We have always been in formation. Black Americans have been organizing, rallying and reaching for visibility for longer than I can imagine. Recently, there were articles in JMU’s Breeze about the the Black Lives Matter movement. The first one, “All Lives Matter” basically sent everyone including myself into an uproar. The second article was a response to why it is very problematic to counter the Black Lives Matter movement but it was problematic as well.
It is almost laughable that both articles start with a quote from Beyonce’s latest single, Formation. It is extremely ironic that both articles are written by white women while using a line from a song that aims to uplift voices and culture of Black Americans.
First, I would like to address the “All Lives Matter” article by Matthewson, who has yet to comment about her claims, lack of sufficient evidence and overall refusal to acknowledge that her privilege enabled her conclusions. I originally commented on the article and would like to further discuss how it was problematic. For Matthewson and many others that think “All Live Matter” is a good response to the Black Lives Matter movement, it is not. Would you go to a rally for breast cancer and say ‘What about colon cancer?” Yes, all lives matter but there is a clear distinction of the treatment of one race over another in this country. Also Matthewson states, “Media are eating up the Black Lives Matter movement.” Why is it bad to publicize marginalization and racially motivated crimes by law enforcement? We will no longer need to talk about it when individuals are prosecuted for racially based violence, when victims are not depicted as stereotypes on national television to justify their deaths and when Black children can just be children in their school system instead of harshly disciplined by school officers like in the cases of Spring Valley High School and Reach Partnership High School.
We can continue talk about numbers and rates of police brutality but we need to visualize it. In countless cases, I have seen comments claiming the numbers are not adequate enough or seem inaccurate. Police brutality is a proven national issue. According to Mapping Police Violence based on the 2014 U.S. Census, “Unarmed black people were killed by police at 5 times the rate of unarmed whites in 2015.” Unless we visualize how this impacts our communities, future generations and the plight of Black Americans, we are contributing to this injustice.
Second, I appreciate the attempt the response article by Anzalone makes. But, it is problematic as well. As a Black American, I know that my community is not voiceless. We can speak for ourselves. Recognizing your privilege and continuing to speak up about marginalization that you do not face disables voices. At one point Anzalone says, “But maybe, unfortunately, it’ll take a white person saying this for you to really listen and not dismiss it.” You are right. Privilege enables your voice, but why not take this opportunity to introduce voices of the Black community? It is important for privileged voices to listen to the understanding and knowledge of the Black community and talk less.
Privilege is finding comfortability in expressing your opinion over the silenced marginalized voices. Yes, Black lives matter. But our voices do too.
There is not enough room for all of us on the soapbox.