A response to Michael Harriot’s “Whatever Happened to Black Lives Matter?”
What ever happened to Black Lives Matter? That was the question framed in a The Root article that had me itching to get done with work-related work and on to a more interesting read about a topic that I felt I knew the answer.
I was so sure of the answer that I already knew the article would share my sentiment, and early into reading it, it did. Michael Harriot acknowledges how big the movement became and demands that it not be “reduced to a simple hashtag.” He witnessed its widespread popularity, and lack thereof. So did I. Black Lives Matter awakened a realization that divisiveness in our country is still heavily penetrated on a color line that fairer people will quickly say does not exist. We hear their responses every time we proclaim that black lives matter.
“Ya’ll are always playing the race card.”
“He must have been a threat to the police.”
“Why does everything have to be about race?”
“But we have a black president.” #WeMissYouObama
I remember seeing social media posts that sought to explain why black lives matter and how that one phrase did not mean that no other lives matter. Example: “All lives matter is like I go to the Dr. for a broken arm & he says ‘all bones matter;’ okay but right now lets take care of this broken one.”
I am still annoyed that it is a concept that has to be explained — or that we are conditioned to believe needs to be explained. Let’s be real. We are not crazy. It takes no Einstein to understand what Black Lives Matter means. People who do not like our brown skin just want to give us a hard time, but this is nothing new.
Harriot’s initial suggestions of why Black Lives Matter seemingly disappeared make sense to me. It very well could be that the push back from the other side was successful at distracting us with alternative facts that aligned with personal political agendas. Or perhaps, it could be that Black Lives Matter became synonymous with violence to anyone who pretended not to understand the movement. Or, it could even be that politicians killed it — a claim that Harriot backs up with facts about proposed legislation that I did not know about prior to reading his article. (Yes, I need to do better)
To blame the disappearance solely on those things; however, would be to say that Black Lives Matter was just a hashtag, because it implies that the movement was not strong enough or regarded as serious enough to sustain the adversity that it would face.
So what the heck is then? What happened to Black Lives Matter? Well, Harriot blames “us.” He says that we became so outraged by other issues that we forgot about the ones that specifically matter to us. Well, Mr. Harriot, respectfully, I agree but I also disagree. I do not believe that we have forgotten about us, and though more quiet than it recently has been, Black Lives Matter has not disappeared. I still have friends who want to make people aware that black lives matter, but right now, we are doing something that is not uncommon of black people. As you alluded, we are placing more significance on other people’s fights, and placing ours on the backburner.
It happened during wars, where black military risked their lives to fight for a country that treats them like shit. It happened when we “stood with Paris” after their terrorist attack, and even when we were out marching for women the day after the inauguration of a man that white women helped to put in office. But this is not a bad thing. I think the issue stems from something much more than a neglect to fight for our rights once it seems they have become played out or once we have snapped the photo or tweeted the hashtag.
I’ll go ahead and say it. Black people empathize with everyone’s plight, but when it comes to our plight, for the most part, we all we got. The fact that we feel inclined to explain what Black Lives Matter means is proof enough. Black Lives Matter seems to have disappeared because Black Lives Matter is a group of people that truly acts in solidarity with everyone. Isn’t that funny? Black Lives Matter believes that All Lives Matter, even though that concept was coined to discredit our black lives. Right now, there are Muslim lives, women’s lives, LGBTQ lives and a host of other lives that “need” our help in their fight. Too bad we can’t get the same momentum from the other lives when it is time for our fight. So I guess the question shouldn’t be, what ever happened to Black Lives Matter? But instead, when will everyone else believe that black lives matter too?