It shouldn’t be limited to social media posts, but used to communicate to your friends and family. Point out racism when you see it and educate.
- Go out and protest.
- #BlackLivesMatter is more than just a trend and is definitely not something that should be reduced to an Instagram challenge.
- There are informative articles, links to donations and petitions to be signed. Share those. Share this one. Let others know ways they can help beyond posting a hashtag.
- Be mindful that times like these can take a toll on the mental health of black individuals. Check on your black friends and family and be there for them. Offer your support.
- Sign petitions that help bring about change and demand justice.
- If you have the financial means, donate.
- If you are unable to donate, there are youtube videos you can stream, such as this one, where 100% of the ad revenue will be donated to associations that promote advocacy, offer protestor bail funds and help pay for family’s funerals.
- #BlackLivesMatter is not a one day trend. Black lives matter not only today, but they did yesterday, they will tomorrow and they will continue to matter.
- We must keep listening, speaking out, sharing and supporting. We must keep fighting together until there’s change.
Links to learn:
What the World Needs To Know About Black Lives Matter
Systematic Racism Explained
Take A Walk In My Shoes: Jane Elliot Racism Experiment