All is not enough: Why 'Black Lives Matter'
There is a reason "Black Lives Matter" is important - as a movement, as a proclamation, as a sentence. It isn't because Black lives matter more than any other lives. It isn't because all lives don't matter. It is because that word "all" can be deceiving at times. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." When those words were written, that "all" wasn't inclusive.
I still support what our country aspired to be at its founding - but I am also keenly aware of the fact that our founders' vision of America didn't include my being free.
"All" is not enough when "all" has been used to exclude. That is why we get specific. That is why Black lives matter.
For much of our country's history, "all" didn't mean everyone. It didn't mean Native Americans. It didn't mean Black people. It didn't mean women. More recently, we've seen the need to get specific about religion, sexual orientation, mental illness, and all manner of categorisations that some have used to ensure that all are not included and afforded the same opportunities, access, or rights.
As monuments come under new scrutiny and some begin to fall, let us remember that it matters what we put on a pedestal. We humans don't have a great track record. We seem to like our history texts to read like comic books - with an obvious hero, a clear villain, and good winning over evil.
|It isn't because Black lives matter more than any other lives, and it isn't because all lives don't matter|
Well, that's not how history works. Much of American history (as it's often taught) presents the colonists as "the good guys," and shows everyone with white skin getting to join the winning side.
Such biased accounts of history fail to illuminate the harsher realities of revolution, slavery, or genocide. Because before they were patriotic, they were treasonous. America wasn't discovered, it was taken. Time and time again we see that quite often the victor is the villain. But since they're also the ones who write the history books, a lot of evils get swept under the rug.
Anyone yearning for the days of the Confederacy and sad to see its monuments fall, what exactly are we arguing about? The only thing "nostalgic" southerners aren't allowed to have any more is slavery (and everything slavery-adjacent).
It matters who you honour. It matters who you elevate. It matters who gets a pedestal - and it matters when. You can teach history without venerating anyone. Heritage needs honesty, otherwise it's just fairy tales.
Read more: TNA Webinar Video: Beyond Minneapolis, #BlackLivesMatter shines a light on global racism and police brutality
The truth of the matter is, America has yet to be great for all its citizens. And even the notion of who gets to be a full citizen has caveats. In this land of the free, we have put limits on the liberties of our own. Consider how we reacted after Pearl Harbor and 9/11. We have erected obstacles to land ownership, apartment rental, small business loans, and adequate education that have disproportionately hindered Black and brown bodies.
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness have not been realistically accessible to all in this country - not ever and not now, as we're seeing.
For proof, you need only look at the higher mortality rate of Black women during childbirth, and people of colour who contract Covid-19. You need only consider the longer prison sentences of Black and brown men compared to white men found guilty of the same crime. For people of colour, life and liberty are literally harder to come by.
I say this as someone who loves America and wants to see it live up to its ideals. I say this as someone who is both overwhelmed with disappointment in my country and full of hope for it.
|For much of our country's history, 'all' didn't mean everyone. It didn't mean Native Americans. It didn't mean Black people. It didn't mean women|
Patriotism does not require blind loyalty. America is flawed. It was built on an incomplete promise. There are cracks in every branch of government. There is rot in every institution. Pretending the problems aren't there only ensures that they persist. Now is the time for us all to work together, but first we must all be honest.
Aabye-Gayle D. Francis-Favilla is an editor and writer from New York who focuses on matters of gender, mental health, and race. She is a graduate of the Nightingale-Bamford School and Wellesley College, and was on the editorial staff of Nickelodeon Magazine.
Follow her on Twitter: @Aabsofsteel
Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.