'I can't breathe' Eric Garner's last words, July 2014
I can’t breathe’ Eric Garner’s last words, July 2014
In the past week, there has been a social media uproar internationally and protests in the United States and in England, London regarding two black men: Alton Sterling and Philando Castile who were shot by police officers and died resultantly. Castile’s girlfriend was in the car at the time with her 4 year old daughter who was a witness.
On Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, the hashtag #Blacklivesmatter has been trending to show that people stand with the black community in solidarity to show their support for the lives lost. Some users have stated ‘#Alllivesmatter’ which has received some backlash.
More famously Michael Jackson’s son Prince Jackson tweeted: “Everyone needs to look in the mirror and start the change there because it’s not just black lives that matter it’s all lives.”
However, Barack Obama on Friday stated: “When people say black lives matter, it doesn’t mean blue lives don’t matter, it just means all lives matter, but right now the big concern is the fact that the data shows black folks are more vulnerable to these kinds of incidents. This isn’t a matter of us comparing the value of lives.”
All life is sacred, important and equal, however though it may not be clear, there is in fact a significant problem with saying ‘Allivesmatter’ as a response to the statement ‘Blacklivesmatter’.
Firstly, black people as a whole have a long history of being discriminated against because of their skin colour and for having certain physical features. Thus, to say ‘Alllivesmatter’ covers up the fact that ‘blacklivesmatter’ and doesn’t aid to the issue being addressed. Throughout history, black people have been breached of basic human rights: they have been subjected to slavery, they have been lynched, their houses have been set on fire, black men and women raped, murdered, wrongfully put in prison, stopped and searched by police, not being able to get the same job and educational opportunities as people of other races etc… the list goes on and on.
And now, African-Americans are being subjected to violence and losing their lives at the hands of the judicial system. However, the deaths of Sterling and Castile are not new, neither were the deaths of Eric Garner, Sandra Bland nor the Charleston church shooting last year. These atrocities have been happening for decades in different forms.
Because of the points I have just mentioned above, the statement ‘Blacklivesmatter’, is so important because black lives have been deemed as less significant previously by certain groups of people evidently. Thus, when someone says ‘all lives matter’, all lives do matter however people are collectively focusing on the black lives at the moment because it is very clear that in society and history, black lives have not always mattered. The aim of the hashtag ‘Blacklivesmatter’ aims to unite people under the same movement so that they can stand up to injustice.
‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.’
-Martin Luther King, Jr.