“Black Lives Matter” is one of the most successful mottos to unleash from America’s 21st Century human rights movements. From abolishing slavery, to the change Martin Luther King Jr. has catalyzed, to the modern realization that the job is not finished. The infamous police brutality incidents have pushed this subliminal message that existed all along to take on its full volume.
Black Lives Matter is not a controversy unless misunderstood. The “All Lives Matter” counter-campaign only voices ignorance. As if it didn’t need any clearer explanation, “Black Lives Matter” does not act to exclude or place a community above another, it simply demands the acknowledgment of those silenced. This is a request of equality, not superiority.
Like with most Western-bred ideologies, there is a leakage that is ironically more ignorant than socially-aware. It is more productive to recognize systemic disadvantage for its relative measurement. Isn’t it a paradox for Westerners to voice a need for progression so loud that it swallows the screams of our less-privileged brothers and sisters in countries who are even more institutionally victimized?
Has it ever been a thought that to be able to create a slogan that highlights the injustice of those subject, is a privilege within itself? Yet we narrowly focus on domestic issues, while there are nations upon nations who use the most powerful political tool to oppress, one that we are not as nearly familiar with– censorship.
There is a reason “Black Lives Matter” was not created when South Africa continued to dismiss the inclusive environment of ‘Blacks’ and ‘Whites’ even after the chains of Apartheid were released, when West African refugees were treated inhumanely traveling North, when East Africans were trafficked on the land of their Middle Eastern neighbors. Let alone the modern enslavement of Haitians in the Dominican Republic, because surprise, Black-Carribbeans and Afro-Hispanics exist too.
It is a very Western mentality to limit the urgency for issues that do not directly pertain to us. The “third-world” should be the first world to have a place in this discussion of social justice.
This nonexistent conversation fosters in another dialogue that is rarely brought to full fruition: The African Diaspora and the two sects that lie within it: African-Americans and American-Africans.
African-Americans: Americans whose ancestors have been enslaved and most likely have a West-African lineage (although still ambiguous in terms of cultural specificity)
American-Africans: Americans whose most recent generations immigrated from an African country
The dynamic between them reveals much truth about the Westernization of what is BLM. First and foremost, it is not remotely the fault of African-Americans that many cannot trace back their ethnic roots to a single country. However, it is the further perpetuated ignorance that comes from either lack of resources, interest, or motivation to self-educate that results in appropriation.
It is unfortunate that a sizable sector of people who say “African” culture as if such a monolithic culture even exists, are actually African. It is unfortunate that a mass population who promote the reduction of a continent actually belong to it. If you want to be accepted in communities who are directly impacted by the good and bad Africa faces, begin with the common sense that Africa is not a country, and that your allegiance to an identity should not be cultivated from whatever ‘Africa’ is in a Western imagination. This means not wearing a Ghanaian shirt one day, a Senegalese one the next, and simultaneously not caring about what happens in the entire region.
Why does an Ebola joke targeted at Black Americans sting more than the reality that this disease killed thousands? We have weakened ourselves to be triggered by words, and not strengthened by our opportunities to empower those who actually die at the hands of a bullet. When we learn about child soldiers in Nigeria, perhaps we would see our ‘War of the Woke’ to be an insignificant one.
All Black Lives Matter.