Turn on the news. Check your Facebook, Twitter account, or maybe just check out what’s happening on Buzzfeed or Reddit. Black Lives Matter vs. Blue Lives Matter. A popular narrative of black vs. white mentality.
If you haven’t been living under a rock the past 4 years, I’m certain you are familiar with the slogan “Black Lives Matter”. It it known as a hashtag, the “new social justice movement” (Ruffin), and a self proclaimed “call to action to rebuild the Black liberation movement” (Garza). The “Black Lives Matter” movement came to fruition after the contested death of 17 year old African American Trayvon Martin. The acquittal of Martin’s killer George Zimmerman sparked an out cry of injustice throughout the African American community and various minority groups alike. Black Lives Matter cofounder Alicia Garza described the movement as:
“#BlackLivesMatter is a call to action and a response to the virulent anti-Black racism that permeates our society. Black Lives Matter is a unique contribution that goes beyond extrajudicial killings of Black people by police and vigilantes.” (Garza)
The public outcry was echoed following the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, and Tamir Rice. Discussions of racial profiling, police overreach, lack of training, civilian vigilantes, and biased laws became the topic of every major news station and popular news articles. Safety of the African-American community was called in to question and protestors rallied for change.
In 2014 the counter slogan “Blue Lives Matter” grew in popularity after the death of Michael Brown by officer Daren Wilson and the protests and riots that followed in Ferguson, Missouri. The “Blue Lives Matter” website describes the historical events leading to the creating of Blue Lives Matter as:
“The media catered to movements such as Black Lives Matter, who’s goal was the vilification of law enforcement. Criminals who rioted and victimized innocent citizens were further given legitimacy by the media as “protesters….Personal responsibility for one’s actions went away, replaced by accusations of racism and an unjust government” (BlueLivesMatter.org)
Propelling the “Blue Lives Matter campaign” were the 2014 deaths of New York Police Department officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu by Ismaaiyl Abdullah Brinsley. Blue Lives Matter cited Brinsley as a “fanatic who believed the lies of Black Lives Matter, the media, and politicians” (BlueLivesMatter.org). Rallies to support law enforcement were held across the country. Displays of American flags, blue and black bumper stickers, and signs in front lawns grew in popularity.
These historical movements quickly exploded over social media sparking debates between seemingly everyone: family members, friends, scholars, social activists, politicians, and celebrities. It appeared that lines in the sand were drawn as to which campaign was more deserving of public support and justification. The major fallacy projected by media either supporting or defaming these social justice movements is that to be a member of one is to hate the other. Comedy Central’s Daily Show Host Trevor Noah explained this phenomenon as:
“It always feels like in America, it’s like, if you take a stand for something, you automatically are against something else…You shouldn’t have to choose between the police and the citizens that they are sworn to protect. If you’re pro- Black Lives Matter, you’re assumed t be anti-police, and if you’re pro-police then surely you hate black people. It seems that it’s either pro-cop and anti-black or pro-black and anti-cop when in reality you can be pro-cop AND pro-black, which is what we should all be”
Two movements supporting various sides of the same piece of violent American history. Just hours ago we have another piece added to this narrative. Five police officers were shot and killed in Dallas, Texas by a sniper at what started out as a peaceful protest for the shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. The Black Lives Matter campaign released a statement on twitter stating “#BlackLivesMatter advocates dignity and justice, and freedom. Not murder”. It poses the question of how will American history remember this act of violence? Will the recent strong of police related deaths and now murder of several police officers continue to separate us in Black vs. Blue? Or can we find common ground and allow these horrible acts to create a positive narrative and be a catalyst for change?
Garza, Alicia – “A Herstory of the #BlackLivesMatter Movement,” http://www.blackpast.org/perspectives/black-lives-matter-growth-new-social-justice-movement#sthash.lshkkn2q.dpuf
Ruffin II, Herbert G. “Black Lives Matter: The Growth of a New Social Justice Movement – http://www.blackpast.org/perspectives/black-lives-matter-growth-new-social-justice-movement
Authors Unknown “History” – http://www.bluelivesmatter.org
Noah, Trevor. “Comedy Central, The Daily Show”.