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Black Lives Matter or Do All Lives Matter: Critical Essay

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There is a significant statistical difference between the numbers of black and ethnic individuals in comparison to white individuals. The 2011 census report showed that 86% of the population in and Wales identified as white and only 3.4% identified as being black and 6.8% as Asian i.e., Pakistani, Indian, Bangladeshi, other (White, 2012). This shows how white is the dominant ethnic group which can lead to some individuals believing that they are the superior group. Throughout history, it has been portrayed in the media and throughout society that people from a white superior background are superior. But is that because they haven't had to face many struggles like someone from a black ethnic background would have experienced? What is meant by this is people from a white ethnic background have this characteristic of 'white privilege'. White privilege is an unseen and unconscious advantage (Collins,2018) that white individuals get just because of their skin tone. Some examples include seeing people from their race being widely represented in the media, never being asked to speak for all people from their racial group, and not having negative conations around your ethnic group (McIntosh, 1988). The media plays a big role in highlighting this idea of white privilege while portraying other ethnic groups in a negative light, they do this by the use of tabloid headlines, using negative words to describe them, or using stereotypes to help create this negative idea of them. For example, a recent news article reads 'Christmas shoppers warned to be more vigilant as terrorist may be emboldened by recent attacks' (Dearden, 2021). This then paints those from ethnic backgrounds negatively as when they are out in public, they will feel more watched by others as they are stereotyped to be 'the terrorist type'. Because of this it then makes life ten times harder for people from these ethnic backgrounds because they constantly feel like they are justifying themselves to white individuals. In recent years the Black Lives Matter movement has become more highly recognized. This movement is about to try and eradicate white supremacy and to stop black individuals from being the target of state violence (Halstead,2016), However, some people believe this movement shouldn't just focus on one particular group and that's when the All-Lives Matter phrase comes in, which some individuals use to mask their racist views. Throughout this essay the topics that will be discussed to help critically evaluate the phrase all lives matter in relation to hiding white privilege includes; the formation of identities where did the idea of race come from, how that influences attitudes and behaviors about race, the concept behind all lives matter and black lives matter, how history influenced this movement and how does social media influence movements around race.

Race is used as a mechanism of social stratification and the main form of human identity is quite a recent concept in human history (Smedley, 1998) the 'white race' was invented after the Bacons' revolution in 1676, which was made by the ruling class as a social control mechanism. The ruling elite deliberately instituted a system of racial privileges it establishes the white race however, this was the downfall of African Americans and other ethnic groups (Allen, 2012). This highlights the formation of white privilege and how from the start it was imposed to hinder those from other ethnic backgrounds. This idea of race then developed even more into the seventeenth century with the rise of the slave trade. For two centuries slave labor became the engine of The economy (Britain's forgotten slave owners: profit and loss, 2015), slave owners weren't just aristocrats they were people from the middle class or even the lower middle class. However, the majority of slave owners were white as they were the more 'superior' race and had the power to control the black slaves. This idea of power becomes prominent in the concept of race, in particular the idea of white individuals having more power than other ethnic groups. When this idea of race came into human history it brought a hence of powerful importance to the meanings of physical differences (Smedley, 1998). Some Europeans were fixated on pointing out the differences between the different races and even exaggerating their finding. For example, Sarah Baartman's (Venus Noire) was a subject of objectification in the 1800s, when white men would parade her around Europe so that white individuals could stare at and mock her body (Ashley, 2021). By showing her around Europe it was meant to highlight the differences between the black and white species. This then created the idea that those from different racial backgrounds were lesser forms of human beings and they were inferior to those from white backgrounds (Smedley, 1998). These individuals were enslaved in relation to the lowest-status groups within the society. Highlighting how the idea of 'them and us' came into existence, which is still very much seen in today's society the view of seeing those from different racial backgrounds as inferior is still ingrained into white individuals' minds, which can relate to where this idea of All Lives Matter comes from.

White individuals have never had to pay attention to race they were not the norm or the odd one out in society. Being white is not an issue because it blends into the cultural background of society (Halstead,2016) it also only exists because of historic racism and biases (Collins,2018). However, this is not a privilege that black or ethnic individuals get to experience as they are constantly reminded about their blackness within society.

To understand what 'All Lives Matter' is and the message behind it first you need to understand what 'Black Lives Matter' means. No one once said 'All Lives Matter' before individuals said BLM so that then makes ALM a response to this (Halstead,2016), it is also a negative response. 'The Black Lives Matter phrase is one used to highlight the terrible hate crimes, violence, segregation, and discrimination that black individuals have to face every day. Because as a society individuals act like Black lives don't matter and even law enforcement institutions such as the police act like they don't matter (Halstead,2016).

Black Lives Matter isn't a new movement black individuals have been fighting for the same equal rights and treatment as white individuals for years. The civil rights movement which took place in the 1950s60s was a key moment in black history. One example of the way black individuals were treated was during the little rock nine movements. In 1954, the united states supreme court made segregation illegal in public schools, however in 1957 central high in Little Rock asked for black student volunteers to attend a segregated high school (Fitzgerald, 2007). They were known as the little rock mob they attended the school for a few weeks but had to be removed because of racial hate and violence towards them. However, even though they had to be removed this brought much-needed attention to the issue, why should white students get a better education than black? This shows that idea of white privilege was even present then, as white children never had to worry about going to school and getting racially abused or treated differently because of their skin color.

This is still relevant today within the education division. For example, in Universities in Wales, studies show that there are a reduced amount of offers being given to students from black or ethnic backgrounds. Dr Jason Arday commented on these figures saying it is 'systematically disadvantaging particular minority groups through the unconscious bias of admission teams' (Beltaji and Lewis, 2021). So even though the movement has progressed in recent years there is still a racial and discrimination problem present within modern-day society. Hence, why the BLM movement is so obviously important but hasn't yet been historically realized fully.

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So 'All Lives Matter' then creates an issue as it takes away all the meaning from systemic racism and black lives it distracts from the real meaning of the message (Yang and Butler, 2015). People who use the saying normally fall into two groups they either misunderstand the saying and the main message behind it which is that not all lives are understood to matter which is why it's more important to identify the groups that need more representation and ways to make them feel equal. Or they are racist and are just hiding behind this idea of white privilege. Because when white individuals say 'All Lives Matter' they mean 'White lives matter' because white individuals automatically relate all lives to white lives (Halstead,2016). This automatic response from white individuals to think like this is from history, as in the past white individuals saw blackness as deviant from the human or a threat to the human (Yang and Butler, 2015). So, this makes it very easy for White individuals to automatically segregate them or treat them differently, or even act differently around them. By pushing the slogan of 'All Lives Matter' they can easily mask their racist intentions by saying they believe all lives are equal while they play ignorant to the obvious racial discrimination that black individuals face daily.

Black and ethnic minority groups are always being reminded that they aren't as important as a white individual (Halstead,2016). This can be shown through several life experiences, for example, if you come from a black minority background you are three times more likely to be unemployed, more likely to be stopped and searched, more likely to experience physical restraint from the police, and also more likely to live in poverty (Bhopal and Alibhai-Brown, 2018). Not only does this mean they are facing economic barriers which can put them in neighborhoods they might not feel safe living in. But it also shows the individuals who are meant to keep society 'safe' are targeting black groups and using violence. This can be seen a lot in the USA when police are shooting down innocent black men and women. And why? Because they say that they felt 'threatened'. In 2015 1,134 black men were killed by US police which was 5 times higher than white men who were the same age (Bhopal and Alibhai-Brown, 2018). The concept of white privilege again is seen here as the two individuals could be doing the same thing or acting the same way but only one will 5 times more likely be shot and why? Because the color of their skin is different.

Police officers use their racial knowledge which is the idea that individuals already have a library of social knowledge about others that gives them a framework for how to think and treat them (Wright and Wallace, 2016). However, this racial knowledge isn't always correct and is often based on stereotypes of the different ethnic communities. Many white individuals see young Black males as violent and menacing street thugs with guns or weapons (Welch, 2007) and when talking about crime many assume that black individuals would be involved. However, this isn't always the case, for example, 25% of the black individuals killed in 2015 were unarmed compared to 17% of unarmed white individuals (Bhopal and Alibhai-Brown, 2018). So statistically white individuals were more of a threat to the police but weren't killed because of their white privilege. So, this idea of white privilege can even help with life-or-death situations and it shows how even if black individuals didn't do anything or weren't armed, they are at a disadvantage just because of their skin tone.

A recent example of racial violence towards George Floyd - a black man who begged for his life while a white police officer dug his knee into his neck for 9 minutes until he finally passed away (NEWS, 2021). This case helped gain the #BLM movement media coverage and attention which helped get out the message that the black minority wants their people to stop being intentionally targeted just because of the color of their skin and want to be treated equally. It also helped show the struggles that they were facing on a daily basis. But why after years of cases similar to this one were people finally standing up for the black community? One reason could be that due to the video of George's death circulating in the media, they couldn't hide from the reality that these individuals face daily. They couldn't argue with the facts and they had the face their shame and guilt head-on.

The use of social media played a huge role in this particular case, this is because platforms such as Twitter and Facebook gave activist groups a chance to broaden the movement's impact (Noman, 2020). Social media also helps to shape the discourses on the issues that the social movements are making. It enables people to do grand or small gestures that both help the movement. For example, #blackouttuesday was introduced on Instagram and it helped raise awareness for the BLM movement. Individuals took to Instagram to show their solidarity with the cause by posting a black square on their timeline with the #BlackLivesMatter or #Blackouttuesday hashtag. With doing this it meant the individual was not to post anything else that day and instead take the time to think about how non-black individuals benefit from structural racism (Noman, 2020) By millions of individuals doing this brought more attention to the movement and helped educate those who didn't understand.

In conclusion, most white individuals find new discrete ways of being racist even though there are still racist organizations such as the KKK out there. Individuals participate in racism when they fail to see that it exists, they say unintentionally racist things such as when a black woman straightens her hair 'omg your hair is normally so puffy', and individuals who use sayings like All Lives Matter. By doing these things they are blatantly ignoring the main issue which are black individuals saying BLM they aren't saying that they only matter, they are wanting the focus on BLM as black lives are the ones who face dangers due to their skin color. For example, no one is going to go to a Breast cancer event and say other cancers matter too. So, this shows how the main issue of the BLM movement to white individuals is because it involves black and ethnic minorities. The way the media presents black minorities also plays into this idea of blacks being the inferior face and they are still being faced with the same stereotypes as they were years ago. So, in many ways, things are getting better for example #BLM making more white individuals stand up and speak out against racism. But society still has a long way to go until both races are equal. This makes you wonder if will they ever be or if has history had too much of an influence on our society.

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Black Lives Matter or Do All Lives Matter: Critical Essay. (2023, September 19). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 3, 2024, from
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