Commentary by Hannah Bushman
An unarmed black teen was fatally shot while walking home. Sound familiar? If the answer is no, chances are you don’t own a television or have internet access.
Trayvon Martin was killed in 2012 by George Zimmerman.
Zimmerman’s case was acquitted in the name of self defense, but observers across the country begged to differ. The widespread belief and controversy that the shooting was racially motivated sparked the uprising of the movement #Blacklivesmatter.
The official Black Lives Matter organization was created by the works of Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi, and Alicia Garza. According to their webpage, blacklivesmatter.com, “Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.”
It started out as a simple twitter hashtag to protest against the alleged injustice of Trayvon Martin and other instances of racism and systematic oppression that black people face in contemporary society and have faced throughout history.
But, when another unarmed black man named Michael Brown was killed in 2014 by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, activists quite literally took the matter onto the streets by taking a “freedom ride” down to Ferguson where Brown was murdered. More than 400 supporters from all corners of America participated in the protest against police brutality, and spread the message of Black Lives Matter.
It is now 2017 and the movement has transformed from a social media trend into a nationwide, hot topic of discussion. Critics of Black Lives Matter argue the movement is racist, exclusive, or even a terrorist group.
DJ Smith, a black student at Lee’s Summit West, agrees with the statement in itself – black lives do matter. Although, he argues that in order to achieve equality, we must go about it in a different way.
“I don’t think it’s without cause, because the people who support #Blacklivesmatter have immensely great intentions, it’s just that they’re approaching it in a completely wrong way. As with everything you’ll have extremists, and the extremists are starting to outnumber the moderate people. There’s people who will say it, and there’s people who will go out of their way to belittle and insult anyone who doesn’t support their cause,” stated Smith.
Smith also brought up the idea that by feuding between the races, we cannot achieve true equality.
“We’re getting to a point to where we are literally declaring war between two races even though we are all Americans. We are all in the same country and whether we are being treated disproportionately or not we are still all American citizens and we can’t wage a war between ourselves,” said Smith.
On the other hand, supporters of the movement such as Milanna Morgan, another black student at Lee’s Summit West, argue that it is important to support #Blacklivesmatter especially during the tumultuous times our country is currently facing.
“Trump has said some racist things and a bunch of people who agree with those things came up from the underground and voted for him so he could be in office. I think it just opened our eyes to what already was there and showed that it’s still there which is why we need to support #Blacklivesmatter,” said Morgan.
Presidential election aside, Morgan pointed out that the media attention Black Lives Matter has received has helped shine light on many cases of injustice throughout the country.
“It’s always been happening; but now we can catch it on camera. I definitely think that helped because for me, I could go home right now and my dad could be killed by a police officer and I wouldn’t be surprised. It’s still happening in the world. We have the expectation that it will happen,” said Morgan.
Violence from any party should never be excused; whether it be in the name of #BlackLivesMatter, #AllLivesMatter, or just for kicks. Every American is on the same team and violence doesn’t solve violence. If the goal is equality, we should support our fellow Americans regardless of which party, movements, race, gender, or religion they identify with.
Hopefully one day I won’t be have to vaguely describe an American tragedy and immediately have numerous cases pop up in my head that fit the description. For now, all lives will matter when the world realizes that black lives matter too.