Zainab Merchant is one of the co-hosts who tries to explain the importance of Black Lives Matters movement when it comes to fighting against and acknowledge racialized violence toward the collectivity of Black people in the USA. However, the other co-host named Hadi, gives an interesting analysis of “Black Lives Matter”. I think what is confusing to me is that Hadi believes that Black people should be saying “All Lives Matter” and proclaims that BLM is ‘dividing the country’ and that BLM is blowing “out of proportion,” the killing of a few Black people by police.
Hadi has a gross misinterpretation of the meaning and actions of the Black Lives Matter movement and phrase “Black Lives Matter.” Hadi keeps on pushing for Black people to use “All Lives Matter” instead. Well, all lives are supposed to matter, but it’s obvious it hasn’t (systemically, institutionally, historically) which is why “Black Lives Matters”, as a phrase, has been used to point this out. Black Lives Matter movement isn’t just about focusing on police brutality, but focusing on systemic racism and anti-Blackness in general and trying to eradicate it; making sure that the most marginalized of Black folk (like those incarcerated, transgender Black women, Black people with disabilities, etc) are treated humanely and fairly; that’s what the BLM site actually talks about. Yes, the police ‘brutalize’ everyone but there are clear differences racially (and class) and there is plenty of research showing this; it doesn’t mean Black Lives Matter is neglecting those realities, but rather, trying to bring awareness to the racial biases that show how Black people are generally perceived as ‘less than human’ and then treated accordingly. My husband is a white German and I never worry about him not coming back alive because of police brutality. Never. He doesn’t worry about it either. He knows he doesn’t have to. But I get to worry all the time about whether my twin brother or father will come back home alive– especially since both live in 95%+ white towns. As a matter of fact, I never worry about any of my white friends being victims of racialized violence by the police or other institutions of power. Never. Why would I have to?
Hadi is claiming that Black Lives Matter is ‘dividing’ the nation (But not systemic racism or white supremacy, right? It’s us BLM supporters who are ‘dividing’ the nation– not a white supremacist capitalist based racial caste system over the past 400 years. So let’s base this on the few media representations of BLM and ‘protesting’… Ok, got it!!! ). Hello, no one said white people don’t matter, but they have been collectively ‘humanized’ for hundreds of years in a way that Black people collectively have not been. Why are we even arguing about this, still, 400+ year later? (SPLC tried to explain the point of Black Lives Matter and I think they did a good job.) And Hadi asks, “What would happen if someone put together ‘White Lives Matter’ group?” Well, actually, they have and here are the predictable results.
And there is no deep interrogation of the Prison Industrial Complex in general or other forms of anti-Blackness that are reality in the USA during the dialogue. Actually, other than shaming Black people for not wanting to be treated like crap– due to systemic racism and anti-Blackness that this USA was built on, what was the point of Hadi’s analysis? Why is Hadi focusing on the few mainstream media depictions of BLM protestors that show them in ‘bad light’ versus the amazing work a lot of BLM activists, scholars, etc are doing? (And all those that came before doing Black Liberation and anti-racism work that non-white people like Hadi actually benefit from? It’s a continuum of social and restorative justice that all people will benefit from).
Of course the mainstream media is going to show us Black people opposing oppression as ‘dangerous’ and ‘anti-white’ vs. showing the work thousands are doing to end systemic oppression that screws everyone over. The mainstream media has done this since we protested being treated so badly– you know, like since ante-bellum slavery when we protested and/or fought against that and we were told we had a mental illness for protesting our enslavement by trying to run away? You know, since Reconstruction….? You know, since Jim Crow..? You know, since the Civil Rights movement….? Mainstream media is always depicting us as ‘dividing the USA’ or being ‘trouble-makers’ and ‘not knowing our place enough’ to keep the peace and let the white supremacist capitalist establishment just ‘do their thing!’ Martin Luther King Jr. was depicted by the media as a “troublemaker” back in the day. But 40+ years later he is held up as a ‘fine’ example of fighting for racial and class equality:
The reality is that, in his time, the man we honor today with a national holiday was divisive; to many, he was a troublemaker, to force the social change we now all celebrate. He challenged the social order of things and pushed people out of their comfort zones. When Dr. King arrived in many of the same cities for which a major street is now named for him, the Mayor and the Police Commissioner viewed his visit with dread and couldn’t wait for him to leave. (Source: https://blairopolis.wordpress.com/2015/01/20/mlk-was-a-troublemaker-and-his-dream-is-not-fulfilled/)
Zainab does offer to her cohost to be ‘more critical’ about how systemic racism and anti-Blackness operate…but Hadi has his statistics to prove that she and the rest of us Black folk doing anti-racism work are wrong and that there is no racial bias in policing and we’re just wasting our time and being ‘divisive’. He knows best because the statistics he reads from proves that us Black people are basically more pathological and commit more crimes and that, I repeat, there is no racial bias in policing or in the criminal justice system…in anysystem. (Let’s not interrogate how ‘white logic and white methods’ in gathering ‘statistical data’ about racial groups is quite biased towards upholding white supremacist notions of racialized subjects!) Who cares that Zainab is talking about implicit bias or that she brings up how racism is defined in terms or systems of power and prejudice (i.e., she bringing up context and history in how the dictionary defines racism and the significance that yes, white men wrote Merriam Webster with a white cisgendered man’s consciousness and ethical base). So, in a nutshell, “All Lives Matter” Brings the Country Together While “Black Lives Matter” (Not Systemic Racism) is “Dividing” Us? Ok, got it! Thanks.
Good to know that I had nothing to complain about the other month, when moving into my mostly white neighborhood, when the police had been called because I looked ‘suspicious’ (a Black pregnant woman moving boxes into her house). Apparently this had nothing to do with that caller’s potential conscious or unconscious biases about Black people being ‘suspicious’. (sigh). I’m not even supposed to bring that possibility up or even argue that if I had looked like Taylor Swift the police would not have been called because people who look like Swift belong in Albany CA. Oh, and by the way, let’s not forget that anti-Blackness in this country can affect you even if you aren’t Black but are read as Black. The Indian grandfather visiting his son in Alabama and new grandchild was misread as a Black man and was slammed to the ground and paralyzed. The logic being that a preemptive strike was needed against him to protect the mostly white neighborhood from this intrusive Black man walking in the neighborhood! Or what about the mother and daughter who were shot at by police 107 times delivering newspapers in their pickup because the police thought that a Black man was in the car?
Now I’ll go back to being ‘divisive’ and a ‘troublemaker’….
About Dr. A. Breeze Harper
Dr. A. Breeze Harper is a senior diversity and inclusion strategist for Critical Diversity Solutions, a seasoned speaker, and author of books and articles related to critical race feminism, intersectional anti-racism, and ethical consumption. As a writer, she is best known as the creator and editor of the groundbreaking anthology Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak on Food, Identity, Health and Society(Lantern Books 2010). Dr. Harper has been invited to deliver many keynote addresses and lectures at universities and conferences throughout North America. In 2015, her lecture circuit focused on the analysis of food and whiteness in her book Scarsand on “Gs Up Hoes Down:” Black Masculinity, Veganism, and Ethical Consumption (The Remix)which explored how key Black vegan men use hip-hop methods to create “race-conscious” and decolonizing approaches to vegan philosophies. In 2016, she collaborated with Oakland’s FoodFirst’s Executive Director Dr. Eric Holt-Gimenez to write the backgrounder Dismantling Racism in the Food System, which kicked offFoodFirst’s series on systemic racism within the food system.
Dr. Harper is the founder of the Sistah Vegan Project which has put on several ground-breaking conferences with emphasis on intersection of racialized consciousness, anti-racism, and ethical consumption (i.e., veganism, animal rights, Fair Trade). Last year she organized the highly successful conference The Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matterwhich can be downloaded.