Over the past several years, we have seen innumerable people of color murdered at the hands of a system that is constantly challenging them to keep living. We have seen children murdered, and we have said nothing.
Kimani Gray was 16.
Kiwane Carrington was 15.
Andy Lopez was 13.
Tamir Rice was 12.
Aiyana Jones was 7.
Black children and children of color, black adults and adults of color—they’re getting murdered at an astounding rate.
And so many white people sit back and say that “all lives matter.”
The problem is that all lives clearly do not matter. If they did, black people and people of color would not be being murdered at a disproportionate rate as compared to white Americans. If all lives mattered, Tamir and Andy and Kiwane and Kimani and Aiyana would still be alive.
Our black compatriots are telling us that something is wrong. As white people, we can choose to either listen and believe them or we can choose to ignore the problem.
We all decide whether or not we are going to be allies to people of color. Being an ally means ensuring that we are speaking with people of color—not on top of, not louder than and certainly not against them. Being an ally means listening, really listening, to what people of color are saying. Being an ally means not telling black people what they should and should not be feeling. Being an ally means understanding that their outrage is valid.
As white allies, our job is to offer people of color the support they ask for, not the support we decide they need.
People of color in the US are born into a system that is set up for them to fail. The US is based on slavery, the US is based on inequality, the US is based on keeping white people up and people of color down. As white people, we don’t always see that.
We can tell ourselves that racism is over because we get along with our black classmates and coworkers. We can tell ourselves that three hundred and fifty years of slavery, lynching and segregation can be washed away by fifty years of “equality” because we don’t have to live with that history every day.
We can support “tough on crime” policies because we aren’t being randomly searched in the streets and our homes aren’t being raided. We don’t have to teach our children how best to interact with a police officer to avoid getting killed. We blame black fathers for being absent while incarcerating nearly a million black men, mostly for low-level drug offences. We tell black communities that they could improve their status if they just voted more, but we disenfranchise them with felony charges for non-violent crimes.
There is no justice in our criminal justice system. So right now if you are not a person of color, it’s time to sit down, shut your mouth and listen to people of color. If you are a white person who says, “All Lives Matter,” you need to listen to people of color.
No one, no one is saying “Some lives don’t matter.”
No one. Except maybe the system that contributes to the deaths of people of color.
However, some of us are saying that the United States seems to be weirdly comfortable with murdering people if their skin happens to be darker. We respond to tragedy not with sadness or outrage, but with “we don’t know the whole story.” When other white folks claim that the person they killed seemed dangerous or demonic, we believe them.
We need to stop.
All lives do matter. That is, without a doubt, true. But right now, the United States is really struggling to recognize that black lives are part of “all lives.”
So, for a little while, at least until the murders stop, white allies will be saying BLACK LIVES MATTER.
And no one will be saying white lives do not matter.
But a lot of people are going to say black lives, and the experiences of people of color, and the years of oppression and prejudice and discrimination, do not matter.
Until all lives matter, we will fight for black lives. Until all lives matter, we will say their names.
Aiyana and Tamir should be playing right now. They should be going to school and laughing and doing homework and hugging their families and talking to their friends.
But they don’t get to do any of those things.
Say their names.
Black lives matter.