For those of you who believe All Lives Matter — you’re correct. I do not believe you’ll ever see or hear anyone in the Black Lives Matter movement say different. There is anger, angst, anxiety, sorrow, remembrance — right now, there are a plethora of feelings that have materialized due to recent events, and they come from many places, along with a positive hope for change.
The problem that’s been painstakingly pointed out is that many people want to participate and, when they feel that the focus is not shared, they do not feel connected anymore. To the contrary, they feel excluded. Some have even voiced feelings that the very foundation of the movement is racist or isolationist. This simply is not accurate.
Did you know there was a conscious leadership effort as part of the women’s suffrage movement to exclude black women? Even as African American women endured racism, they also endured sexism. Many of these women wanted to make a difference but, instead, they were distanced from the main movement. Feel free to look up quotes from Susan B. Anthony for context.
I’m not offering a history lesson, only context. This example highlights one historically unjust moment of our history when there was a common cause among women, but there was not equality of participation. Today, societal and police injustice have simply become so intolerable that many African Americans have stood up and screamed that enough is enough! Is it possible that, like the women’s suffrage movement, the moniker Black Lives Matter should mean others are excluded from participation or being directly affected?
Allow me to repeat myself — for anyone who believes All Lives Matter — you’re correct. As far as your perspective about this branding, however, I would like to offer a differing opinion and description in this regard. Simply think about the graphics you see in today’s media; the violence associated with black citizens is stark and incessant. Illustrating the differences as scenarios can be helpful, so let’s take two positions from the spectrum for this discussion.
If we’re going with sarcasm or pessimism about the need for this movement to be branded as All Lives Matter, well, imagine this. Your home catches on fire and you call the fire department. When firefighters arrive, they see you waving your hands and pointing in the direction of your house as it’s burning.
The first responders stop the truck, jump out, connect their hoses, and proceed to spray water on ALL homes in the neighborhood instead of just yours. Bewildered and watching your fire continue to grow, you yell, “Hey — MY house is the one on fire!” and they declare, “Yes, but ALL houses matter.” Sounds silly, right?
I don’t own that example, nor did I create it — it was recited to me to make a point. Perhaps you felt as I did — sarcasm might not be the best prescription for a serious issue. I do hope, however, it makes the point that we must travel beyond our own limited perspectives and experiences and just open our eyes to the reality of what is happening to African Americans.
Now, I’d like you to imagine a series of events where many people of all colors, cultures and creeds were brutalized by the police. Better yet, imagine a scenario where members of various cultures and communities were killed in broad daylight by the police, captured on camera and plastered on social media. Some were even shot in the back as they fled.
Final scenario: Imagine a place of worship filled with people — a multicultural gathering. During this peaceful day, a gunman walks into the building, claims that “all cultures are taking over the world,” kills many, and then is calmly arrested the next day. In any of these situations, we, collectively, would come together outraged and demand action and justice. That would and could be a true situation we’d describe as All Lives Matter.
The truth, however, is starkly different, and this is not what’s happening. These realities and scenarios aren’t being perpetrated against all lives. The current reality, unfortunately, belongs to black Americans. At this moment in history and in these scenarios, you are seeing black lives bear the brunt of this evil. Simply put, these events are happening disproportionately to African Americans at an ever-alarming rate. Even in this modern era where terrorism has also imparted prejudice, injustice and constriction of civil liberties on many Middle Eastern cultures, the black population is still being subjected to this incredibly visible and violent reality.
So, when anyone hears the term Black Lives Matters and equates it with separatism, racism or any other -ism, I challenge you to open your minds. In truth, there is a part of me that is glad the movement is Black Lives Matter. I’m not suggesting we are martyrs, nor am I speaking for any other African American except myself.
Personally, I can’t stand to see anyone suffer at the hands of injustice, and I sincerely would never want another culture to experience or endure what we have throughout our history in America. I hope we, as Americans and as decent human beings, collectively can make this movement unneeded in our future by coming together and demanding that all people are treated humanely, starting with correcting the injustices we know African Americans have endured and are enduring.
In the end, my initial statement remains true — for those of you who believe All Lives Matter — you’re correct. Our collective goal should be to ensure that we reach this goal together but, for that to happen, black lives must matter RIGHT NOW. For anyone who wants to join or support this movement, be there with us in protest, in organization, in voting, and in spirit. With perseverance and understanding, we can overcome this moment of injustice and chart a course of peace, posterity and social equality. Winning the struggle so that Black Lives Matter will mean our future can truthfully embrace all lives.
Donald C. Young is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara with a B.S. in biopsychology. He’s currently a senior vice president at Salas O’Brien Engineers in San Jose, and serves as board chair for the San Jose Evergreen Community College District Foundation.