Why "Black Lives Matter" Matters to Me

Because I believe to my core that words are important and they matter, and that the affirmative utterance of my worth is not only morally just, but perennially necessary;

because to not say Black Lives Matter is permissive of the empirical status quo that they do not matter to so many Americans;

because any addendum or amendment to this statement, other than Hell yes, discredits the humanity of black people;

because stating that Black Lives Matter in no logical way implies that anything or anyone else does not matter;

because the fact that stating Black Lives Matter can be divisive to anyone is indicative of a society drunk off its own fantasy of itself;

because to say Black Lives Matter is no more a threat than saying Present, or I, too, America, or Happy Birthday, or Amen, or E Pluribus Unum;

because sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will devour you from the inside out, slowly or rapidly, despite how desperately our culture pretends they do not—and so it is right to rebuff vitriol with veneration;

because Blackness is not an occupation or profession to be guarded, but a birthright too long denied parity at the table of humanity;

because the cost of saying Black Lives Matters is pennies compared to the dividends it pays in solidarity, in mental and emotional health, and societal harmony, despite all rhetoric to the contrary;

because the regularity of seeing people of color's deaths in the news, and the subsequent and seemingly inevitable vindication of their killers, can gradually condition you to accept that this is naturally what happens to black people;

because whether or not I deserve to die should never be a matter of my style of dress, my  level of literacy, my upbringing, my neighborhood, my heritage, my pastimes, or the incompleteness of some checklist of morality I neither created nor asked for;

because as a black male, I am disproportionately aware of historical and contemporary violence against black males in America, versus black females, versus black transgender people, versus black people at any point along the gender spectrum, and reiterating the word Lives reminds me to be conscious of the diversity of black peoples (including and not limited to their genders) who continue to endure oppression in these United States;

because I've had to confront my own inherent racism toward myself and other black and brown people, and the work of un-teaching myself these engrained stereotypes is and will be ongoing work, much as a mantra (Black Lives Matter) is an ongoing work of refocussing and recommitting to a singular principle;

because my earliest feelings toward the BLM movement were discomfort and skepticism of what I had seen in the media, rather than a personal processing of the statement and the fire behind it, and because it took me a while to change my mind, and this process of (self) assessment is both natural and healthy;

because I have realized that so much of the BLM movement is designed to unsettle, to dislodge, to disrupt, to unearth, and that there are some discomforts that have no remedies, and there are some discomforts that require you to lean closer, work harder, and stay patient;

because progress need not (and cannot) be measured only in leaps and bounds, but in fits and starts as well, in conversations and moments;

because there are days when I am just so tired of the news, of conversations and workshops, of initiatives and symposiums, of poems and think pieces, of my own damn feelings...but all the fatigue in the world can never blind me or you to my worth and value;

because if you don't admit that or understand how power and prejudice intersect, then you cannot have an honest dialogue about racism;

because equivocation of historical facts pertaining to the centuries-long pattern of racism and oppression that most of the modern world is complicit in is a threat to true emancipation, and that hallowed, yet to be realized promise of Liberty;

because I experience, to this day, racism from well-meaning acquaintances and friends, on both large and small scales (let alone strangers), and reminding myself that Black Lives Matter is a coping mechanism for these inevitabilities, however minor or major in scope;

because the total sum of racism I have experienced in my life is tempered by certain facets of privilege, such as color, class, wealth, education, and social capital, but uttering Black Lives Matter is not a statement only for myself, but for the many who endure more than I ever have or ever could;

because white fragility is the constant course correction against any progress people of color attempt to make or seek, and the depths of its roots in our society make its weeding a painful affair for all parties involved;

because silence is an enabler of injustices;

because American culture extols mobsters and vilifies thugs, and these coded words transmit clearly even through a firewall of hypocrisy;

because it is dishonest to discuss poverty, housing and educational disparities, healthcare access, and so much more without honestly grappling with the scope and benefits of the G.I. Bill, the New Deal, redlining, and the institutional barriers of Jim Crow, "separate but equal," mass incarceration, or the way "criminality" has been continually and faithfully revised time and again to whatever threats black bodies pose to Whiteness;

because the conversation over entitlements has been so perverted against minority groups, explicitly and intentionally excluded from access to the many forms of capital in our society, that the very idea of merit and meritocracy has become nearly meaningless;

because students at my school wear bracelets and buttons emblazoned with Black Lives Matter, and these displays remind me that messages of love and affirmation will always find homes in the hearts of the compassionate;

because I too wish racism and bias and hatred were easy to disregard or ignore, that not seeing a problem were a possibility, that it could really make it go away, but I am smarter than that, and inequality is not a mere daydream from which to awaken;

because I don't always actually say it, or write it, or type it, but it is no less on my mind and heart for lack of oral or written articulation, and that my actions and way of being in the world, hopefully, are expressions in themselves;

because black lives do matter—they always have, and they always will.

Cameron BarnettComment