Since its social media inception, stemmed from the riots addressing the inexplicable killing of young black men by the hand of the police, the Black Lives Matter movement has found residence in some of the most controversial modern dialogues. Particularly with the recent riots in Charlotte, North Carolina as well as the presidential election results, the movement has once again come to the forefront of social media streams and news headlines. As a young (twenty-five still counts as young, right?) white woman, I struggle to identify my stance towards the Black Lives Matters network. At times I find myself slightly out of place to confidently assert my support of BLM, mostly due to the destruction the riots that are directly and indirectly connected. Also my support feels out of place because maybe BLM is not my place as a white woman who cannot properly represent the black voice. However, to promote the counter-cause All Lives Matter in my mind appears completely counterproductive.
Therefore, I have attempted to keep my voice neutral, knowing that neutrality does absolutely nothing. Because that’s easier, right? Idly skimming updates about more unnecessary death and destruction. Knowing that something is wrong but not wanting to dive into the beast’s mouth. Because it is too hard to truly contemplate the difficult topics of our modern society, especially when they seemingly don’t affect me. And even worse, what if the outcome of great contemplation results in different beliefs than friends and family?
In the past months, I have truly dove down the societal beastie’s throat and tried to find a way to grasp BLM and find my position or at least emotions. And I think I have come pretty close. So I want to share my epiphany of sorts in order to help others who may also be struggling and attempting to understand. To clarify, my opinions and words should not and will not replace or fill in for those of the black community. If I have not made myself clear enough, I will repeat it again: I am white. Therefore, I cannot and will not preach about racial injustice. What I can do though is open up the conversation, share my own findings, and direct awareness towards the appropriate black-led organizations and articles.
My usual way to comprehend something beyond my own personal experience is to assimilate it to a topic I do understand, which more often than not is The Hunger Games (but that’s a different article). This time though I was able to find a counterpart closer to home, a movement about which I am completely passionate and attempt to claim an active voice. And no, it is not Harry Potter. But rather, Feminism. That’s right, feminism with a capital “F” — in a sentence fragment for emphasis.
Here is my analogy, and I believe it to be a good one, not like those vague old-school SAT ones:
Women supporting feminism is to black people supporting Black Lives Matter.
From my research and analysis, what I have come to understand, is that neither feminism nor Black Lives Matter insinuates that one demographic is more significant or greater than another. But rather they attempt to give a necessary voice to historically repressed group(s) of people. Now, I speak more confidently about feminism, not just because of my position as a woman, but also the movement has existed in its modern form for decades. There is more material to understand what has become a diverse and rich culture for women voices. Although BLM’s basis has roots in the resilient historical call for racial equality, it truly is a new and fresh affirmation, only beginning to build layers of diverse, educated, and generational dialogues. Regardless of longevity, I do believe that both causes have similar cores.
The issue most prominent with both feminism and BLM resides in their surface level titles. To those who view themselves as “outsiders” which is mostly men, the world of feminism seems to inherently exclude the male gender and even worse suggests that women are greater than men. Undoubtedly there has been a history of those who claim themselves to be feminists but do not truly understand its fundamentals and perpetuate a sense, if not full outcry, of man-hating. I will be frank: This is not feminism. The true basis of feminism is that both genders are equal, which has now extended further into the LGBTQ community. From my understanding this is the same for Black Lives Matter. The movement is not meant to communicate that black lives are more important than white lives but that they are equally significant and deserve equal voice, treatment, and opportunity.
In order to include all genders, many have suggested that feminism changes its title to something more neutral like “equalism.” In the past, I thought this was fair. That is made sense. Why not make the name of the movement more inclusive? Since it does in fact benefit both males and females (If this concept confuses you, look into organizations such as He For She). However, through careful research and reflection, I realize the issue in this: taking away the “femme” would take away the female voice. It would disregard and overlook the oppression women faced (are still facing) for hundreds of years. Although it does fight to bring equality and acceptance to all, regardless of gender, the word feminism instills the reminder that it was women who recognized the injustice and demanded a change.
This concept connects in terms of the “counter-cause” that has developed due to Black Lives Matter. Of course, I am speaking to “All Lives Matter.” Again, though this seems like a reasonable edit, it overlooks the purpose of the movement. By taking away the “black” it takes away the agency of black voices, which have been silenced throughout history, even in “post-slavery modern” times. Essentially, ALM is attempting to say “white lives matter.” The All Lives Matter affirmation could be easily compared to the not-so-funny joke that is “Meninist” or “MANism,” which claims its goal is to assure the male gender has equal rights. Both are a heavy slap in the face to black people and women. No shit white lives matter, and no shit men deserve equality. History has exemplified both of those privileges, over and over again.
Although I do believe some facets of equalism and All Lives Matter desire to communicate equality to all genders and race, they allow others or outsiders to forget the suffering the designated groups endured in order to gain (hopefully one day–because we aren’t there yet) their well-deserved and true equality in society. The original titles for both movements make the privileged demographic feel like the “other” or the outsider, which of course is how women and the black communities have felt for generations. The name is intended to make either men or white people somewhat uncomfortable and recognize their privilege. The aspiration of equality is not meant to insult the privileged groups or to bring about guilt. But rather to provide recognition of that privilege and hopefully the inspiration to use that privilege to help the other gender, race, social class, human being.
By the end of all this contemplation of the world’s more controversial topics, I have decided that I do proudly support the Black Lives Matter movement. As a past teacher and current graduate student, I hope to help promote a world of equality. I realize my privilege as a white person, and rather than resting upon its safety, I want to utilize it, which for now will solely exist in cyber-ink and my scratchy voice.
I know I shouldn’t feel the need to add an amendment, especially when I could have just ended this piece with such a beautiful sentiment. However, I feel it is necessary to clarify: although I support the Black Lives Matter, I do not blindly agree with every facet of it. Just as the case with feminism, there are those who take it too far, which I discussed in terms of “man-hating,” and I do not support them. With BLM, I do not support the destruction and harm that has occurred during the riots in places such as Ferguson and Charlotte. Albeit, I do hope to address that violence in a different article in the near future. (And don’t worry, it will definitely include comparisons to The Hunger Games.)
Also, to really just drag this out, here are some articles that helped me better understand the topics I attempted to address. Because this is truthfully as far as my voice should go for now. In terms of racial equally I will attempt to only support organizations and share articles that are led by black voices. And if that alone confuses you, start your research here…