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Social-media has revolutionized the way that social movements operate. In the 1960’s the Southern Catholic Leaders Conference and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee had their work cut out for them; there was no uploading videos of prejudice or injustice to Youtube, or promoting events through Twitter and Facebook. Fortunately for the now controversial BlackLivesMatter movement, the revelation of mass-media and social-media has changed the role of news in society to something distinctly different. It took one tweet to spark the beginning of the movement, in response to the death of Treyvon Martin in 2012. Since then, the names of dead black men, women, and children have been turned into hash tags spread around Twitter in outrage. Videos of police shooting unarmed men have gained millions of views. Over five years, the issue has become nearly universal within the black community, and even those outside of it. BlackLivesMatter was created because African Americans feel oppressed; by the government, by the system, and by the police officers who patrol their neighborhoods. In response, the AllLivesMatter movement was founded in refutation to BlackLivesMatter. AllLivesMatter followers disagreed with BlackLivesMatter advocates on purported “key issues,” insisting that “cops aren’t racist,” contrary to what they believed the BlackLivesMatter representatives were saying, and interpreting BlackLivesMatter as a supremacy movement; two things which couldn’t be further from the truth. As a person of white heritage who grew up in and around the black community, I believe that BlackLivesMatter and AllLivesMatter are not mutually exclusive, nor contradictory; both BlackLivesMatter and AllLivesMatter movements are victims of overgeneralization and misunderstanding when in reality they are basically advocating for the same goals in different ways. A middle ground can be found between these two movements.
It’s an unfortunately unheralded fact in current times that good cops exist. There are many good cops out there, who perform their jobs to the letter, and maybe even go beyond the line of duty to serve their community. Police officers who save lives, participate in their community with youth outreach, and aid the less-fortunate. Simply put, these “good” police officers do not make as good as a headline as a dead black man does. The media has been pandering to the BlackLivesMatter movement, because in this day and age, journalistic integrity has been substituted by the need for clicks and views for ad-revenue. It has been pushing an altered reality, in which all cops are killers, when the truth is that bad cops make up an astute minority of the police force. However, even if individual cops may be good people, it does not make up for the fact that the system that employs them is oppressive. Cops are pressured by their superiors to generate revenue for the city and precinct. There is a motivation to write as many tickets as possible; which often involves making more traffic stops than necessary. And it is not a coincidence that the areas which usually generate the most revenue also contain a statistically high population of African Americans. Because of this emphasis of revenue over safety and fair enactment of justice, blacks unintentionally fall victim to the system. Police officers as individuals are not guilty, but they are the agents of a machine that puts the people’s best interests second to its own.
Unlike civil-rights organizations such as the Southern Catholic Leaders Conference, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples, the BlackLivesMatter movement is not an organization, nor does it have a defined leadership. Although the movement may not be a monolith, advocates for the movement are in agreement with several core principles. The founding belief of the movement is that the system is against African-Americans. However, it goes much deeper than that; most activists agree that the police are not the only ones at fault, and it is up to the black communities to work together and empower each other. One issue with the movement is that, because it is not a formal organization with a hierarchy, all black people are assumed to be in BlackLivesMatter. Because of this, actions by extremist groups such as the New Black Panther Party are credited to the movement in an attempt to take away the moral ground BlackLivesMatter has built up. They cannot be ‘victims’ if they are retaliating with violence; although any incidents of violence are in direct contradiction to the ideals of BlackLivesMatter, as self-proclaimed leaders of the movement such as Deray McKesson have put strict emphasis on peaceful protests. The BlackLivesMatter movement is guilty of nothing aside from association. Being black does not automatically make you a part of BlackLivesMatter, it has to do with how you act and behave: violent protesters and terrorists act independently of the movement and on their own accord.
AllLivesMatter gained a lot of support and controversy during the 2016 Presidential Election, and was formed directly in response to the BlackLivesMatter. The general consensus behind the movement is that supporters claim that BlackLivesMatter is a racist anti-white movement that overlooks the importance of other races. Most literally take the stance ‘all lives matter.’ Throughout the 2016 Presidential Election, tensions rose between the two movements, with AllLivesMatter being criticized by the media and various celebrities and politicians. AllLivesMatter has been described as “the right movement for the wrong time,” and is commonly perceived as a sarcastic phrase intended to be a slap in the face to the BlackLivesMatter movement. However, there is some truth to the movement. All lives matter; they should matter. Unfortunately, many people advocating for this fail to realize that all lives do not matter, equally. BlackLivesMatter is a movement founded in an attempt to make black lives equal; not more important. The simple fact is that all lives do not matter. As genuine as the phrase and movement may be, it is operating off of the false assumption that all races are equally endangered, and therefore hinders the progress of BlackLivesMatter. BlackLivesMatter is misunderstood as a statement when it, in reality, is a response. It is a response to hard facts, disturbing statistics and shocking reports that all seem to suggest that black lives do not matter. AllLivesMatter is the end-goal of the BlackLivesMatter movement; we cannot all matter until we are all equal.
Both BlackLivesMatter and AllLivesMatter are advocating the same points. Freedom. Equality. Safety. These movements both lead to the same reality, and they both picture the same vision. But circumstances caused by members outside of the movements have caused each respective movement to view the other as an ‘enemy.’ BlackLivesMatter sees racists and extremists proclaiming “AllLivesMatter,” and over generalize the entire movement into a racist, alt-right organization. Conversely, AllLivesMatter see violent protests, riots, and police killings and make the assumption that those extremists are a part of BlackLivesMatter. This series of generalizations and misunderstanding has caused each movement to view the other as conflicting viewpoints, while in reality they are the same. This tension between activists has caused both movements to lose a lot of ground, and momentum. Protestors and activists have gotten so caught up arguing among each other, they have forgotten the true goals of these movements. If we want to achieve progress, we must work together. We must find a common ground, set core principles and ideals, and unite. The real enemy is the machine, not the people. Enough men, white or black, have died to prove that this is a detrimental issue to society.
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