Black Lives Matter
Listen to this post:
Black Lives Matter.
I read on this subject nearly every day. I watch videos on Facebook and read the comments and arguments for and against. After all of this media consumption on the topic, I want to state the position of this blog: Black Lives Matter. And I don’t like the “All Lives Matter” response to Black Lives Matter.
On July 12, 1787, Delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia accepted the Three-Fifths Compromise. This is the legal decision to count each enslaved Black person as 3/5 of a person to change up collecting taxes and how many elected representatives a state could get. No, it doesn’t say that Black people are incomplete humans overall, only politically incomplete. And that’s only because it doesn’t need to. Because Black people were enslaved at the time. It was already the prevailing attitude that they were not fully human. Did the “compromise” benefit Black people? Of course not. It gave Southern states the chance to have more elected leaders than if they didn’t count Black people at all, and the Southern states were pro-slavery, not pro-Black.
The point of Black Lives Matter is to back up and point out that the legacies of slavery, legislation, policy, and attitude still exist today, especially when it comes to police brutality and how racism and white supremacy are ingrained in our institutions. And yes, I am a white person saying this.
If you want to yell to me how all lives matter and what about disabled lives and what about Brown lives…then please note that this distracts from the Black Lives Matter conversation, not adds to it. And I’ve done it. I totally meant well when I’ve said, “But what about disabled people?!” When non-Black people try to tack on other groups to Black Lives Matter, it reinforces the age-old idea in the US that Black people don’t know how to think for themselves or make reasonable decisions. It maintains the same type of power imbalance we had back when Dr. Cartwright declared that any enslaved person who runs away from their life of torture must have a mental illness. Even though it’s described as a mental disease, experts suggested a prevention strategy for slave owners: compassion, kindness, protecting slaves from abuse or cruelty, and ensuring that the enslaved person remains submissive. Even as they clearly understood it was the context of slavery, hate, and abuse that made Africans and people of African descent want to run away, they still managed to call it a disease of the mind. They still decided it was appropriate to control others’ bodies in order to get what they wanted by, in part, counting them as disabled.
Black lives encompass all manner of genders, gender identities, ages, sexual orientations, political affiliations, careers (including cops), religions, disabilities, economic statuses, and even multiple races and ethnicities. To fight for Black Lives Matter would hopefully be to include all of these pieces and more. This blog has been extremely clear on the importance of dismantling oppression against all oppressed and marginalized groups. But I believe it’s also important to give a dedicated space to Black Lives Matter, including Black-led critiques that call for more accessible, intersectional Black Lives Matter work to include disabled Black activists.
The more times people counter Black Lives Matter by saying All Lives Matter or Blue Lives Matter, the more a dedicated space for Black Lives Matter will be needed for as long as it’s needed. Working for Black Lives Matter does not take a single bit of the tiniest iota of a thing away from white people. Working for Black Lives Matter doesn’t mean you’re against other anti-oppression movements. Black Lives Matter is not the only political view I hold, and it is not the only anti-oppression movement that I’m interested in or lending support to. That said, Black Lives Matter.