The importance of the Black Lives Matter movement:
American journalist Tomi Lahren last year caused uproar with her statement that the Black Lives Matter movement was a destructive movement and equivalent to a ‘modern day KKK’ in a tweet, following the shooting of five police officers in Dallas by a black rights activist. Lahren is infamous for her controversial views and this, referring to the movement’s outrage and protests following a series of police killings, is no different. However, although controversial, these views are not surprising. They are indicative of an increasingly divided American society, a detail which has become more salient then ever with the recent election of controversial candidate Donald Trump. However, with such an election taking place; other societal issues have taken a less prominent position in the media ladder, and are thus less likely to be resolved. Few measures have been taken to prevent the police killings which have caused such protest in recent years, yet the commotion surrounding the issue appears to have reduced, and the disagreements around it continue, but with far less media coverage.
For those who do not know, the Black Lives Matter movement is an American black rights movement which has emerged into a household name following their protests towards police killings of unarmed or innocent black citizens. The organisation has come under fire with such accusations as ‘reverse racism’ or ‘inciting racial hatred’, epitomised in Lahren’s tweet, which was swiftly removed. Yet several of these accusations have little weight to them at all, or at the very least have mislead the population, and viified the movement.
‘If Black lives matter cared about black lives they would be trying to prevent black on black murder’
This claim could be considered just and constructive on its surface: after all, black homicide was a far greater killer of young black men than the police force. However, this statement is far more misleading than it seems. It suggests that a black activism group should be working to prevent black killings. However, a study by Alan Neuhauser for US News showed that, in 2015, more white people were killed by whites than blacks were by blacks. This begs the question on whether it is hypocritical to criticise the inaction of black activists in such areas, when the problem is just as significant within white communities also?
‘All lives matter’
After the consecutive police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile in July 2016, the automatic response of many were to take to the streets: and from the protests that emerged were met with a wave of defiance to the Black Lives Matter signs which defined the movement. The ‘all lives matter’ and ‘blue lives matter’ proclamations were quickly broadcast by those opposed to such protest, with Lahren’s infamous tweet itself ending with the hashtag bluelivesmatter. ‘All lives matter’ has a message of peace, but is underpinned with this racial animosity which is prevalent in US society. These comments embody the opposition to the protest, and convey the BLM organisation to have elevated black lives to a higher standard than others, or have asked for special treatment. But have they? Facts are facts. Black men are far more likely to be stopped and frisked by police enforcement than whites, are far more likely to be killed while unarmed by police officers, and are far more likely to be pulled over while driving in a car in America. The movement have not placed themselves on a pedestal, but simply attempted to gain a level of equality which has never been reached throughout American history. Although progressive opinions and legal equality have emerged and developed, especially in urban areas, oppression and the remnants of, as Obama himself put it “a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away”, can still be seen in this inequality. The slogan black lives matter is not prioritising black lives, but simply trying to align them on the same level as those of whites in modern day America.
The key point is that the Black Lives Matter movement is necessary to help protect racial rights in America. An unarmed black man is five times more likely to be killed by a police officer than his white counterpart, and the reduced media coverage of the issue of late shows one thing: if they do not keep the issue in the public eye, who will, and how will it be stopped?