I conclude as I begin. Indeed, all lives do matter, but in a global society that places less value on black lives, and the white male is superior to all others, it is evident that “Black Lives Matter” is very necessary without the loud taunt of “All Lives Matter” (Obama, 2015). ‘Black lives matter’ was established in 2012 in order to address the oppression of the African American community, but more specifically with regards to police brutality and system induced oppression such as with the case of 17 year old Trayvon Martin’s death which inspired the movement. The movement exploits technology as their main weapon, and the current social media outburst of our generation in order to convey their message (Stephen, 2015). What distinguishes this movement from perhaps other precedent movements is the current social media frenzy at our disposal, and the success of the movement is credible to this (Stephen, 2015). In both their research, Stephen (2015) and Castells (2011) claim that any social movement is as powerful as the current technology and media available in it’s time simply because there would be a larger crowd, and the spread of information is accelerated.
A social movement however, is not to be viewed as the starting point of a new era, but rather as a result as elucidated by Melucci (1995) in his findings of social movements. The case of Trayvon Martin in 2013 may have dawned the movement, but the thought and purpose is a successive build up of similar events tracing back to years of history. The reason behind the success and expansion of ‘Black Lives Matter’ is because the politics of identity, and culture is an issue of importance within a state (Kelshall, 2015). Furthermore, through the lens of a constructivist, the “Black Lives Matter” can essentially be viewed as a historical and social consequence. Historical events such as slavery and colonisation are responsible for the segregation and strong emotional feelings targeted at the opposite social group. This has been an ongoing mustering of events and can not be attributed to just one event, or aspect of current society without viewing the build up and progression that has led to this point of diversion amongst the two groups. The black lives matter movement goes beyond the nationalist charisma already existing amongst the black union, but extensively affirms black lives, as equal lives to the rest of the community, especially as scrutinised at the hands and austerity of the state system (Edwards and Harris, 2016).
State system is created by state behaviour, and not vice-versa. Institutional racism created in the United States as a constituent of historical events such as racism is what has created the actual boundaries and distinguished the two groups as separate and different, instead of alike. This distinguished barrier is responsible for conflict because these identities were not self proclaimed but rather forcefully placed on by the other group which evolved into the stereotypes still existing in the current system. The fight to self identify themselves is what has brought about this movement. Anthony Giddens in his literature regarding social theory claims that social order and social reproduction have a direct relationship. ‘Society only has form, and that form only has effects on people, in so far as structure is produced and reproduced in what people do’ (Giddens & Pierson, 1998: 77). In this very context, it can be drawn that “Black Lives matter” is the reaction of the institutional racism produced within the structure of the boarders of America which has constantly devalued the lives of Black people. This unexpected behaviour, because black people are expectedly, but not lawfully supposed to submit to this oppression and work around it, is what is responsible for the conflict between the two social groups and what has synthesised “All Lives Matter”.
Collective identity, a function of social movements, is a product of historical events such as slavery, in the particular case of America, and stigmatises social movements like ‘Black Lives Matter’ (Fominaya, 2010). In that event of such historical contexts, conflict and tension arises identifying one group as the ‘other’ and therefore the genesis of oppression of a particular, possibly inferior or marginalised, group. In their findings, Taylor and Whittier (1992) suggest that social movements are serving as a resistance for dominant cultural practices, or systems which in this case would be the so called “white supremacy’ defined as a main subject for the social movement (Nash, 2016).The movement is therefore attempting to securitise the interests, political and social, of the black community in America. The system which arguably, but translucently oppresses the black community is threatening their very survival and acting out via ways of speaking out is their best bet because they’re opposing members at the top of the food chain.
Thomas Hobbes analysed in his work of political philosophy that a civil war (or in a less extreme form- social conflict) will arise if obedience is not given to an “unaccountable sovereign”. The system in the U.S which favours the white community is the sovereign in this case, and so much tension is arising because of this movement because of this very challenge, and ‘disobedience’ towards the sovereign. Black Lives Matter is a challenge to the political authority in America, and unexpectedly so with the booming of technology which increases the power, and voice of the movement (Edwards and Harris, 2016). Such power threatens the dominant group in which case tension emerges and one group is left feeling threatened and desperately trying to degrade the movement.
As in physics, Isaac Newton (1867) once spoke the words ‘with every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”. The reaction to “Black lives Matter” is “All lives matter’ with the latter criticising the former for focusing on just explicit/ distinct injustices in America while there exists other minority/ oppressed groups. However, the problem with ‘All lives matter’ is that it’s denying the fact that racism is a significant problem which specifically, and uniquely targets the African- American community (Obama, 2015). “All lives matter” is an attempt at once again silencing the cry of the black community and inappropriately labelling the movement as a social injustice to other identity groups co-existing within the country. “All lives matter” isn’t a movement, it is a distraction and deflection from the real issue by the so-called “other” group.
Racism is a reality and criticising ‘Black Lives Matter’ as some sort of hit at a historical bandage is ill-suited. If all lives mattered, we essentially wouldn’t need the movement ‘black lives matter’ because that would then be a given and to single out a specific group would be unnecessary. In the current world system, it is already evident that white lives matter, which is the implications of ‘all lives matter’, so by extension proclaiming “Black Lives Matter” is, too, already saying that “All Lives Matter” because the value placed on black lives is what is in question.
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Title image: http://www.dailydot.com/opinion/all-lives-matter-gets-racism-wrong/ [4 reasons ‘All Lives Matter’ gets race and police brutality wrong]
Author: Dagless Kangero
Editor: Candyce Kelshall and Alper Nalbantoglu