“The only thing more expensive than education, is ignorance”, ranks in my top 5 favourite quotes ever. Benjamin Franklin used the phrase in an entirely different time and he spoke to an entirely different audience, one which was heavily segregated and unashamedly divided. Granted the world has changed significantly, but the quote seems to be equally as relevant now in 2016 as it was in the 1700’s. I can’t help but feel that for a generation that prides itself on being able to tap into the wealth of information that we have around us and can access at the click of a button, we are painfully naive, painfully uneducated but more importantly, unashamedly ignorant. In my opinion it boils down to nothing more than ignorance to be offended by the movement or hashtag #blacklivesmatter.
Something that never fails to shock me is people’s lack of empathy for others or their lack of willingness to be educated. With the increased killing of unarmed black men by police seemingly becoming the second most popular craze after Pokemon Go, the media spotlight has also become focused on what is happening in some parts of America. The killings are becoming the norm now. According to a piece published by the BBC in July, “More than 1000 people were killed in police operations in the US in 2015, nearly a third of them black – despite the fact that black people are 13% of the population”. So what does that mean for those of us who haven’t seen anyone shot first hand? Well, scrolling through Facebook and seeing a black father, brother or son being shot, tasered, injured or killed by American police is becoming commonplace. I’ve known individuals to acknowledge the poignant titles of video clips and scroll right past, as if it were a product or service that they are fed up of featuring on their newsfeeds. There is no longer a shock factor.
It saddens me that just like a craze or a trend, the initial reaction by mass population has become subdued and people no longer seem interested. Or at least no longer interested to find out whether justice has been served. Time and time again it seems the alleged perpetrators of these heinous crimes seem to find themselves on full, paid administrative leave. As a young, black man, this reality is a worrying one. It would be bad enough finding out a loved one or close friend has been shot for trying to produce his I.D or had been shot at close range whilst having their hands in plain sight. But to find no comfort or solace in knowing that justice is unlikely to be served is a totally different thing altogether.
Like many people enraged by the countless killings of black males, superstar Beyonce took an outspoken, political stance which shocked the world when she released the song and accompanying video to Formation. The former Destiny’s Child star, shocked the nation when she performed it during her headlining set for the Super Bowl half time performance. Some it shocked, for no reason other than they simply hadn’t expected it, some it shocked because it lifted them unwillingly out of their comfort zone, but most it shocked because they had simply forgotten that Beyonce was black. Those individuals, many of whom will be fans wrapped up in the Crazy in Love superstar and her success, had also forgotten that Beyonce too has a black father, black husband, black nephew and black male family members, all of whom could have been Trayvon Martin, Alton Sterling or Philando Castille.
What some people fail to understand is that saying #blacklivesmatter does not equate to saying “only black lives matter”. It also does not mean black lives matter more than any other lives. It simply means black lives matter, thats it. It was simply created to draw attention to the relentless killing of black males across America and the lack of justice being served as a result of those killings. It was also not created to mean “all police officers are bad” or “all police officers are the enemy”. The analogy I often use when faced with someone who questions this is fairly simple. If someone creates a campaign called #savetherainforests does that then mean that all other trees don’t matter? Does it mean that as a campaigning body or organisation we don’t care about other trees? No. It simply means that this specific group was set up to combat the issue of deforestation and the harmful effects that it could have on the planet. And that’s okay. Saying #alllivesmatter when talking about #blacklivesmatter is not only obvious, but also insulting and distracting from the issue. Of course all lives matter, but right now we are trying to address the disproportionate amount of black lives being cut short by some trigger happy policemen and women in the US.
Highlighted too by Solange Knowles in her Interlude: Tina Taught Me, from her new album A Seat at the Table, we are reminded that just because you are pro black, does not necessarily mean you are anti white. “The two don’t go together, because you celebrate black culture doesn’t mean that you don’t like white culture”. I have always wondered why some people are continually offended by things that don’t concern them, and why those that think it concerns them, don’t do more to help. Surely if you are against systematic and structural racism or agree that black lives are just as important as all lives, you would endeavour to challenge the current situation or agree that the US police mentality should reflect this? Surely you couldn’t then be upset about a hashtag or threatened by a movement?
In my opinion it’s as simple as this, if the hashtag or movement offends you in any way, then find out how you can make a difference or support the families and victims of those killed. You can also find out more information about the countless black lives lost in police custody, the information is there to be found and interpreted. But please, for the love of God stop trying to make #alllivesmatter happen or use it instead of #blacklivesmatter. If you can’t be educated, then at least spare us your ignorance.