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Monday, September 21, 2015

Which Lives Matter? My Life Matters. Black Lives Matters.

Dear Olivia,

You're going to have to excuse me, but this is going to be "another drop in the bucket of back-and-forth opinions" pieces you alluded to. I hope you read it.

First, and foremost, and, to be perfectly clear, the Black Lives Matter movement was sparked after the unarmed shooting and murder of Trayvon Martin in July 2013, and subsequently the acquittal of his killer, George Zimmerman.

Secondly, let's address your opinion that reducing the number of innocent people killed won't be solved by government policy because the "issue is too culturally pervasive"... although the Democratic front-runner, Hilary Clinton even said it herself: "I don't believe you change hearts, I believe you change laws."

Also to make sure you're properly informed of the issue, The Black Lives Matter movement actually published "Campaign Zero", a comprehensive 10-point plan that outlines current problems, proposed solutions, and provides through research to support each solution. Not only is the movement tackling the problem at it's source, but it's also holding the government responsible for the problem that it created!

Pick up a history book! Take an African American studies class! Look at the facts: Our Founding Fathers wrote Article IV, Section 2, of the U.S Constitution, which permitted the seizure and return of runaway slaves who escaped from one state into another, known as the Fugitive Slave Act. These same men considered Black slaves 3/5ths of a person (our President J. Wags knows all about this! Ask him).

Our government did not think my life mattered. Even today! Our government is solely responsibly for the School-to-Prison pipeline, which send a disproportionate number of Black students out of schools on suspensions or expulsions and into the juvenile justice system. Our government (specifically starting with Richard Nixon) is responsible for the War Against Drugs, which resulted in the increase of people of color incarcerated for nonviolent drug law offenses. Our government is responsible for "black men being six times as likely as all white men to be incarcerated in federal, state and local jails", according to a 2013 Pew Research Center study. Our government is responsible for "African American women being three times more likely than white women to be incarcerated, while Hispanic women are 69 percent more likely than white women to be incarcerated." Our government is responsible for voter laws--specifically felony disenfranchisement--denying 13 percent of African American men the right to vote.

I'm holding our government responsible for creating a broken system and doing barely ANYTHING to fix it. It's about time we hold them responsible for their institutionalized racism that they created.

All that aside, Black Lives Matter movement aims to address systematic racism at its core, but this isn't a "Black versus White" issue. Let me break this down:

1. We never made it a Black versus White issue. We only make up 13% of the population in the United States. 17% are of Hispanic origin. Why are these negative statistics leaning in our favor? Why does Lady Justice peep through her blindfold and automatically tip her scale because of my skin color?

2. Just because we're chanting "Black Lives Matter" doesn't mean we don't think other lives matter. Like Arthur Chu said:

3.  "Race is forced to matter." Well, duh! I didn't pop out the womb saying, "Fuck mom! Why'd you make me Black?! Now I gotta deal with daily microaggressions in daycare." Race matters because it's who I am. I'm proud to be a Black woman. I'm proud of my African and Caribbean heritage. I'm proud of my perfectly seasoned food and our amazing music. I'm proud with my naturally kinky hair, my wide nose,  and my gorgeous curves. Sorry, not sorry if that makes you uncomfortable.

4. So you're White and that somehow justifies your ignorance? I'm not one to stereotype but if the shoe fits...

5.  The whole "Birds of a Feather" thing. Yes, students usually tend to stick to what we're used to, but why did you only point out race? What about religious groups? What about LGBTQ groups? What about academic groups? Athletic groups? Fraternities and sororities? Since you're still a freshman, I understand that you probably haven't found that group of friends that are outside your comfort zone, but I challenge you to step outside of it every once in a while and truly experience what Emory and the Atlanta area has to offer. Also, it feels amazing to be surrounded by people who share a similar experience. That's why there are so many safe spaces on Emory's campus students can go to for support, advice, and to feel a sense of belonging among a group of like-minded people.

I'll end with this: never end an Op-Ed about race with a Martin Luther King, Jr. quote. Ever.


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