Why we say “Black Lives Matter”

The importance of acknowledging Black lives


Clay Banks/Unsplash

Demonstrators kneel during a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest.

Peaking in the month of July 2020, cities throughout the world protested the brutal death of George Floyd and many other cases of police brutality, preaching that Black lives matter. 

They are right.

There was one case of police brutality every single week in 2020. Although American citizens are persistently fighting for justice, Black men and women are still being killed at disproportionate rates.

On May 25, 2020, a 46-year-old Black man named George Floyd was murdered for allegedly trying to use a counterfeit $20 bill. Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds and even after Floyd begged him to stop, he kept applying pressure. Floyd’s last words were of him yelling for his mother. 

I think this situation was incredibly avoidable and absolutely wrong. Chauvin could have communicated with Floyd by listening to what he needed to say, but he obviously did not. Floyd was yelling for his mother while going unresponsive and Chauvin didn’t have the heart to stop or even think that something was wrong. Watching the riots on the news and watching Floyd’s family visit the site where he was murdered breaks my heart. He had a 6-year-old daughter who will be growing up fatherless because of one corrupt cop. 

On March 18, 2018, 22-year-old Black man named Stephon Clark was brutally murdered by police. Officers claimed that Clark was holding a gun, and proceeded to shoot him more than 20 times in the back. He was holding a phone. He was an innocent Black man, standing in his grandmother’s backyard unarmed. His life was taken like it was nothing.

The phrase “All Lives Matter” is a statement that seemingly calls for unity, and that we should stand up to racism as one. In many cases, this phrase comes from a pure, sincere place. However, this phrase takes the attention away from the people who need it most. Saying “All Lives Matter” redirects the attention from the Black Lives Matter movement, which is the group that needs our utmost attention. 

Take for example, the “Save the Turtles” movement. We saw that our plastic usage was harming turtles, so many of us stopped using plastic in order to save the turtles. No one was protesting “What about sharks’ lives?” or “What about dolphins’ lives? Dolphins matter too!” They noticed that a certain group was being widely affected by the disposal of plastic and acknowledged the issue. This is exactly what the Black Lives Matter movement is trying to do. The truth is, all lives can’t matter until Black lives matter.

Sadly, I don’t think racism will ever completely be eradicated because not all people will truly believe that everyone is created equal. We need change in our system, and we need it now. Although we can’t fix other people, we can fix ourselves. One thing we can do that will help change our system in a big way is to stop making assumptions about other people because of their skin color. We should be judging the mind and heart, instead of looking at skin color and faces. Another thing we can do is create more diverse groups (friend groups, sports teams, etc.). Diversity increases cultural competence, which in turn allows people to understand and be empathetic toward other people’s experiences.

These people were unarmed and innocent at their moments of death. Floyd was on the floor crying out for his mother. Clark was doing nothing but holding a phone. These were humans with flesh and blood, born with a purpose. They did not have to leave the world like this. Black lives matter. They have, and they always will.