How I learned to embrace ‘Black Lives Matter’

Sean McCarthy,
Staff Writer

I used to say “All Lives Matter” and supported police when they used lethal force. I always sided with the police because I was raised to respect law enforcement. I grew up supporting the police and put them on a pedestal.

When Mike Brown was shot by Officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri in Aug. 2014, some people said that his hands were up. Others said he had assaulted a store clerk prior to being shot. My first thoughts were, “What did he do to get shot? He must have done something.” I held that thought for every death of a Black man for a few months. I often categorized young Black men as criminals and assumed police were always right. I was wrong. I was blind to what was really happening and was torpid to change.

Oddly, the death of Latino male Alex Nieto was the catalyst to change my perception on the Black Lives Matters movement. He was a 28-year-old man who grew up 15 minutes away from where I lived in San Francisco and his death resonated deeply with me. On Mar. 21, 2014 Nieto was shot at 59 times by the police while he ate a burrito at Bernal Hill Park in San Francisco, his childhood neighborhood, according to The Guardian.

Nieto worked as a nightclub bouncer and carried a taser for work. A pair of white males who had recently moved to San Francisco called 911 on Nieto, thinking he was a threat. I did not know much about the case until late 2015, but when I saw a young man my age murdered based on preconceived notions of ethnic males, my eyes opened.

Race relations in America have been turbulent at best this year as the result of recent police brutality. In 2016 alone, there were 151 Black people killed by the police, according to “The Counted,” a database maintained by The Guardian that tracks people killed by police in the U.S. Numbers 135 and 136 belong to Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, respectively, who were both murdered within 24 hours of each other on July 5 and 6, according to the Huffington Post. Sterling possessed a handgun in Louisiana, an open-carry state, and Castillo was licensed to conceal-carry in Minnesota. He disclosed to police that he had a gun right before the police murdered him.

The Guardian reported 299 white people were killed by police this year. Although the number of Black people killed by police only amounts to 50 percent of whites, Blacks only populate 13.3 percent of the nation, while whites make up 77.1 percent, according to the 2015 U.S. Census Bureau. If the roles were reversed and Blacks made up 77.1 percent and whites 13.3 percent, there would be 875 Blacks murdered today and 51 whites.

As protests have spread across the nation, the Bay Area has been a physical and vocal force in the Black Lives Matter movement. On July 7 and 15, BLM members in Oakland blocked all freeway lanes on I-880 in protest, which caused up to three-hour traffic delays. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and Antioch Mayor Wade Harper both held vigils over the July 8 weekend for both the slain Black men and police officers.

On July 8, Micah Johnson, a black man and former army reservist, killed five police officers in Dallas, Texas. Dallas Police Chief David Brown revealed at a July 8 press conference that Johnson told police negotiators during a standoff that he wanted to kill white officers in response to the recent police shootings.

Although members of the BLM movement and Castile’s mother called for unity through troubled times, not all people are on board with BLM. “It’s inherently racist because, number one, it divides us. All lives matter. White lives, Black lives, all lives,” former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said on the CBS show, Face the Nation, on July 10.

“All Lives Matter” is a phrase used by people who feel that BLM is exclusive to them. These people think that BLM puts more value on Black lives over the lives of whites, Latinos, Asians or Middle Easterners. I used to be one of these people, but I realized that that sentiment is simply not true and only takes away from the BLM movement.

All Lives Matter supporters are usually aligned with the Blue Lives Matter sentiment, which defends police officers to a fault. Blue Lives Matter came about in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. They claim that if an officer feels that a suspect is any form of a threat, such as “resisting arrest,” that the officer has the right to use lethal force.

It is entirely possible for people to support the BLM movement and support police. Most police officers are great people and do provide an amazing service to citizens. It is not easy to be a police officer and it is not easy to always be under a microscope for the actions of other officers. However, the police are supposed to be our protectors and should be held to a higher standard than ordinary citizens.

The statement, “All Lives Matter” takes away from the plight of Black Americans. Black Lives Matter doesn’t mean that only Black lives matter, but that there are a disproportionate number of Black men being killed by police. All Lives Matter supporters need to realize that BLM does not mean that other people do not matter, it simply means that we need to examine this issue and rectify what is wrong with it.