Kyus Agu-Lionel 

Naked Politics Blogger

The flames of Baltimore have long been extinguished, but their legacy still burns bright. In the wake of the high profile murders of unarmed black people such as Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray and many, many others, there has been a strong social media response organised around the phrase #BlackLivesMatter. Protests have been organised, awareness has been raised, and government officials have been lobbied, all in the name of stopping this endless cycle.

But in spite of this, a common response has been: ‘Oh! But all lives matter!’ and a rival hashtag has been set up. These #AllLivesMatter advocates have completely missed the point of the movement and reinforce why #BlackLivesMatter is so necessary.

Let me be absolutely clear on this. #BlackLivesMatter is not a statement that black lives matter more than white lives, or trans lives, or female lives, or any other lives at all. Feminism doesn’t mean that all men should die and a Cancer Research advert doesn’t imply that people who are dying of other diseases aren’t important. It is a statement that black lives matter just as much as all of the lives previously mentioned. However, the American judicial system and society as a whole doesn’t recognise this. Therefore activists are drawing attention to black lives, in an attempt to bring about a change and achieve racial parity in the justice system’s dealings with suspects.

Black people, men in particular, are still in America (and in the UK for that matter) more likely to be given harsher sentences when compared with similar offences committed by white perpetrators, are still more likely to die in police custody or to sustain serious injuries during arrest and are still more likely to be stopped and searched by police in the first place.

Despite what FOX News, the Daily Mail and much of middle America would have you think, #BlackLivesMatter isn’t about letting black criminals get away with crimes. It is about ensuring that black suspects are held accountable for their crimes with a fair trial in a court of law, the same as everybody else. If they are guilty, then they should be dealt with by the rule of law, not by one trigger happy policeman with deep seated racial prejudices.

Another recent phrase has been #NotAllPolice, which indignantly proclaims that not all policemen are bigoted murderers. To which I say – obviously. Around a million people are employed by American law enforcement agencies and it should go without saying that people can’t accuse each and every one of them of racism. #NotAllPolice ignores the figures; the thousands of people who have died over the last century and even just the last two years. By reacting to evidence of this scale, by ignoring the problem and instead seeking to absolve of responsibility an establishment which is to this day steeped in institutional racism, says that the feelings of people who are paid to do a job are more important than the victims murdered. These are human beings, who were formerly living and breathing, with partners, families, friends and prospects.

This attitude reflects the mainstream media’s response to black deaths.  CNN, FOX News and others were more outraged at the destruction of property during protests after the murder of Freddie Gray, than the murder of a young man and presented the murder of two NYC Police Officers last year by Ismaaiyl Brinsley, as an inevitable result of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Those who would declare passionately that we live in a post racial society evidently missed the coverage of the recent Charleston church shooting, where nine black people were murdered by a white gunman and the media bent over backwards to not call it what it was: a terrorist attack and attempted to remove race from the killer’s motivations. These examples and many others, which are too numerous to list here, demonstrate why #BlackLivesMatter is so necessary. Yes, all lives do matter. But to defeat this problem a spotlight must be shone on the group that is enduring the worst of it.

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Last Update: April 29, 2018