We have heard it from the past weeks from all around the world: Black Lives Matter. Men, women, children; people with different cultural, ethnical and religious background, people from different corners of the world walking on the streets united and in one solidarity waving their fists in the air with the phrase: Black Lives Matter!
But where does this phrase come from?
The Black Lives Matter movements emerged back in 2012 when an unarmed black teen, Trayvon Martin, was shot and killed in Sanford, Florida resulting in igniting protests and rage across the world. This incident became a symbol of the many different incidents of police brutality, racial profiling, institutional and public racism that has become an everyday thing among minorities in Western societies.
But where there is thesis, there will be an antithesis. In fact, one of the most common questions given to those supporting and using the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’ is
“Why saying ‘Black Lives Matter’? In my point of view, All Lives Matter! My life matters too!”
“Well, don’t all lives matter?”.
The answer is ‘Yes! Of course!’. But by saying ‘Black Lives Matter’, you are not saying that other lives don’t matter. You are bringing attention to the way that Black people across the world are denied certain human rights by virtue of being Black. And you are bringing light to racism experienced by minorities in the Western societies from a macro perspective with the constant stigmatization and negative labelling given by politicians and the media. From a micro the perspective of finding a job or to approaching new individuals, which itself can be a challenge due to the pigment of your skin. Or even being called names on the streets by random people simply because how you are beautifully created, which you appreciate and love but which you begin questioning due to the constant verbal attacks from all spheres of the society. Saying ‘Black Lives Matter’ does not put less emphasis on the importance of other lives but sends a message of an unfortunate tendency of hatred and ignorance, that still have a seat in a civilized world society today, that we are all commonly sharing. Now question yourself. Have you ever been a subject of institutional and public racism or racist profiling, being called names on the streets, being denied in public and private institutions due to the pigment of your skin, being stopped by the police randomly or by the security at the airport simply because your skin ‘looks suspicious’, being labelled or anticipated of being interested in certain sports or certain music genres or having different biological constructions simply because of the pigment of your skin? No? Then one should maybe reconsider the use of ‘All Lives Matter’ if one has never been subject to one or few of these things. If a house on your street was on fire, would you expect the fire service to train their hoses on all the houses? No! While the firefighters would, rightly, argue that all homes matter on the street, in that very moment the firefighters would focus their attention and expertise on the house that is about to burn down.
But how about the constant talk about slavery? Why can we not just move forward and forget about history?
A kind individual said: “But why can’t we just forget about what happened in the past with colonialism and slavery? I mean, no white person today owns a black slave, at least not what I see?”
Dear individual. The idea that colonialism and enslavement are in the ‘distant past’ does NOT ring true. We are moving forward, and we should move forward as UNITED people where you see the human and try to be the human. Let us not forget that colonialism, wars and enslavement have fundamentally shaped our present realities. A black African American who carries the surname ‘Greene’, ‘Allen’ or ‘Jefferson’ can trace back their names to their ancestors who once arrived from Africa to an unknown world and were given these surnames by their slaveholders. The history will never be forgotten, but one has to use the history as a tool to create a better world for EVERYBODY by issuing the problem that we are experiencing today, which is crystal clear when it comes to the ongoing racism experienced by black people. In fact, it is near impossible to talk about African American or about native Americans or even Black Brits and Brown Brits and their status in the society without mentioning the colonial and postcolonial histories of these groups. I am not trying to say that we should use history to organize protests and riots. I am not a supporter of riots and destruction. But I cannot deny the problem that we are still experiencing in the Western societies. A riot is the language of the unheard, and history seems to repeat itself again and again and again.
So is your house burning? Are you still saying ‘All Lives Matter’?
‘Black Lives Matter’ is a statement, a slogan, a phrase that represents a contradiction of a vicious and poisonous tendency in the Western societies. Of course, all lives DO matter but the phrase ‘All Lives Matter’ is a way of indirectly denying the problem that minorities are dealing with. It is a way to put yourself in a subject which you personally have never had to deal with and is a provocative and opposing way of reacting to the crystal clear patterns of racism against specific group of minorities who belong to a specific ethnic, religious or cultural background. The phrase ‘All Lives Matter’ is the antithesis of ‘Black Lives Matter! Black Lives Matter’ has become a representation against racism and bigotry today!
As it is mentioned in the Qur’an 49:13, the world is made up of different families and tribes; and everyone is part of one big family or nation before God. The world would be gray and cold if everybody belonged to the same idea or to the same colour. We live in a beautiful world, a beautiful garden where we are all diverse flowers in different shapes and different colors. But we are still just flowers. That is what makes the world so beautiful. We shall not let anyone destroy our garden through bigotry and ignorance. Hence, the biggest cure against bigotry and ignorance is knowledge. You fear things you do not know anything about and if you feel a trace of fear and hatred towards a specific group of people, then YOU are the problem.
Muhammed stundar meistaranám í félagsfræði við Háskóla Íslands, með sérstaka áherslu á rannsóknir og aðferðafræði. Skrif hans fjalla aðallega um jafnréttis- og mannréttindamál, bæði þau mál sem koma upp erlendis og hér heima fyrir.