Separate but Still Unequal:Why Black Lives Matter is Separate From "BIPOC" Issues
Why “Black Lives Matters” is Not the Same as BIPOC: Separate and Still Unequal
With the 30 days of media attention for the deaths of several black men in America, both the names of the men and the name “Black Lives Matters” has seen an uptick in usage and attention not only in America but globally. As a black man in this country, I have a lot of emotions, both new and resurfaced. My most immediate and visceral reaction is resentment to the people that have taken this opportunity to address issues for “People of Color” as an entity. This feeling has roots in several issues. My experience has been that other people of color view us with as much indifference if not outright scorn as other unsympathetic or uneducated, biased individuals. One of the most illuminating conversations that I’ve had concerning the black condition ended in my friend, an Asian-American for whom I have immense respect saying, “Black people need to engage more in political discourse, get out and vote, go through the politics, etc. It’ll just take time and education, financial intelligence, and other steps before black people can get to the place that they want to be.” I remember being around 26 and returning from China; I was taken aback and angry primarily because it’s true! Black people do need to do all of those things. We have embraced the narrative of hopelessness and “vote with our dollars” without actually voting. In that way, I will always hold myself, my black brothers and sisters accountable. When black people controlled our dollars and directed them into our communities, it is undeniably true that black Americans’ financial position in the United States was stronger. This country was founded on the concepts of “possibility” and “opportunity.” These were methodically and intentionally stripped from black Americans in a way that is not shared by other people of color.
Black men and women were bred to be physically strong but mentally and emotionally stunted and emasculated. Their voices silenced in favor of the dollars for Slaveowners and their communities. It is an experience unique to Black Americans (about the United States) that were taught that we were property. This message is distinctly different from being taught that you are a “lesser” person because, in the end, you still retain your personage. We often underestimate the power in arriving of your own volition as many other people of color do within the United States. However, think of the power that comes in retaining your name when you come to this country, a clear and present link to others like you. When others come to this country (from any generation), they do so with the promise that they can achieve with hard work and doing the right things. That by putting in the effort, they’ll have the opportunity to succeed. Setting aside whether or not that is presently true, it’s not the lesson that we as Black Americans learn. We learn that we’ll have to work twice as hard for half as much because of the experience that our parents and grandparents have had with the “others.” Parents teach us about our first lessons. They are there for our first steps, our achievements, our failures, our disappointments, and our successes in a way that this country is not for Black Americans. Is it so unreasonable that we believe our parents and forbears over the narrative, especially when the story is continually proven to be untrue?
My second visceral response to being “lumped in” with other “People of Color” under the banner of Black Lives Matters is frankly the trend of this country to demonize the black experience and culture until it can be monetized or used to push forward an agenda. We see this with “curvy,” locks, fashion, various shades mirroring our melanin, the list goes on without any credit to black people or recanting of the narrative that painted blacks on the negative canvas. Once again, placing us in the position for our blackness to be used at our expense without remuneration.
I am not saying that black people and other people of color don’t share experiences, that would be ludicrous. I will concede that black people share experiences with other people of color, poor white people, middle-class white people, and even rich white people; I believe that is the human condition. We all share experiences. I am saying that black people deserve to own our pain, to be a part of the solution, and not to have to co-opt our pain with people who do not share the specific experience highlighted by the movement.
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