Notes on The Black Life Matters Campaign

In the wake of the decision of two separate grand juries not to press charges against Daniel Pantaleo and Darren Wilson for killing two unarmed black men I find myself lost. Even in the midst of a massive nationwide movement to end police brutality I can’t help but to feel out of place.

In my city of Oakland CA, there have been several successful demonstrations. On black Friday a small but highly committed group of black people shut down the West Oakland BART Station and just a few days ago there was a bold occupation of the Oakland Police Department which featured a coordinated raising of black fists in the air as well as the raising of a flag which included the faces of all the blacks senselessly murdered by white authority figures in the past couple of years.

All of these things are dynamic. All of these things are necessary, courageous, and beautiful. One thing, however, that overwhelms this black man in the midst of all of this positivity is the slogan on the banner of this particular manifestation of the human rights movement which reads BLACK LIVES MATTER.

How disheartening it is to have to remind people less than a month before the year 2015 begins that my life matters. I can’t help but to feel melancholy when I see a young black woman or man end a post on social media with the hashtag #blacklifematters. Do people need to remind themselves that they deserve to exist in the same vein that our parents and grandparents needed to remind themselves that black is beautiful? Or are people telling law enforcement/the system/the oblivious/the power structure that a black life is still a life? If that is the case then I am not sure that the power structure is being receptive to the message.

This strikes me a very peculiar act of desperation considering the time in which we live. It’s quite ironic that the current generation which is being raised on the bravado of hip-hop music, and that is massively addicted to posting selfies on facebook and instagram so that we can be reminded every day just how sexy we are would have to make a sign that promotes the controversial idea that our lives mean something.

How sad is it to have to confess to the world that beneath the Jordan’s, the Versace, the Mac Cosmetics, and the jewelry we feel worthless. That, because our court systems continues to validate our sense of nothingness, we have to remind you that we are not worthless. But what I find to be most disturbing about the BLACK LIVES MATTER campaign is the stinging notion in the back of my head that says that they really don’t. No matter how loud we scream and no matter how well we mobilize, our lives will never matter to a country that was founded on the idea that black life is and always will be dispensable—and that we are only of value when we are at the service of white people.

I try to silence this voice but I cannot. I am not sure if such pessimism has a place in any movement and please forgive me for what I am about to say but to try to get a man whose soul intention is to destroy me to see that my life matters seems rather absurd. If I as a human being have to waste my precious breath trying to convince someone else that my life matters then the conversation is not worth it.

-YB

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