Opinion

Privilege Obscures the Message Behind Black Lives Matter

NYC action in solidarity with Ferguson. Mo, encouraging a boycott of Black Friday Consumerism.

There has been much racial tension in America lately. From police brutality to increased awareness of a very flawed justice system, communities of black Americans, who have been brutalized for their identities, are uniting to vocalize this unfair treatment.

In December 2011, Anthony Lamar Smith was involved in a police chase after an alleged drug deal, according to the Washington Post. The case was swept under the rug for nearly five years, until May 2016 when new evidence was found and Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce charged former Officer Jason Stockley with first-degree murder, according to St. Louis Magazine.

Brian Bianchi is the officer that pursued Smith, and Stockley is the officer that fatally shot Smith, according to an article by Vox.

During the pursuit, Stockley was overheard saying he was “going to kill this motherf—, don’t you know it,” according to the court document filed for the case. The document also claimed that Stockley told Bianchi to hit Smith’s car as the vehicle slowed.

Stockley was charged with first-degree murder in 2016 and claimed he was using self-defense, stating he felt he was “in imminent danger” during the December 2011 incident, according to an article published by AlJazeera.

However, the facts didn’t add up when evidence was presented by Stockley’s prosecutors allegedly showing he planted a gun in Smith’s car after he killed him, according to NPR. Not a trace of Smith’s DNA was found on the gun, yet the officer’s was. However, Judge Timothy Wilson ruled that the gun, a revolver, was apparently too large for it to not have been seen on video footage of the scene if it had indeed been planted. He further stated that prosecutors’ “argument that the presence of Stockley’s DNA and the absence of Smith’s DNA on the gun proves the gun was not in Smith’s possession but must have belonged to and been planted by Stockley is refuted by the State’s own witnesses,” according to NPR. Stockley testified that the absence of DNA on an item doesn’t mean a person hasn’t touched it.

Stockley’s case was a bench trial, meaning it was decided by the judge of the court instead of a jury, according to AlJazeera. I think Stockley wanted the decision to be made by Judge Timothy Wilson, a 70 year-old white male, rather than a jury — which surely would be predominately black because of the area.

When Stockley was acquited on Sept. 15, it was the last straw for many people of color. The black community in particular continues to be stomped on and given no justice whatsoever, even when there is proof, even when there is video, even when Stockley was allegedly recorded saying that he’s about to kill a man.

Events such as what happened with Smith are the precise reason Black Lives Matter exists. It’s a movement that advocates for justice and fair treatment of all members of the black community. So, when “All Lives Matter,” is used as a retort to Black Lives Matter’s cause, it’s actually extremely offensive as well as privileged, specifically white privileged, to say. It’s a phrase used by people who have never been oppressed for their identity by attempting to tell the oppressed how to fight for equality.

Dr. Frances E. Kendall, a nationally known consultant who has studied white privilege for more than 35 years, cites writer Dr. Peggy McIntosh’s definition of white privilege from her 1988-89 papers, “White Privilege and Male Privilege.”

Kendall writes, “Those of us who are white usually believe that privileges are ‘conditions of daily experience… [that are] universally available to everybody.’ Further, [McIntosh] says that what we are really talking about is ‘unearned power conferred systematically.’”

In other words, privilege can often be invisible for those who have privilege until they are immediately confronted with its systemic imbalances.

“For me, my privilege is most visible when I have to interact with law enforcement or some type of authority,” Loyola first-year student Hannah Fuller said. “Seeing that people treat me or talk to me differently, with more respect and less hesitation than my friends of color.”

White culture is set as a sort of “default” in American society. A few small examples of these hidden privileges are “nude” bandaids, typically being closer to white skin tones, or complimentary shampoos at hotels generally being catered toward white hair types. More serious examples of white privilege include not having to worry about one’s skin color affecting things such as other people’s perception of his or her financial responsibility, style of dress, public speaking skills or job performance. Furthermore, white privilege allows those of lighter skin tones to possess the luxury of not being profiled, harassed or pulled over by security personnel or law enforcement officers based on their race, according to the an article by Teaching Tolerance.

Individuals must recognize their privileges and use those privileges in order to help those who don’t share those same luxuries.

Believing that all lives truly do matter means an individual believes everyone, regardless of race, sexuality, gender, economic stance, geographical location and every factor in between, is meant to be treated fairly. Unfortunately, everyone is not treated fairly at this point in time. “All Lives Matter” shouldn’t be used as a rebuttal to “Black Lives Matter,” because black lives are in jeopardy day in and day out because of those who take one glance at the color of our skin and profile us, stereotype us and assume all sorts of harmful, preconceived notions.

“The idea isn’t to negate the fact that other lives matter, because they do. But Black Lives Matter is to emphasize the fact that black lives do matter, too,” said Loyola first-year and woman of color Jessica-Carol Wilbur. “It’s a shame that such a movement has to exist in 2017, but the fact that some do not understand or choose to be ignorant to the need for it, clearly shows why Black Lives Matter is important.”

Perhaps the better response to someone who touts “All lives matter,” is that all lives will not matter until black lives do as well. All I ask is you understand that, and if you truly believe all lives matter, you need to support black people’s efforts to be treated equally and justly.

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