There’s no need to hijack another group’s idea in order to make yourselves known.
To talk about #BlueLivesMatter, we need to first speak about #BlackLivesMatter. If you’ve been anywhere in or near the United States during the past two years, it’s likely that you’ve come into contact with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. As a social media banner and national rallying cry, the phrase was created to draw attention to and focus on the lives of African Americans who are statistically more likely to be stopped, arrested, and even killed by the hands of police officers. The website, www.blacklivesmatter.com claims that the official organization’s affirmation is that all black lives matter—men, women, gay, transgendered, homeless, disabled, and every marginalized person of color.
With every video released of a black man being shot by a police officer, or a black woman being forcibly removed from her car during a routine traffic stop, or a black teenaged girl being wrestled from her seat by a school policeman, the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter gets a huge resurgence on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites.
As is the case with most things that achieve a degree of popularity and success, #BlackLivesMatter has been imitated in a number of different ways. Not too long after #BlackLivesMatter made its debut, those whom I assume just wanted to broaden the conversation introduced #AllLivesMatter.
Unfortunately, the only thing that hastag accomplished was to make clear how people who aren’t black simply don’t understand what the black community consistently goes through on a day to day basis. The idea that we can simply say that all lives matter, as if we all have struggles so that makes us equal, is to deny the specific and clear evidence that people of color face unique and significant prejudice every single day.
While #AllLivesMatter seemed to try to sweep the black community’s concerns under the rug, the billboard I saw on my way home from work the other day drew my attention to yet another hastag that clearly tried to pull the focus away from the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
The hastag #BlueLivesMatter is intended to bring focus to the lives and service of the police officers all throughout the United States. The idea is that very few police officers behave the way a certain few have, abusing their power and reacting in extreme ways. The claim is that much gets lost in the rush to judgment of a police officer trying to do an extremely difficult and dangerous job in an age of video cameras on everyone’s cell phone. The #BlueLivesMatter community believes that more attention and honor should be paid to those protecting our citizenry than to the criminals who have no respect for the law.
At first glance, that sentiment seems reasonable. We should all have respect for authority and honor those who pledge to uphold it. Here’s the problem: the vast majority of the population already does respect authority and honor the police. But as a society, we don’t recognize and understand the systemic injustices that so many people of color face in our country every day. The movement that is #BlackLivesMatter was created to focus on those injustices and insist on reformation.
When it comes to affirming that all lives matter or that police lives matter, you won’t get any argument from me. Every single life does matter. To say that any life doesn’t matter would actually be to contradict the meaning of the black lives matter movement. They’re not saying that black lives matter more than police or anyone else. What they’re saying is that it is undeniable that people of color have lived far too long in a position of subjugation, and that when you look at the numbers and see the evidence, it is a systemic problem. The systems of our country that deal out injustice on the regular must not be able to stand.
Please do not misunderstand me. Every life is sacred. Police officers should be honored and thanked on a daily basis. We should never forget those things. What I’m urging you to consider is that the idea of a black life mattering is not a given, and that’s a tragedy. That is a problem that can and must be fixed, and if it takes a hastag to remind us, then be reminded. There’s no need to co-op another group’s idea in order to make yourselves known.
Social media can often be like an old time schoolyard. There can be bullies around the corner, and the cool kids push the social agenda, changing the rules before you even know it. As far as I’m concerned, you can use whatever symbol you want when trying to get your message out to the world. It just seems to me that when you hijack someone else’s hashtag in an effort to get the attention directed away from them and onto you, you might just be the bully in this scenario. And in the end, no one likes a bully.