Our lives matter, do theirs?

In this generation when we are filled with rage from being oppressed, or what we call oppressed, we chant “Black Lives Matter”. We do this to show support of one another and we also use it as symbol of revolt towards “the man”. Little do we know, every time we chant “Black Lives Matter” they vote and take action, which is usually not in our favor. We as African Americans would never view the phrase as racist, or prejudice because we feel we are the victims. Perhaps we should take a different approach when thinking about the phrase “black lives matter.” What does this statement, a statement that should obviously be true, but apparently is not, imply? If black lives do not matter, then they are not really regarded as lives, since a life is supposed to matter. So what we see is that some lives matter more than others; some lives matter so much that they have to be protected at all costs, and that other lives matter less or not at all. When that becomes the situation, then the lives that do not matter so much, or at all, can be killed or lost; these lives can be exposed to conditions of destitution, and there is no concern, or even worse, this calamity is regarded as the way it is supposed to be. The callous killing of Tamir Rice, the abandonment of his body on the street is an astonishing example of the police murdering someone considered disposable and fundamentally a very welcomed farewell. 

When talking about racism and anti-white racism in the United States, we have to remember that under slavery black lives were considered only a fraction of a human life, further substantiating the theory that some lives mattered more. “Their” lives were more human, more worthy, more deserving of life and freedom whereas freedom meant minimally the freedom to move and thrive without being subjected to coercive force. When and where did black lives ever really get free of coercive force? One reason the chant “Black Lives Matter” is so important is that it states the obvious but the obvious has not been realized, historically. “Black Lives Matter” is a statement of outrage, a demand for equality and a demand for the right to live free of constraint. This chant links the history of slavery, debt peonage, segregation, and a prison system geared toward the containment, neutralization and degradation of black lives. Lets not forget about the police system that can now just like in the past take away a black life in a flash all because an officer “feels” their life is being threatened.

So I ask you, ponder this: what does it mean to perceive someone as a threat? One man is leaving a store unarmed, but he is perceived as a threat. Another man is in a chokehold and states that he cannot breathe, and the chokehold is not relaxed, and the man dies because he is perceived as a threat. Mike Brown and Eric Garner. We can name them, but in the space of this interview, we cannot name all the black men and women whose lives are snuffed out all because a police officer perceives a threat and sees the person dangerous no matter what. We can watch the videos and see with our own eyes what appears to be true, but it is also true that police and juries only support these officers and do not wish to see the apparent injustices.

The breakdown is police view having no gun, being subdued and crying out in pain or for one’s life to be spared as one is retreating as threatening. These figures are perceived as threats even when they do not threaten, when they have no weapon, and the video footage that shows precisely this is taken to be a ratification of the police’s perception. 

The perception is then ratified as a public perception at which point we not only must insist on the dignity of black lives, but also name the racism that has become ratified as public perception.


Nobel Michael is a senior Mass Communication major from Lancaster, California