THE BEYONCE VIDEO and Super Bowl appearance has brought the “Black Lives Matter” concept back into the headlines. And sadly, most Americans still don’t get it. They don’t get what it’s all about.
I’m embarrassed to admit that even though I have been, from the start, in total support of the Black Lives Matter movement, it was not until recently that I was able to fully understand it and to be able to explain it – to myself, at least.
What made it difficult for me was that, like most Americans, I viewed “Black lives matter” as a declarative statement. When you see it as such, it is easy to understand why the typical response of Bernie Sanders and others was, “Well, all lives matter.”
That’s a natural response for any human being who doesn’t understand that Black Lives Matter is not a declaration, it is a response – a response to an actual declaration.
And that declaration is that black lives really don’t matter.
While you will be hard pressed to find anybody to declare openly that black lives do not matter, the message that many African Americans get on a daily basis is that their lives really don’t matter. This is particularly true for poorer African Americans living in our nation’s most neglected areas.
That message is delivered with every cop’s unjustified whack of a nightstick on a black skull or shoulder.
That message is delivered with every uncalled-for paralyzing shock of a Taser.
That message is delivered with every needless handcuff around young black wrists.
And that message is delivered with every avoidable shedding of too much blood leading to yet another senseless death, and another black family’s having to deal with the loss – the terrifying and heartbreaking loss – of a loved one.
Every single unjustified violent end of a black person at the hands of law enforcement personnel repeats and amplifies that message: black lives do not matter.
And it is in answer to that message that we get the natural reaction: Black Lives Matter!
It is in that context that it begins to make sense.
Sometimes I think that a lot of the misunderstanding over this simple reaction would have been avoided if whoever coined the phrase would have added a simple, “Damn it” in front of “Black Lives Matter!”
When you say, “Damn it, black lives matter,” it becomes pretty obvious that you are reacting to something and not simply stating the obvious.
When you say, “Damn it, black lives matter,” you are making it clear that you are reacting to a very bad situation and you want society to understand why such systematic violence against black lives hurts so much, and why it has to end.