The Language of Controversy

Black Lives Matter fights for civil rights, aims for unity


Anna Gyori, Staff Writer

“Hands up, don’t shoot.”

This pleading phrase has become the battle cry of a movement towards racial equality in the justice system. Black Lives Matter, now a registered non-profit, was created from a town’s distress over a harrowing police shooting. But while Trayvon Martin’s death may have been the beginning, it was not the shooting that caught everyone’s attention.

In August of 2014, Michael Brown was shot after fleeing the scene of a robbery. Soon after, his hometown of Ferguson, Missouri roared in protest at the use of deadly force. This sparked a movement that spread rapidly. Although other African-Americans had been shot in the past, Brown’s case was the one that gave the community a voice.

Black Lives Matter is not only an organization, but also its own catchphrase. Controversy has stormed over the past few years regarding the civility of this phrase. Many commentators of other races have felt that this phrase is exclusive and harmful. They have elected to use the phrase “All lives matter.” While this alteration may seem understandable, it completely trivializes the discrimination faced by the African-American community.

Consider the history of African-Americans. Their whole existence in this country is based on discrimination and inequality. They came here by force to serve whites, but even after they were freed, they continued to endure repression and inequality. They persevered through Jim Crow Laws, sharecropping, lynch mobs, and much more. Now the community feels that it is being attacked once again by our laws and our government.

“Black Lives Matter” is much more than a catch phrase; it is an acknowledgment of the country’s past, present, and future.It is okay to be uncomfortable, but is not okay to be dismissive of the issue. If our nation wants to be a model for human rights, there needs to be a serious effort to change our treatment of African-Americans. The importance and necessity of this improvement are what Black Live Matter is attempting to bring to light. The phrase signals a movement and calls for true equality among races within the justice system, and for the punishment of the officials that persecute by race.