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Wednesday, July 8, 2020
Black Lives Matter If all lives really do matter, then why aren’t we acting like...

If all lives really do matter, then why aren’t we acting like It?

I was first introduced to the Black Lives Matter movement six years ago, in the wake of the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black man from Ferguson, Missouri, who was killed by local police. The uncensored images of Brown’s body lying on the ground, with a trail of blood trickling across the street from his body, are still seared into my memory.

But that was after I saw other images: A Washington Post reporter arrested for sitting inside a Ferguson McDonald’s. Then-St. Louis Rams wide receivers Tayvon Austin, Stedman Bailey, Kenny Britt, and Chris Givens, along with tight end Jared Cook, displaying the “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture as they walked out on the field to face the then-Oakland Raiders. And the dozens of marches that sparked across the country after a grand jury declined to indict Brown’s killer.

Before I saw Brown’s body crumpled on the street, I asked the same questions that so many of us still ask (or are afraid to ask aloud, but are still thinking): Shouldn’t all lives matter? Why should only black lives matter? Why should black lives matter more? What about me? Doesn’t my life matter, too? What about White Lives Matter? Asian Lives Matter? Native Lives Matter?

What seems so obvious to me now in 2020 seemed confusing, ridiculous, and even offensive just six years ago: If all lives really did matter, then there wouldn’t be a Black Lives Matter movement.

And yet six years later, even after all the image macros and strip comics, Reddit posts, analogies — and more — and more comics! — explaining the difference between “all lives matter” and “Black Lives Matter,” many of us still don’t get it.

If we truly believe that all lives matter, then we’re not acting like it. Because in practice, we’re acting as if they don’t.

We know this because we have the numbers. The facts. We’re not living in hypotheticals. We’re not basing this on conjecture. This is real.

And what do those studies tell us? Black people are much more likely to be pulled over than other people of color. Black people disproportionately fill our jails, more than any other minority. It is vastly more difficult for black people to get a job. To get approved for a loan. To receive federal aid for the coronavirus. To get treatment for the coronavirus. To climb the corporate ladder. To break into positions of authority. To earn as much as white people and even other minorities. Black people are more than twice as likely to live below the poverty line than whites or Asians. They’re less likely to earn a high school diploma than any other race except Native Americans, and less likely than any other race to earn an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree. The differences are even apparent in the way we look at each other.

And black people are far, far more likely to be killed by police than other minorities.

Knowing this, can we really say that all lives matter?

As an Asian American, I have the privilege of not thinking twice about the color of my skin when walking the streets, even as a minority. As an Asian American, I have the reasonable expectation that I will not be gunned down during a traffic stop. Or even with my hands up

Black people do not have this expectation.

I have the reasonable expectation of walking into a gated community and not having to worry about being gunned down in public. 

Black people do not.

I have the reasonable expectation that I will earn more than most minorities, even if my own race faces its own economic inequalities. 

Black people do not.

I have the reasonable expectation that I won’t be gunned down if I am ever attacked, even if I fight back.

Black people do not. 

I have the reasonable expectation that if I comply with the police, I won’t get shot

Black people do not.

I have the reasonable expectation that even if I do become violent against the police, I will be met with pepper spray and wrestling holds, and not with a bullet in my chest. 

Black people do not.

And I have the reasonable expectation that if I am unarmed and a police officer stops me, I won’t have to fear for my life.

Black people do not.

Do other people face these fears? Of course they do. Do they face them at the systemically induced rate that black people in America do? No.

Do I, as an Asian American, face discrimination? Of course. Does a Latinx person face discrimintation? Of course.

But do I, as an Asian American, face as much consistent, daily, and systemic racism as a black person in this country? No.

Despite being called every Asian slur known to humanity in my 20s, I never feared that my life would be lost because of racism. Did I fear that I was going to be beaten up? Yes. Did I fear I would get objects thrown at me? Yes. Did I fear that I was going to receive mean tweets? Yes. But did I fear for my life? No. To name the few cases that came to fruition against Asian Americans only serves to drive home the point.

That’s a privilege that, because of the color of my skin, I hold.

Perhaps that is where the disconnect lies. Perhaps when some of us hear “Black Lives Matter” we interpret it as “Black Lives Matter more than my Latinx life.” Or Asian life. Or white life. Or Native life. 

Perhaps we don’t hear that “Black Lives Matter, Too.” That just because I say “Black Lives Matter” doesn’t mean I believe that they matter more than other lives.

If there lives some hypothetical black protestor that truly believes that black lives matter more than white lives and other lives of color, then I’d love to meet them. Six years and dozens of interviews with protesters have told me that no such person exists.

Perhaps we don’t realize that we believe that all lives matter, but act as if black lives don’t.

If one of my two dogs is sick, then it is disingenuous for me to say that all my dogs are well. By definition, if one is sick, then all my dogs can’t be well. Even if I had one sick dog among 10 dogs. Or a hundred. Or a thousand.

Yet instead of looking into why Black Lives Matter even exists, some of us cry, moan, and whine that “our lives should matter too.” We ask for a “[insert my race here] lives matter” movement, as if social change will magically fall from the sky and into our laps.

And even when confronted by statistics, some of us reply with, “What about me?”

Talk about playing the victim.

If all lives really do matter, then we need to start acting like it. Because right now, we aren’t. Right now, we’re saying that all lives matter, but acting as if all lives don’t matter. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t see such a disparity between black lives and every other life.

Because until black lives really do matter, and we start acting like it, then by definition, all lives really don’t matter. 

And it’s incumbent upon all of us — white, Asian, Latinx, Native, and every other race — to act like they do.

 

 

Evelyn Chua for City Council 2020 FPPC #1425324

Lloyd Alaban
Lloyd Alaban
Lloyd Alaban is a reporter who has lived in Milpitas his entire life. He has a BA in Sociology from UC Santa Cruz and a MS in Journalism & Mass Communications from San Jose State University. He has written for publications such as AsianWeek, realtor.com, Work+Money, SpareFoot, Uni Watch and San Jose Inside. He’s also worked at tech companies like Yahoo! and Google, and has subbed at every public school in Milpitas — except Pomeroy. In his spare time, he likes playing anything that has to do with trivia (especially watching Jeopardy!), running, drinking beer, reading, and playing with his Siberian Husky.

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