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Sunday, June 16, 2024

One week ago, it was announced Darren Wilson would not stand trial for the death of an unarmed black 18-year-old named Michael Brown.

The failure to indict Wilson serves as a staunch reminder that our nation is far from being the post-racial society some would argue it is. The grand jury’s decision to not return an indictment demonstrates that in 2014, firing at least six bullets into an unarmed black body is not even worth further discussion, even when the incident is shrouded in conflicting evidence, witness testimony and shady police activity.

To put this all into perspective, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reports there were 162,000 federal cases in 2010. Grand juries failed to return indictments in only 11 of them. The chances of Wilson being indicted were more than 99 percent, yet he still avoided even having to defend himself in a trial for this now infamous shooting.

Many believe the decision is a grave injustice performed by our nation’s legal system. Others believe the grand jury’s decision was the right one, supporting that Wilson had the right to use lethal force on an unarmed 18-year-old because he felt his life was in danger. And still, some refuse to offer any opinion, and their silence — whether they know it or not — bolsters the status quo, saying the lives of people of color in this country matter less than the lives of white people.

The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter has garnered great popularity recently with members of the black community and their allies, who are using it to speak out against the systematic killing of black people in the U.S.

Some people, though, have felt left out by #BlackLivesMatter because they are not black. They argue that we shouldn’t be focusing on race as an issue in all of this and that we should be fighting for all lives because as the accompanying hashtag suggests, #AllLivesMatter.

While I wholeheartedly agree all lives matter, using #BlackLivesMatter is not a negation that other lives matter. The use of #AllLivesMatter does, however, detract from the issues being faced by black Americans today.

Comedian Arthur Chu, noticing how people were changing #BlackLivesMatter to #AllLivesMatter on Twitter, asked his followers if they would run through a cancer research fundraiser and shout out “THERE ARE OTHER DISEASES TOO.” This is, essentially, what the #AllLivesMatter argument is. It’s saying we should not focus on the specific problems the black community faces because there are other problems with the world.

No one is going to contest that the world is a place filled to the brim with problems. But the problems faced by specific communities deserve their proper time to be addressed. They deserve to be heard, just as all problems deserve to be heard.

The next time someone tells you they believe #BlackLivesMatter is an exclusionary statement, tell them it isn’t meant to be one. Their discomfort with the message is that it could very well be the first time they are ever receiving the message black lives do, in fact, matter. Because for the most part, we are all taught that life matters. But have you ever stopped to really give thought to what it means? It means black lives matter, brown lives matter, queer lives matter, trans lives matter, disabled lives matter and everyone else who you can think of matters, too.

If you believe all lives matter, and black lives are included in that “all,” then what is the issue with proclaiming that black lives matter?

#BlackLivesMatter is meant to remind mainstream society that black lives are members of that “all.” Your discomfort should not lie in a trending topic. Your discomfort should instead lie in the injustices happening in this country, forcing this reminder.

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[The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the Alligator.]

TehQuin Forbes is a UF sociology junior. His columns appear on Mondays.

[A version of this story ran on page 6 on 12/1/2014]

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