In the wake of several police shootings, the #BlackLivesMatter trend on social media has erupted once more, and for good reason. Several young black men were needlessly shot by police officers who had no motive to do so. Let’s not forget that Dylan Noble, a young white man, was also fatally shot by police.
Not Up For Discussion
I’m not going to talk about whether or not those officers had a right to shoot those men. They didn’t. Even if Alton Sterling had possessed a gun, there is no way he could have used it with the weight of two police officers holding him down. Philando Castile, knowing that the mere possession of a gun could give an officer enough cause to shoot him, informed the officer that he was reaching for his wallet and the officer shot him anyway. Dylan Noble, while he may have acted suspiciously from the officers’ viewpoints, was just a teenager, and he was probably scared. I know I would have been.
In answering the question “Should those men have been shot?” the answer is no. There isn’t much to discuss there. But there is still much to talk about, and it involves a lot more than those three men and the officers who shot them. It involves all of us.
Needless killings like these will always be met with outrage, but it is up to us to choose how we channel our frustrations. So far, it seems as if many of us are making the wrong decisions. The shooting of five police officers in Dallas is not going to bring justice; it is going to make police officers more suspicious, more fearful, and more willing to shoot when they feel threatened. The social media debate over the #BlackLivesMatter and #AllLivesMatter is not going to decide once and for all who does and doesn’t deserve to live; it is going to drive a wedge between blacks and whites and widen the gap that already exists between us.
The debate is honestly a silly one. It starts with people posting #BlackLivesMatter in the wake of the police shootings. It is a cause worth promoting, but I suppose that hashtag was just too exclusive for some, so the #AllLivesMatter trend begins to rise. Now, since black lives would fall into the category of all lives, it would seem that these two groups have a common goal. Despite this, they end up arguing with one another over which cause is the correct one to promote. Some black activists have gone so far as to declare that you shouldn’t say All Lives Matter, and you know what? Despite my whiteness, I agree with that.
What I Mean
Am I saying that my life doesn’t matter? Of course not; I do quite enjoy being alive, and so do all of my friends, regardless of their race. The only difference is that I don’t have to live in fear of getting shot by police for no good reason. Saying that all lives matter is like saying the sky is blue; it’s kind of a “duh” statement. Any good person knows that all lives matter. Black lives matter, on the other hand, asks an important question, namely “Why am I more likely to get shot than everyone else? That isn’t fair.”
That may have been putting it bluntly, but I feel that it is accurate. All that #BlackLivesMatter is asking for is fairness, and when you look at it objectively, there are two ways we can achieve that fairness. Police can either start shooting everyone with the same frequency to ensure fairness, or society as a whole can work on eliminating the racist attitudes that lead black men, who make up only 6 percent of the US population, to account for 40 percent of the unarmed men shot by police this year.
Not a Hard Choice
The first option isn’t even a choice. We’re not going to tell police officers to start killing more people. So let’s look at the option that could actually work instead: eliminating racist attitudes. That isn’t going to be an easy task, but it starts with suppressing the need to shout #AllLivesMatter any time the black community tries to achieve equality. Yes, your life matters too, but if it is already being treated like it matters, there isn’t much to shout about.
I’m not going to insult my black friends by reminding them that “All Lives Matter” when they are clearly dealing with a struggle that I, being white, will never truly understand. These are people who have stood by me through my worst times, times when suicide seemed like the right option, and never once did they say to me “Well black people have it rough too you know.” They didn’t remind me of their own problems when I was at my lowest. They chose to think about someone other than themselves, and they helped me when I needed it. Now, at a time when the black community is struggling, I know that my personal difficulties – whether they stem from being white, being depressed, or something else – do not need to compete for the spotlight. People I care about – people I love – need help. I am going to support them.
#BlackLivesMatter is not an effort to exclude whites and other races in general, it is a plea for all of us to come together and agree that all lives – regardless of race, religion, or anything else – are sacred. If all lives matter (and they certainly do), then those who feel the need to say so shouldn’t be arguing with African-American advocates, they should be joining hands with them in order to reach their common goal. If #AllLivesMatter is driven by a desire for equality, then we should be able to recognize that by promoting #BlackLivesMatter, we are working towards achieving that exact purpose.