Black Lives Matter, Too

In the last few years I’ve avoided social media and tend not to get into dialogues about race relations, politics or religion. However over the last few weeks I’ve seen how our perceptions as individuals have been skewed by our own experiences and privileges. Being Jamaican, I was fortunate to grow up in a society where I was a part of the racial majority. As such, I never experienced systematic racism as many of my African American brothers and sisters. However I have been careful not to dismiss their experiences because of my failure to fully understand their reality. 

Racism aside, Jamaica has countless examples of social class prejudice which I’ve seen over the years and even then, I’ve been fortunate to be on the side to which history and society have been most fair. That being said, it would be naive of me to think that prejudices do not exist because my experiences were not tainted by race or socioeconomic relations.

The black lives matter movement has been classified as a “movement” by the media because it creates scenario where there is tension that can be exploited for ratings. Rather than a movement, black lives matter is an acknowledgement of the fact that all lives matter, and because all lives matter, black lives by extension, should. I therefore find it nonsensical for people to disregard BLM by saying all lives matter. To do so demonstrates a failure to acknowledge that social and racial injustices exist whereby persons of color have consistently faced marginalization by virtue of their complexion and social class background. Consequently black lives matter is a rallying cry for all persons to acknowledge that as humans we are entitled to certain inalienable rights, rights that don’t diminish because of race. As humans we can all agree that civility requires us to give the benefit of a doubt.

We live in a country where the legal system acknowledges that all accused are innocent until proven guilty. As such, no one should face extra judicial persecution due to a presumption of guilt on the basis of socially constructed generalizations aimed at marginalizing an already marginalized group.

I’m particularly troubled by those who seek to use pockets of social unrest and violence to categorize all persons of color and anyone who seeks to support the idea that as a society we need to press for equality and justice for all. The demonstrations for the viability of black lives would not have existed if there was not demonstrable evidence of systematic injustices that have become common place in our society.

I am disheartened and shocked by some of the utterances I’ve seen on social media, particularly by people I consider friends. While I’ve attempted to excuse such actions as ignorance, it’s getting to a point where many of the posts are borderline nonsensical. Many comments coming from persons who I know by virtue of their educational background have had the privilege of socializing with groups of people that demonstrate that no two persons are the same.

I stand for equality, the equality of all persons regardless of race, color, sexual orientation or gender. As such I will stand up against injustices when I see it perpetuated. I for one acknowledge that black lives matter because all lives do matter, and if you seek to dismiss it, it is only a demonstration of your failure to understand the history of marginalization that have been faced by minority groups in this country. Admit that your own life may have been one of privilege that makes you incapable of fully understanding the collective hurt faced by many who have lived their lives subjected to criticism for which you have never experienced. The fact that people of color have to legitimize who they are and their right to life and liberty is an indication that all is not well in our society.

I urge those of you that think that by virtue of having “black friends” you understand the injustices they have faced and the hurt that they walk with each and every day. You don’t. Consequently, any attempt to utilize association as a means of disregarding your own biases, is a demonstration of deep seated ignorance which does not bode well for creating a harmonious society free of racial and social class prejudice.

I think it is ludicrous when a society can be outraged that zoo keepers failed to exercise constraint when they shot and killed a gorilla who was endangering a child, but somehow police officers shouldn’t exercise such restraint when confronting men or women of color. Instead we look for ways to justify why they should be extra judiciously executed. We see people as belonging to a gang or as a criminal. True freedom comes when we see each other as humans who are all entitled to this thing we call life.

For the record, I don’t adhere to the belief that an ignorance of factors that have created an institutionalized system of racism, and the failure to acknowledge it, makes one racist. It doesn’t. It just means that you are arriving at a value judgement based on misplaced facts which often leads you to infer that to disagree with your rational is considered a fundamentalist view of race relations in our society.

© Dimitri Lyon and, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Dimitri Lyon and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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