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Whose Lives Matter?

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From All Lives to Black Lives, Who Matters More?

As women, we are granted the unique distinction of child birth. Because of the bond that is formed early – even prior to delivery – we can be overly doting and protective of our children. We naturally tend to become somewhat less protective as our children age and become more independent.  Now imagine never being able to relax or feel secure about your child’s safety, not matter his or her age. The latter scenario is what many African American mothers face in raising their children, namely their sons.

In the wake of recent police shootings of unarmed, seemingly nonresistant black men, what has emerged is a social movement called “Black Lives Matter.” The movement has been primarily focused on organized protests in an attempt to raise consciousness and demonstrate a unified front against discrimination. While effective to a great degree, it has had a polarizing effect on nonminority groups who counter that “all lives matter.”

 J Lo AllLivesMatterApparently, singer Jennifer Lopez or someone from her camp posted the hashtag #AllLivesMatter on Tuesday, July 12, while promoting her new single “Love Make the World Go Round” on Twitter. Social media swarmed her with mocking memes and even calling her “Jenny from the Burbs,” implying that she forgot where she came from and the people who helped make her famous. Meanwhile, other celebrities such as Alicia Keys, Beyoncé and Pink have made public statements in support of #BlackLivesMatter and those who inexplicably lost their lives during police interactions.

There is obviously a misunderstanding or intentional slight about what is implied when someone states that “black lives matter.” It’s not that all lives don’t matter. It’s just that some lives are treated as relatively disposable, essentially less valuable. While this kind of thinking may be okay within the confines of one’s home or private assembly, this mindset is unacceptable for civil servants, those paid to serve or protect the public.  For instance, here is the mindset of some law enforcement personnel:

“I just shot a black person who wasn’t going to amount to much anyway.”
“I just shot a black person who probably deserved to die because he was a criminal. I did the world a favor.”
“I just shot a black person because he tried to mouth off or resist. They know better than that.”
“I just shot a black person because I hate them, and I can get away with it.”

Given that these attitudes may be evidenced through constant racial profiling, soaring incarceration rates, questionable judicial rulings, and continual police shootings, the Black Lives Matter movement exists to remind certain law enforcement personnel that African Americans want to be treated as equals under the law. This means that they expect “due process,” as stated in the U.S. Constitution, when accused or suspected of criminal activity. Furthermore, African Americans expect to be treated with the same respect as people who work in the legal system would give to their own family and community members.If other interest groups organized efforts with campaigns called “Animal Lives Matter,” “Women’s Lives Matter” or “Workers’ Lives Matter,” scarcely no one would dispute their sentiments. In fact, some people would expound on the message, and they already have through groups like PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), NOW (National Organization for Women) and the AFL-CIO along with worker’s unions of all kinds.

If people feel that they have to declare that “black lives matter,” the issue should be with the alleged oppressor, not with the sentiment. As a free society with laws in place to protect the oppressed and guarantee civil liberties to all citizens, we should investigate claims of inequity, not immediately suggest that the claim has no merit.

So, whose lives matter? If the answer is “everyone,” then let’s all act like it so we don’t ever have to remind people.

-Annette Johnson, editor

Hers magazine March/April 2016

 

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