Debunking the stigmas of Black Lives Matter

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Photo submitted by Cornelius Rish

Cornelius Rish and Stillwater Area High School students at the Stillwater Bridge protest for Black Lives Matter. Dressed in Black Lives Matter attire, the activists are fighting for another life lost at the hands of the police.

Recently during the school day, there have been walkouts in support of Black Lives Matter and Back the Blue. As police brutality and hate towards black Americans have become exposed by the media, the Black Lives Matter movement has been prominent now more than ever. With the growth of Black Lives Matter, there have been misconceptions and stigmas that have surrounded the influential movement. This false information causes people to stray from the real purpose of Black Lives Matter.

The Black Lives Matter organization was created to eradicate white supremacy and prevent violence inflicted upon Black communities. After the murder of George Floyd and other black lives taken by the police, the Black Lives Matter movement has grown tremendously in the public eye. However, people have grown uncomfortable with the movement and its messages because discussing race is a very sensitive topic. It further perpetuates why people are uncomfortable, because they believe the misinformation of what Black Lives Matter stands for.

White people love white people,” junior Maxine Osei said. “They stick to what they love.” 

When speaking about Black Lives Matter, stigmas and misconceptions surround the movement whenever someone speaks about it. These misconceptions range from saying the movement is anti-white, criminalistic or even a terrorist organization, causing the movement to gain a bad reputation. This gives the movement a bad connotation and strays from the real message Black Lives Matter is trying to pass on.

For Cultural Liaison Cornelius Rish, there have been stigmas that Black Lives Matter is a terrorist group or that it is violent or that they do not like white people. Rish has heard that they [BLM] want to kill all white people and that they just look out for black folks, and do not care about anybody else. 

One of the most popular stigmas surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement is that it is anti-white and does not care for other races. Each movement has a targeted group of people. In this case, Black Lives Matter is fighting for the lives of Black Americans in a space where white supremacy is still present. Black lives need to be able to matter so all lives can matter.

“Black Lives Matter exists for a certain purpose. As an organization that exists for a certain purpose and the example that I use is Apple. They make cell phones, they do a great job of making cell phones right. But why doesn’t Apple make pizza? They can make money doing that too! But that’s not Apple’s purpose,” Rish said. “Black Lives Matter often gets criticized because one focuses on predominantly black people. The reason why it does that is because historically for 400 years, black people have been discriminated against. So when we talk about the amount of oppression in this country outside of the Native Americans, black people have been the most oppressed people for so long.”

A stigma that has become prevalent in the media is how Black Lives Matter is trying to dismantle the police system to break the law freely. As police brutality has become exposed with the use of social media, the horrors of being Black in America have been broadcasted across the country. Just because Black Lives Matter is fighting the corrupted police system, doesn’t mean they are overthrowing the law entirely. With the countering movements of Black Lives Matter and Back the Blue, there have been conflicts even our school has witnessed.

In Osei’s eyes, she has never thought that in her whole life. “I’ve always seen BLM as a peaceful protest. I don’t think that anyone is trying to break the law, I just think that we’re just trying to get treated the same as any white person.”

We just wanted to be treated like how white people are treated. With kindness and respect and equally, no life can matter until black lives matter. Which means until black lives are treated with kindness, respect, and equality, then no other life should be praised more than black lives.”

— Maxine Osei

To Osei, if you are a white person and you say “white privilege doesn’t exist,” then you are a part of the problem and that phrase in itself shows just how much privilege you have. In Osei’s eyes, no one is trying to overthrow the police. She thinks that if the police have killed so many innocent Black people, everyone is going to get frustrated and want to do something about it.

Another stigma that has been repeatedly shared around is that the Black Lives Matter movement is an excuse to loot and steal. Although during the protests for George Floyd and Daunte Wright there were lootings, those were separate entities. Outside groups tried to put the movement in a bad light. The Black Lives Matter movement is about the fight for Black lives, yes there may be a bit of truth to the looting, but the movement is not an excuse for people to break the law.

“To me, those types of arguments are ridiculous,” Rish said. “It takes away from what we all know to be true. What we should know to be true. Matter of fact, they have white people on video throwing trash cans and windows and starting to ruckus. All the leaders of the Black Lives Matters movement were at home, they left. Black Lives Matter was not involved in that, but people label and put it on our organization because they were the one that were leading the protests. But even so, there were people in the community that took advantage of the situation. And that’s unfortunate but that type of stuff happens. The movement, and what the movement is about is completely separate from what happened with the riots and what happened with the lootings.” 

Yes, all lives do matter. However, no lives can matter until Black lives matter. Everyone deserves to live in a world where they do not fear being killed because of their skin color, and right now, Black Americans do not live in a world like that. How can someone preach “All Lives Matter” but ignore how the Black community is dying at the hands of the police? 

As Rish explained, it is like having a dirty kitchen but saying the rest of your house is clean. Although your house is clean, your kitchen is still dirty. You cannot ignore it! Just like how you cannot ignore Black lives.

Being able to educate oneself is one of the most powerful things human beings can do. By learning more about movements such as Black Lives Matter, the community can become more immersed in what is right and wrong. Knowledge is power, and power is knowledge. Continue to support those in the Black community by being a supportive activist and knowing the real meaning of Black Lives Matter. When we come together as a group, we can make a truly powerful change.