White people — stop trying to make “Black Lives Matter” cute
There are a number of ways to express your interest in the things you love. Apparently, mocking an international social movement based on preventing police brutality is now one of them.
Google “lives matter” (better yet, type it into the search bar on Etsy) and browse the results. It’s become trendy for screen printing businesses and makers of all kinds to take the phrase “black lives matter” and replace a word or two with another [cuter, comfier] one for a quick sale. A [white] woman in Gilbert, AZ owns a coffee shop called Sweetz Brew that sells “black coffee matters” mugs. A number of online retailers sell “drunk wives matter” wine glasses, tumblers, and apparel — and many of the images printed on these items use the “Black Lives Matter” font, color scheme, and format. “Baby lives matter.” “Thick thighs matter.” “Black labs matter.” “Ginger lives matter.” The list goes on.
Perhaps the most egregious of these examples, though, is “blue lives matter.” Initiated directly following the inception of the Black Lives Matter movement, “blue lives matter” is defined as a countermovement that advocates for crimes against police officers to be considered hate crimes. In the face of social activists, it insists that the trials and tribulations facing black lives are the same ones experienced by police officers. Not only is this grossly untrue, but there are no such thing as “blue lives.” No one is born a police officer — in fact, it’s relatively difficult to become one, meaning you have to consciously make the choice to do so.
No one is saying police officers can’t have their own campaign. As a former member of law enforcement, I understand that an officer’s profession is unpredictable and dangerous, and one may argue that someone who takes on those risks in a responsible way deserves some recognition. But the thin blue line already exists. So does “back the blue.” And so do a number of other movements, foundations, and webpages that focus on police protection, health, and recognition. One doesn’t have to spit in the face of the entire Black Lives Matter movement in order to form their own. (Have I mentioned that changing one word in another movement’s title to form your own is just lazy?)
But I like my “drunk wives matter” stemless wine glass! That’s nice, but by taking the essence of the Black Lives Matter movement and turning it into a bubbly phrase you can slap on a piece of merch and use to explain your Barefoot addiction, you’re effectively turning up your nose at people who have been impacted by racial aggression and police brutality. Your privilege is showing! Now may be a good time to remember that Black Lives Matter was founded by three black women following the acquittal of the police officer who shot and killed [unarmed] Trayvon Martin in 2012. They (Black Lives Matter) were there for the community of Ferguson, MO after another young black man, Mike Brown, was killed by another police officer. They were there for Tamir Rice, Stephon Clark, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Eric Logan — all black men killed by police in recent years. Many of these people were incredibly young. All of them will never be seen by their families again.
Black Lives Matter isn’t just a phrase people print on t-shirts and posters. It’s a movement that not only pays respects to a number of innocent people whose lives ended too early, but seeks to prevent similar incidents in the future. It’s a movement that demands respect for a race that historically hasn’t received enough. It’s a community based on inclusion and making things right.
You just can’t say the same about your “thick thighs matter” tank top.