Is Black Lives Matter Enough?

Jace Boland, Staff Writer

The Black Lives Matter movement has spread like wildfire in recent years, with various cases of anti-black police brutality sparking outrage around the world. I see many people saying they support BLM as a synonym for their liberalism and belief in social justice, but my concern lies in whether the meaning itself really stands anymore. “Black Lives Matter” is so simple, it should be blatantly obvious. The fact that the phrase itself even needs to be said goes to show how common disregard for black life is in the United States. However, I don’t see it being close to enough.

It’s easy to rally behind the concept that life matters. It’s simple and nonthreatening to the system of white supremacy that has been governing this country since before its construction. I often see people treat white supremacy as a new issue, or a flaw in the country that needs to be fixed. I firmly believe that there is no “fix” for white supremacy. You cannot take a country built on the exploitation of black bodies, the blood, sweat, and tears of people of color, and stick a Band-Aid on it. In only pushing the statement “Black Lives Matter,” we allow white America to remain comfortable in its way of life, the one that perpetuates both direct and indirect racial violence and will continue to do so until disrupted. “Black Lives Matter” will never bring about police abolition, nor will it dismantle institutional racism in the prison system, or bring black neighborhoods out of poverty, all major points of change that are necessary for the black community. It is easy for even a racist person to state “Black Lives Matter,” because many people with racial biases ingrained in them don’t consider themselves to be racist. The statement doesn’t challenge their internal concepts of race, nor does it force them into the place of discomfort and learning necessary for any real change to be made. 

Racism isn’t just slurs and hate crimes. Racial violence runs so much deeper, into the very roots of the poverty, unemployment, homelessness, and drug epidemics that have plagued black communities since abolition. It is no coincidence that black communities are disproportionately affected by these issues, and it is both ignorant and harmful to ignore the correlation between race and poverty. The “ghetto” stereotype is founded in the very real struggles black people face in America. Since the beginning of the War on Drugs, black and Latine communities have been attacked by law enforcement. According to the Pew Research Center, “in 2018, black Americans represented 33% of the sentenced prison population, nearly triple their 12% share of the U.S. adult population. Whites accounted for 30% of prisoners, about half their 63% share of the adult population.” We see rates of police brutality, arrests, and incarceration for black Americans astronomically higher than those of whites, to the point where more than 1 in 4 black men will go to jail in their lifetime. This may just be a statistic to white audiences, but as I look around at my brothers, cousins, uncles, and friends, this becomes personal. What I often see white people fail to comprehend is that to them, the institution of racism is a concept. For us, it’s the way that we are forced to exist in this country. But white supremacy will never be dismantled through mourning the state of the country. As Malcolm X once said, “usually when people are sad, they don’t do anything. They just cry over their condition. But when they get angry, they bring about a change.” It’s time to get angry.