Black Lives Matter is Not a Political Issue, It’s a Human Rights One

Between the fight for racial justice, the upcoming election, and the worsening pandemic, the United States is incredibly politically divided right now. People on both sides are constantly accusing the other of spreading fake news, being uninformed, being heartless, etc. I am all for letting people share their political opinions, even if I do not agree with them. However, there’s a point when something stops being about differences in political opinion and starts being about not valuing the lives of other people.

An opinion should not invalidate another person’s existence. Opponents of LGBTQ+ rights provide a good example. When people claim that they “don’t believe in” LGBTQ+ rights, they are claiming that they don’t believe in the happiness and freedom of other people. I will never understand what keeps people from respecting the lives of others. Giving people in the LGBTQ+ community rights doesn’t take away the rights others already have. What happened to the freedom and equality America was based on? Was it only supposed to mean freedom and equality for people who are straight, white, and cisgender? 

 That goes for Black people who oppose the LGBTQ+ community as well. If your support of BLM isn’t intersectional and doesn’t include all Black people, you aren’t upholding that all Black lives matter. 

The Black Lives Matter movement is a human rights issue because Black people have been systemically targeted by this country since the moment the first African slaves were kidnapped and taken to this stolen land. America was never for everyone, seeing as the men who “discovered” this land started by slaughtering the Native Americans who had lived here for thousands of years. This country was built on the back of genocide and slave labor, and telling BIPOC to “get over it” only reflects privilege and a lack of empathy.

The remnants of slavery still exist for Black people today. All the negative stereotypes that cause police and Americans to view Black people as uneducated, inherently violent, and inferior were created during that time period. When slavery was ended, it wasn’t as if former enslaved people just packed up and left. Life didn’t suddenly get better for Black people, because all the biases established by the slave society in America had already been formed. 

Surely things have improved since then- it has been over 150 years, right? But the Civil Rights Movement was only a little over 50 years ago. Emmet Till was lynched for allegedly whistling at a white woman in 1955. If he was alive today, he would be 79 years old. Ruby Bridges, the one of the first Black children to integrate a white school in 1960 and was met with death threats, is only 65. How old are your grandparents? Now, Black communities have faced mass incarceration since the 1970s, tearing apart families and forcing children to grow up without their parents. The trauma from these eras won’t just disappear either- the impacts of racism in America are generational. 

Yesterday, a former student from my school decided to post an Instagram picture of her wearing a MAGA hat with the caption, “How triggered does this make you? #defendthepolice #backtheblue.” The comments were divided, with people praising her message and others condemning it. In a time where Black people are dying due to police violence, her statement came off as extremely insensitive. It’s not the police that need to be defended, it’s the Black lives that are endangered in America every day.

Ignoring the Black Lives Matter movement and what it stands for is ignoring the reality of institutional racism and white supremacy in this country. I keep hearing the argument “but the protesters are looting and damaging property!” What does it imply when people are ready to stand against the destruction of property but not the senseless killing of an innocent man? I’m not saying that looting is right, but while property can be replaced, lives cannot, and the President of the United States calling Black Lives Matter protesters “thugs” because of a few looters ignores that truth. Focusing on violence during the protests, which was often incited by the police, ignores every person that came out to protest unjust treatment peacefully.

Being a police officer is a career choice. If a police officer is feeling threatened or targeted because they are a police officer, they can choose to take off that blue uniform. When I’m feeling targeted as a Black person, I can’t change my skin tone. The blue lives you’re “defending” only exists 40 hours a week, but my Black life exists 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

One comment on the post directed at me was interesting enough to me that I decided to dedicate a few paragraphs to it here. Someone said that I didn’t care about Black lives because I “[didn’t] even wanna hear the number killed by other Blacks or by abortions.” Firstly, I respond to that with this- your idea of “Black on Black crime” is not real. If only Black people live in your community or neighborhood, it would be Black people who are victims of your criminality. We don’t call a white child living in a white neighborhood shooting up a white school “white on white” crime. It’s just crime. Police brutality, however, is racially motivated, and that’s why we talk about it differently.

If you care so much about “Black on Black crime” why are you against giving Black neighborhoods better educational opportunities, more affordable housing, and adequate mental health resources to prevent crime? Why do you only care about “Black on Black crime” when police brutality is the focus of the conversation? Addressing the systemic racism that has impacted Black communities, and causing the “Black on Black crime” that you are supposedly so concerned about, is caring about Black lives. 

What I think so many pro-life Americans misunderstand about the pro-choice mentality is that it is not automatically “pro-abortion.” I am pro-choice because I know that even if I would never get an abortion, I respect others’ right to do so. Caring about Black lives means protecting the rights of the Black person that will give birth to that child.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 1 in 5 Black women are survivors of rape. I know that I care about Black women because keeping laws in place that protect abortion rights allows rape survivors or other victims of sexual violence to have a choice on whether they want to keep their baby. Making abortion illegal will not eradicate abortion, it will only make it unsafe. Since you care so much about all the Black babies that won’t be born because of abortion laws, why can’t you can put that energy into supporting the Black children and adults who are already on this earth?  

Supporting the Black Lives Matter movement intersects with many other movements, such as women’s rights, gay rights, and transgender rights. Ultimately, Black Lives Matter has become about more than just police brutality, it is about addressing racism and anti-Blackness as a whole.

When Black people and their allies are advocating for their rights worldwide, it’s time to put your political beliefs aside and think about why this many people are telling you stories of how Black people aren’t treated fairly. Start listening to the experiences of people who are different from you. Racism was built into the foundations of this country and continues to determine the lives of Black people today. If people can’t acknowledge that, nothing will change.

 A true anti-racist fights for everyone who is marginalized in America. I recognize that I don’t know everything about injustice, and I am always working to educate myself on the issues faced by others. I spend time doing that because I believe in fairness and equity. When people– regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, or sexuality– feel protected and respected by this country, then I will believe I live in an America that is “great.” Until then, I will keep fighting.

credits: Image from the @justiceforbreonnataylor instagram page