Why It's Okay to Say Black Lives Matter
I've heard lots of stuff lately about Black Lives Matter from people I interact with here in Iron County and from comments sections in newspapers and from social media posts. I've heard lots of reasons why saying that Black lives matter is unfair, unnecessary, and offensive. I've heard that we can't say that Black lives matter because all lives matter. I've heard that more Black people kill white cops by far than the other way around. I've heard that Black people keep themselves down because of their victim mentality. I've heard that systemic racism is a figment of the imagination of political extremists with an agenda. I've heard that when Black people stop breaking the law at such a lopsided rate, they'll stop getting hurt by police. I've heard that if Black people weren't lazy and indolent and constantly on the government dole, they wouldn't have the problems they do now. I've heard that Black police officers shoot at Black suspects more often than they do white suspects. I've heard that if Blacks would just stop yelling, looting, and rioting, everyone might listen to what they have to say. I've heard that when Black people finally stop whining about perceived injustice, then they can finally pick themselves up by their bootstraps and be successful members of society like everybody else. And I've heard that Black people are more racist against white people than white people are against Blacks.
I think perhaps we're missing the point.
And that point is that we're not listening to the story after story after story of the different treatment Black people receive daily based solely on stereotypes. Not really listening, anyway. We seem to listen just long enough to a Black person's terrible experiences to interject something like, "Yes, but that wouldn't happen if Black people would just stop [insert reason Black people deserve worse treatment]." But why do we do that? Why do we feel threatened when someone asks us to understand and acknowledge their pain? Is it really as zero-sum as that? Does acknowledging that Black people really are treated differently because of skin color somehow diminish the rest of us? Or are we simply uncomfortable hearing those stories and knowing that our society still has the capacity to demean others in such an awful way?