Controversy surrounding Beyoncé and #BlackLivesMatter are exactly why we need these social justice movements
By Katie Kohls
I will be very honest that I am not one to be the most up-to-date on news, but I do care a lot about people so I tend to pay more attention to rights groups in the news and what people are doing to bridge this racial gap that has seemed to consume much of the country. From Ferguson, Missouri to #BlackLivesMatter to the very recent Super Bowl, racially charged protests and movements have become prevalent in the news. There has been a lot of controversy around these movements. Okay, I can see that there is a problem, and people are trying to fix it. Sometimes those ways aren’t the best (I am never in support of rioting), but people are trying to make lives better. I can see that but unfortunately, many of my Facebook friends disagree, and post numerous articles, statuses, and images that demonstrate a lack of understanding and a lack of empathy.
I think their antagonism towards the movements come from places of blind privilege. Not that I am worldly, but I try to be understanding of any situation regardless if I think the opposition is wrong. But to any privileged white person who thinks racial inequality is over, please go back to your history books because we are still experiencing most of what is detailed there. People are still looked down upon because of their skin color and suspected more of committing crimes. Now to be clear, I think most police officers do try to do their job well and do not intend to hurt innocent people. No sane person tries to do their job badly. But for many, this racial stereotype and categorizing has been sublimely ingrained into us and it affects how we react and act. Personally, I do not have a logical reason for my enhanced fear of sketchy colored men over white men, but I do. No one has ever told me that I should fear black men, or be more suspicious of any person of color, but my society and position has, through indirect means, made me feel more uncomfortable around black men. It is a sad reality that I try to fight against. If you think there aren’t biases toward a person’s color, then I ask you to question yourself when you treat people a certain way because most likely you at least have a little bias.
As for the lovely people who post #AllLivesMatter in response to #BlackLivesMatter (at least if you’re white), it is not belittling your existence when they use the latter hashtag. It is not about you. It is about raising awareness and valuing life that is overlooked because of the color of skin on a person. I believe most, if not all, truly value all life when they post that. They are not putting black lives over Hispanics, whites, Asian, etc., but advocating for a respect of life across all spectrums. And those posts that say more white people are killed by police each year, according to CNN, there is no mandatory database that records those killed by police (whether they resisted arrest or not) and what their race was, and not all of the limited data accounts for the differences in population. So while more white men may be killed, a significantly larger percentage of black men were killed because of the population difference according to the
limited and incomplete data available. So when individuals post #BlackLivesMatter, it is implied that #AllLivesMatter so stop being so vain because it isn’t about you.
Kudos to Beyoncé. She used her place of power to raise awareness about something that matters to her. If you didn’t notice this past week, people everywhere were debating her Super Bowl performance’s references to the Black Panther movement and Malcolm X. Now I don’t think she was advocating for all blacks to take up arms in protest. But I think she was showing support for those black and white and whatever color skin may be to support equality (yes, there were white allies for the Black Panther Party according to the Encyclopedia Britannica). And the Black Panther Party was specifically formed to combat police brutality and promote racial equality in all spheres of life (again, I am not saying that police are bad at their jobs). Beyoncé took an entertainment opportunity and tried to make it mean something more. I don’t know if the Black Panther Party was the best choice, but at the very least she is trying to make some sort of meaningful impact.
Our country may be past slavery, Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), and the Black Panther Party, but inequality because of race isn’t. You can say it is equal, but there are people out there that still feel inferior. And you cannot disregard their emotions, you can ignore them but they are still there. If enough people feel that way, and feel as strongly as the news depicts, then there is a problem in this country. From a privileged white girl’s perspective there is something very wrong, and I don’t know how to fix it. But I think it is time we stop fighting each other and start trying to see the other’s side. I do believe that #AllLivesMatter, but until #BlackLivesMatter, too, the former means nothing.