These have been the rallying cries from Black America for the past few months. I Can’t Breathe, became a well known phrase more recently after the Eric Garner non-indictment. In a more just world, chants like these would sound as silly as #TheSkyIsBlue and #WaterIsWet. But sadly, we have to affirm loudly and proudly that #BlackLivesMatter.
But what does the chant even mean? Black Lives clearly don’t matter to everyone. They matter to us. They don’t matter to police. They don’t matter to the majority of White Americans. They don’t matter to lawmakers. And I don’t endeavor to change that in this post. I want to talk to us. Black Lives mattering means more than just being alive. In the words of the mixed race philosopher Aubrey Graham, “Everybody dies but not everybody lives”. I thought of this yesterday and today.
On Christmas Eve at 2am, 3am, 4am, 5am and for the rest of the day the majority of my timeline on twitter was talking about Antonio Martin. We were talking about ways to not be killed by police. We talked about why we shouldn’t have to talk about this. But regardless, we were talking about it. We didn’t have the luxury or the privilege of just tweeting MERRY CHRISTMAS EVE! Nobody was in a Christmas spirit. Nobody talked about gifts. And even those of us incredibly aware of the psychological importance of unplugging from time to time were glued to our screens while the Chief of St. Louis Police Jon Belmar continued to lie to us and display an offensive lack of empathy. We spent Christmas Eve mourning. We spent it in fear. We spent it frustrated. We spent it fatigued. We spent it on the defensive. That’s not living. That’s not life.
Black Lives mattering means happiness. As Black men and women, our happiness is revolutionary. To live proudly, happily, and without preface or apology is an act of rebellion. To declare #BlackLivesMatter and to push back on anyone who tries to say #AllLivesMatter is important. (More on that in my next post.) To declare #BlackLivesMatter means fighting for our rights even when they try to paint us as violent, angry, or ineffective.
We can fight for our rights. We can be happy. We can remember their names. We can hold several thoughts at once. Have a great Christmas and Kwanzaa everyone. But also remember that there are several families out there with gifts under the tree that will never be opened. There will always be an open place at the dinner table now. We won’t forget that. And we’re going to fight to make this stop.