Black Lives Matter: A caution against reductive rhetoric in the Black community

By Mya Ellington-Williams, Kennedy Kinnard, Tyra Thompson, Pakavi “PJ” Williams, Sam Onilenla, Dahron “DJ” Mize, Konnell Woods, Owen Amadasu, Trey Thomas and Emani Sullivan | Contributors

Black Lives Matter to ​all​ members of the Black community. When members of the Black community say, “Black Lives Matter,” we think of our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and countless other family members and friends. The Black Lives Matter movement extends beyond police brutality and racism. The movement ultimately seeks to address years of racial inequality that has persisted in the United States of America.

Differing opinions are both welcomed and accepted among members of the Black community and we do not encourage the censorship or silencing of any students on our campus. However, we want to bring attention to the impact of regurgitating such negative generalizations of the Black community. Differences in opinion within the Black community should be constructive, not divisive. Most importantly, these differences in opinion should not perpetuate harmful and false narratives. Black students on Baylor’s campus are working relentlessly to bring a voice to the experience of being Black in America. This should not be undermined by someone who does not resonate with nor acknowledge the challenges of facing bias and prejudice in this country.

The fallacy of “Black on Black crime” acts as a diversion to the Black Lives Matter movement; it is both misleading and fundamentally flawed. A single statistic cannot encompass the complete scope of police brutality in America, nor should ​disparities in homicide rates​ be reduced to such a racialized and inflammatory phrase. Moreover, crime is based on proximity, opportunity and socioeconomic factors. The crime done within the Black community is a reflection of years of systemic oppression and inequality that has diminished opportunity, resources and community vitality. ​Those​ are the most prevalent threats facing Black Americans today. Lack of access to proper healthcare, sustenance and education continue to plague Black communities, and these are the issues that the Black Lives Matter movement and its supporters address.

Black Lives Matter works tirelessly with several well-known partners to address injustices that plague the Black community. The movement’s partners, including but not limited to, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Color of Change, The Movement for Black Lives, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., each have platforms that deeply resonate with the lived experiences of countless individuals. People donate ​to​ help these organizations effectuate change. While police brutality brought Black Lives Matter to life, addressing that particular injustice is not the movement’s only objective. Black Lives Matters is not a political movement; it’s a human rights movement. Individuals are protesting for systemic changes to be made. The movement unites ​Americans​, not just Black Americans, who aim to bring awareness and accountability to those responsible for the murders of ​30 unarmed, Black citizens​.

Another point that deserves addressing is the idea that a handful of celebrities can be used as a benchmark for all Black people looking to shed the shackles of poverty. Poverty is not a personal choice but a reflection of society. Using members of this anomaly group negates the facts. A brief investigation of these facts reveals that White families hold ​90%​ of national wealth, while Black families hold 2.6%. Black people are ​two times more likely​ to be unemployed than White people. Black homeownership is consistently lower than White homeownership, as Black homeownership is currently at a mere ​44%​. Unfortunately, “a mindset” is not the hindrance that plagues our communities. Rather, there are a multitude of systemic obstacles embedded within our country’s practices, laws, and trainings that present seemingly unending challenges to the Black community.

Thinking an individual is not oppressed does not free that individual from the racial strongholds that have existed since our country’s inception. No one is free from oppression simply because he or she refuses to believe that it does not pertain to nor affect him or her. A mindset that harbors that notion reflects one of the most insidious manifestations of white supremacy. The belief that one is free from the strongholds of systemic racism because they deny Black Lives Matters is both nonsensical and detrimental to the entire Black community.

Black people are experts of their own experiences. The concerns that we have, as Black students, stem from a harsh reality of racism and prejudgement that cannot and will not be overlooked. Members of our community are tired, for it is taxing to see innocent Black men and women brutalized without consequences. The Black community did not ask for these struggles and it is not feasible for us to set aside our trauma and “pull ourselves up by the bootstraps” in facing these systemic injustices alone. If it were not for movements like Black Lives Matter mobilizing masses of people to act against racial injustices, then we would be the victims of our own complacency.

We must all be aware that opinions can hurt people. Moreover, we must be mindful of how impactful they are. We do not expect Black people to be a monolith. It is essential, though, that we are empathetic to ​all of our community members’ experiences and that we take a unified stance in refusing to perpetuate and share misleading narratives about the Black community that are rooted in racism.