The Black Lives Matter Middle Ground*

%22My+mask+represents...+my+blackness+and+the+hardships+I+have+to+deal+with+in+today%27s+society+which+has+shaped+me+into+who+I+am+today+%28a+strong+independent+black+woman%29%2C%22+Zaire+Payne+%28%E2%80%9822%29+said.+%22The+statement+shows+how+we+as+black+people+have+been+torn+down+and+how+our+words+are+not+enough+because+people+still+tear+us+down+no+matter+what+is+being+said.+This+mask+shows+my+personality+because+I+use+it+as+an+empowering+statement+showing+that+I+will+be+heard%2C+listened+to+and+never+taken+advantage+of+or+torn+down+because+of+my+skin+color.%22+

Sydney Swanson

“My mask represents… my blackness and the hardships I have to deal with in today’s society which has shaped me into who I am today (a strong independent black woman),” Zaire Payne (‘22) said. “The statement shows how we as black people have been torn down and how our words are not enough because people still tear us down no matter what is being said. This mask shows my personality because I use it as an empowering statement showing that I will be heard, listened to and never taken advantage of or torn down because of my skin color.”

The Tribe Staff, Writers

*The title and content of this article is not referring to the organization Black Lives Matter. Everything said is about the message “black lives matter” and has nothing to do with the actual organization itself. 

2020 has been a year full of big historical moments such as the Coronavirus, forest fires and even a World War III scare. However, one thing that is not something new is the message “black lives matter”. 

This year has seen a new surge of black lives matter protests following the death of George Floyd in May, and more and more people than ever before in United States history have come together to discuss racial injustice.  Naturally, the movement has been put under major scrutiny.

Not only has this movement been made known to almost every adult in the United States, but almost all teenagers are quite opinionated on this topic. So what exactly do these opinions look like, and how can we bridge the differences between these opinions?

In an optional survey, 71% percent of students said that they fully supported the Black Lives Matter movement. Some people think that the movement is misunderstood and therefore not supported.

“The Black Lives Matter movement is a movement that wants to create equality for blacks,” one student said. “The movement also wants to stop the killing of innocent black lives in this country. It doesn’t mean that other lives don’t matter; it just means that black lives matter as much as any other person and the death of blacks is what needs to be focused on at the moment. I support it completely, because as a young black woman growing up in America today, it would be amazing to see a change for my people. Racism is way more common than a lot of non-people of color notice and this movement could be educating a lot of people.”

Students also pointed out that being an ally of the black lives matter movement is just as important as participating in the movement for yourself. 

“I think it is very useful and should go down in history along with the many other [protests] we’ve seen like women’s rights, ” one freshman said. “People look at this and all they can say is all lives matter, but when did this help? When did that solve anything happening in the United States? The answer? Never. All it’s doing is suppressing black and ally voices to speak out about being equal. I find it terrible when one of my friends tells me stories on how they were followed, called the n-word, told: ‘you are pretty for a black girl’.  As a 14-year-old white female, I am already told what I can and can’t do because of gender, so imagine being oppressed for skin color. It never made sense to me. I find everything beautiful, but the one thing I don’t [find beautiful] is when people are racist. We can’t change the way we were born no matter ethnicity, sexuality or gender, so why can’t people accept that.”

Many believe this misunderstanding comes from the media and people who are using the movement to cause violence.

My opinion is that they are trying to get justice and peace for their community and there are people within this movement that are doing bad things, and the news only covers the bad parts of it so it makes the BLM movement seem like a bad organization,” one sophomore said.

Educating people about the movement is a start to finding the middle ground to end systemic racism.

“It’s a strong movement that needs to be heard so everyone can have equal rights in a country that doesn’t have as much freedom as everyone says,” another student said. “I strongly support this movement because there is corruption in the system.”

The students who showed support often pointed out that the phrase “black lives matter” is not meant to bring down any other race, even if the name is misleading. Rather, it is meant to show that black lives matter too

“It doesn’t mean that other lives don’t matter,” an anonymous student said.  “It just means that black lives matter as much as any other person, and the death of blacks is what needs to be focused on at the moment.”

Many believe that what is happening is wrong and has been a problem much longer than has been recognized by the public.

“I support the Black Lives Matter Movement one hundred and ten percent,” another student said. “What is happening in our country is wrong and I am proud of the voice people have used to make things right.  I read a sign at a movement that said ‘This isn’t a wake up call. Y’all just keep hitting snooze’, and that really felt about the most perfect thing to say about these times. We have come so far as a country, but there is so much we haven’t gotten to yet.”

When asked about their opinion of the movement, about 15% of the students who took the survey said that they do not support the movement. 

“The actual movement of black lives matter is no longer about equality,” one student said.  “It’s about pushing a political agenda. Within the United States, there is not a single right, liberty or freedom afforded to one demographic that is not afforded to another. The only racism left within the United States is social racism. There is no institutional/systematic racism left within the United States. Sure there may be a few corrupt people here and there, but that’s the person, not the system.”

While some feel the movement is inciting violence, others question the validity of protesting and wonder if the movement can actually make a change.

“I get that some people are racist, but protesting isn’t going to change their opinions,” another student said. “Black and white people already have equal rights. What more do they want? To have superior rights? Protesting isn’t going to make people not be racist. That happens with time. They need to be more patient.”

Another 13% of students who took the survey said that they agreed with the movement with some exceptions.

“I support the movement itself, but not necessarily all of their beliefs,” an anonymous student said. “I think there are still racial biases in our communities and in law enforcement, and there needs to be change, but I don’t think that change should be brought through looting, rioting and the defunding of the police.” 

In today’s political climate, these opinions tend to get people pretty angry at the other side. However, there is a way that we can create a middleground for people with differing views. 

We all know that on a general note, people want the best for everyone. It is important that we try to realize that words can be misleading and that we try to help the other side understand where we are coming from. Do not jump to conclusions or lash out. Just try to have a productive conversation and educate others and yourself on different topics. 

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