Imagine that your best friend, a person whom you’ve known since Mrs. Jones’ pre-school class and with whom you have eaten more than one bottle of paste, recently informed you that she’s been diagnosed with leukemia. Your world begins to crumble as you start to wonder who will be the bridesmaid at your wedding, and who will be the godmother to your kids and spoil them rotten. But then, being the social media queen that you are, you decide to start a hashtag #leukemiapatientsmatter and post pictures of your friend as a tribute to her. But then, for whatever reason, more than a handful of people begin to comment and retweet your post, saying “oh no, #allcancerpatientsmatter” – not just the ones with leukemia. Why should people with leukemia get special treatment?
Such is the case with the #BlackLivesMatter movement. More than just a hashtag, Black Lives Matter is a movement that started in response to the killing of an unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin, and has since blossomed to champion the lives of black lives throughout America. It’s a movement against the systematic racism that leaves black lives behind, that allows them to be racially profiled, inordinately punished and given harsher sentences for the same crimes; it’s a movement against a broken education system that fails to support their needs, against the violence and poverty that plague black communities and so many other issues that remain pervasive in black communities. Black Lives Matter is in many ways the modern Civil Rights Movement, prompting people to remember hey, don’t forget me too: “I matter.”
As a person of color, the hashtag #alllivesmatter in response to the #blacklivesmatter is both perplexing and disconcerting. It tells me that my problems and my fears are not as valid and should not be given proper consideration. By supporting Black Lives Matter, I am not saying all other lives do not matter – of course they do. In fact, the movement is just a means of giving focus and a narrow scope to issues that plague blacks specifically. But in a holistic sense, supporting “Black Lives Matter” is good for everyone. The gains made from this movement can be extended to all people of color, such that they may be treated with the respect and dignity that they deserve, and be afforded the same opportunities and privileges that would allow them to have a stake in the American dream.
As the presidential election inches ever so closely, the importance of Black Lives Matter has never been more important. These past few weeks in American politics have been particularly definitive. In unprecedented fashion, the biggest Republican Presidential Primary race in United States history has turned from a 17-man-horse race to a party of one, the ubiquitous Donald J. Trump. Trump: business man, reality TV star and billionaire started the race seemingly as a bored business man and looking to expand his reach and ever-growing empire.
At first, Trump’s bid for the presidency seemed to be one drawn out joke; surely, the ‘real’ politicians would step up their game and stand up against this farce. But then Trump won that primary in New Hampshire, then South Carolina, and then Nevada and then a whole slew of other states and by sweeping margins nevertheless. Suddenly, it became apparent that the Donald was here to stay and he might actually have a realistic chance of becoming president. Ultimately, Trump’s rapid ascendancy in US politics – and now as the presumptive Republican candidate – has exposed a deep-seated truth that many people of color in America have known all along: that racism is in America is still alive and well.
Trump, more so than any current presidential candidate, has been vocal on where he stands on issues of race and diversity. He’s called Mexicans “criminals, rapists, and drug dealers,” who have no real purpose coming to America and proposed building a giant wall across the United States-Mexico Border to prevent an influx of ‘illegal immigrants.’ He’s also called for a ban on Muslims entering the country, including, it would seem native-born U.S. citizens, completely ignoring the First Amendment’s provisions protecting freedom of religion and expression. This past November at a campaign rally in Alabama, Trump did little to dissuade his supporters when they began to physically and verbally attack a man chanting ‘Black Lives Matter.’ Trump also condoned the support of his campaign by prominent Ku Klux Khan members.
But all that Donald’s Trump nonsensical ramblings tell us is that, we, as people of color, need to stand up today and proclaim all the more loudly, that indeed #BlackLivesMatter. Today, people of color make up more than 30% of the U.S population, and if everyone of us who is eligible to vote does so, we can stand up against Trump’s racist and damaging policies. We can stand up against bigotry and instead promote tolerance and inclusion. So please, come November 8, 2016, remember your opinion does matter; you have the ability to make your voice heard and to protect your freedoms and those of future generations.
Daphne wrote this piece for Flux, a forum for those of us encountering adulthood. She is a first-year-medical student at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. Aside from her random musings about race and politics, she has a penchant for baking Nutella-chocolate chip cookies, traveling (four out of seven continents thus far), and supporting the best football club in the world, FC Barcelona. This is the second piece she has written for Flux.