What #BlackLivesMatter really means


Credits: 5chw4r7z via Flicker / Creative Commons

The “Black Lives Matter” activist movement rose out of the police brutality against African-Americans across the United States. The movement aims to raise awareness of the issue and promote equality in the country.  But to some, the phrase “Black Lives Matter” comes across as an inflammatory or even hateful anti-white expression that has no legitimate place in a civil rights movement.


Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul thinks the movement should change its name to “All Lives Matter” or “Innocent Lives Matter.” Further supporting this view is Mike Huckabee, Republican presidential contender, who said Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would be “appalled” by the movement’s focus on skin color. During an interview for CNN, he said, “When I hear people scream, ‘Black lives matter,’ I think, ‘Of course they do.’ But all lives matter. It’s not that any life matters more than another.” However, his argument is not grounded in history, but in his pronounced ignorance.


Recently, Carlos Anthony Hollins, a black man living in La Plata, Maryland, was arrested after threatening to “kill all white people” in a social media post, which is a natural reaction to systemic oppression. Hollins posted on his Twitter, “I’m not gonna stand fo this no more. Tonight we purge! Kill all the white ppl in the town of La Plata #BlackLivesMatter.” He is currently facing charges for threats of mass violence. To Hollins, the phrase “Black Lives Matter,” apparently means that black lives matter more than white lives. It seems both parties – those in favor and against the name of the movement – can form the wrong idea.


The phrase does not imply that black lives matter more than others. The intention of the movement was not to engender controversy, but to underscore a reality in the United States. It is a fact that black citizens have been far more likely than whites to die at the hands of the police.  Though it may seem coincidental that the number of blacks killed is greater than other races, historically speaking, the lives of blacks have been undervalued in the country. Those who do not know the gravity and the impact history has on modern society are understandably bothered with the wording of the movement. But politicians, such as Mike Huckabee, who should know better, are acting in bad faith. They are trying to cover up an ugly truth and asking the country to be ignorant, utterly oblivious to the truth.


Here are some thoughts of my peers in regards to the name of the movement:

Jenny Lee (Grade 10): While taking into consideration the fact that yes, all lives matter (duh), I feel like the name of this movement didn’t mean to say that ONLY black lives matter, but to highlight the racism in American society. Therefore, I would suggest keeping the name as it is. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to create a new movement to protect all lives!


Lucca Oliveira (Grade 11): I can understand the problems with limiting it to only black lives, but the movement is targeting something very specific: the deaths at the hand of police of black individuals due to discrimination. To change it might cause it to lose its original message. That might be for the better or for the worse, depending on where you stand.


Juliana Arbelaez (Grade 11): I think the movement is a valid form of protest and freedom of speech, something that is highly regarded in American values. However, I feel that this trend ostracizes other minorities that may be facing similar discrimination, such as latinos. Granted, the movement is intended to bring awareness to the recent killings/injustices against African Americans. But, just as any other social movement, the name is subject to criticism as anything is when put on a  national or global scale. This being said, I don’t think the name should be changed. Movements are created for specific causes and thus have specific names that often leave out other issues. All lives do matter, but the reason this movement was created was to highlight the importance of black lives during a time where they are being undervalued and ignored. Similarly, modern day feminists believe that their cause is for all of gender equality but they aren’t changing their name to equalism because in a way this neutralizes the key issue at hand. I think many people are so eager to criticize movements of minorities as being hypocritical to their own stance, when, really, they are simply trying to draw attention to their issues that are often overlooked.


Marina Cortes Calle (Grade 12): I think it should be called “Black Lives Matter” because I think it’s important to give more visibility to African-Americans. It’s true that all lives matter and that the black movement fights for human rights, but it’s important to put emphasis on the word “black,” since it creates greater awareness than if the movement were titled “All Lives Matter,” without referring to any group in specific.
Sources: nytimes.com, usatoday.com, washingtonpost.com, cnn.com