London marches: Why the UK too must say ‘Black Lives Matter’ (Re-post; 2016)
As I drew closer and closer towards the sounds of thundering footsteps and almost mystical chants, I was mesmerised by the sheer number of people walking towards Brixton, hoping their actions would shed light on a situation the black community is all too familiar with.
Slowly my strides began to match those of the advancing crowd, with their placards and phones in the air, and the sound of hundreds chanting “BLACK LIVES MATTER”. Almost instinctively, my lips mouthed the chants, and as I began to blend into the crowd my voice rose to the same level as those around me.
“BLACK LIVES MATTER! BLACK LIVES MATTER! BLACK LIVES MATTER!” Every passer-by looked at us with puzzled expressions, in awe at the number of people — many with a hint of annoyance twinkling in their eyes.
Their actions would shed light on a situation the black community is all too familiar with
Over the past two years or so, we have seen a rise in the number of recorded police brutality cases in America. It seems to be the case that almost every day a new hashtag emerges on Twitter alongside a picture of the latest victim. Almost without fail, the online response is ignorant, commonly devolving into to the flippant phrase: “All Lives Matter”.
Who ever said all lives don’t matter? Who said white lives don’t matter? Who said Asian lives don’t matter? No one. We all acknowledge the value of each person’s life. Your life is important. My life is important. All our lives are important. But at this period in time, with a disproportionate amount of African-Americans being murdered by police officers, it is only right to highlight this issue with the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’.
“I think everybody understands all lives matter…. So when people say “Black Lives Matter,” that doesn’t mean blue lives don’t matter; it just means all lives matter, but right now the big concern is the fact that the data shows black folks are more vulnerable to these kinds of incidents” — President Barack Obama
According to The Washington Post, Philando Castile was the 123rd African-American shot by the police in 2016. Please understand, we are only in July, yet more than one hundred African-Americans have been shot by those who are supposed to protect and serve them.
My problem with constantly referring to figures however, is that, after a while, merely analysing numbers serves to diminish the value of each individual life. We forget the impact one person alone may have on others. Aggregating these deaths in the abstract form of statistics makes us lose sight of the true human face of the crisis.
More than one hundred African-Americans have been shot by those who are supposed to protect and serve them
Last week, videos of Alton Sterling being pinned to the ground and shot several times at nearly point-blank range by two white police officers went viral on social media. A father of five, a brother, a child, Sterling’s death, had a significant impact on so many around him, with the loss weighing heavily on his loved ones.
As a mother, it is heart-breaking to have to bury a child you spent years pouring your love and care into. As a sister, it is harrowing to see the brother who you grew up with, who took care of you for the most part of your life, slowly bleed to death on the pavement outside a store. As a child, it is traumatising to witness your father’s death at the hands of law-enforcement officials via social media.
Sterling’s death had a significant impact on so many around him, with the loss weighing heavily on his loved ones
Now take a moment and imagine that at least half of the 123 African-Americans murdered this year alone were innocent and had a family and future to look forward to. So where does that leave us? You may be wondering “why are they protesting in the UK? The police don’t discriminate here.”
The fact that instances of police brutality in the UK are less common than in the US is beside the point. It is vital to show solidarity at this moment in time. We should not be discouraged from standing for what is right simply because it does not affect us directly. The battle will continue to be lost if you remain idle and silent.
Originally published at https://theboar.org. (12th July 2016)