When have Black Lives ever mattered?

Black lives do matter. White on black crime used to be the norm, the way things were supposed to be. White robes, hooded sheets, cross-burnings and a good old-fashion lynching. The rope has been replaced by the gun. Black lives means just as much today as it did when Harriet Tubman was running around and freeing slaves through the Underground Railroad: not a whole lot.

Black lives matter to whom?

Black people used to know who the enemy was. They don’t anymore. It used to be hard-core rednecks. Today, it’s people who look just like us. It’s people fitting in the image of those sworn to protect and serve us. To some people, being black is a sin. It is an unforgivable stain that cannot be washed away.

If that were so, then maybe Eric Garner would still be alive. If that was the truth, Philando Castille would still be able to go back to his job as a cafeteria worker. If that was the case, Alton Sterling could go back home to his five children. Young Tamir Rice would have had the opportunity to grow up. Trayvon Martin may have become our second black President.

A crowd of community members gather outside the Governor's Residence in Saint Paul, Minnesota, in the 2 a.m. hour on July 7, 2016, following the police shooting of Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, by a St. Anthony Police officer. Photo Credit: Tony Webster/Wikipedia Commons
A crowd of community members gather outside the Governor’s Residence in Saint Paul, Minnesota, in the 2 a.m. hour on July 7, 2016, following the police shooting of Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, by a St. Anthony Police officer. Photo Credit: Tony Webster/Wikimedia Commons

For black people, though, endless possibilities too often turn into wasted potential. Unlimited chances wound being a dream turning into a nightmare because of all the violence being heaved towards them. Whether it’s done in the form of blue-on-black crime, brown-on-black crime or black-on-black crime, black lives are in jeopardy.

We know and understand that all lives matter, but the truth of the moment is that black lives have become an endangered species. We are being hunted down like an animal in the wild. Yet there is no justice that comes our way when we lose a member of our family to a seemingly unjust outcome.

Black people want to be treated with dignity. We want to be respected. We expect accountability. Calling out for justice to undo a wrong is our given right. Equality under the law is something we demand. We’re not interested in going back to the back of the bus. We’re tired of begging people to accept us, to like us.

At some point, black people have to stop apologizing for being black. It’s time to stand up and be counted. When do black lives matter? Have our lives ever mattered? Do our lives matter when we become a high-profile celebrity or a celebrated professional athlete?

Do we have to be famous for our lives to matter? Do we have to have a white woman on our arms for people to be concerned about our well-being?

Marchers sit on Market Street in Union Square, San Francisco, during a rally against police violence. One person standing holds signs reading "Say It Loud, I’m Black & Proud!" and "White Supremacy Is Terrorism!"Photo Credit: Pax Ahimsa Gethen/Wikipedia Commons
Marchers sit on Market Street in Union Square, San Francisco, during a rally against police violence. One person standing holds signs reading “Say It Loud, I’m Black & Proud!” and “White Supremacy Is Terrorism!”Photo Credit: Pax Ahimsa Gethen/Wikimedia Commons

Would a black janitor’s life matter to anyone if he is pulled over for a minor traffic violation and wound being shot dead by a police officer? Does anyone care about the black college student in South Los Angeles who was gunned down in a drive-by shooting while he was standing in his drive-way?

Would our lives matter more if we choose to become the quiet, do-not-upset the apple cart Negro? Would our black lives matter if we all turned Malcolm X and flipped the script on the oppressor by becoming an educated, self-reliant and self-sustaining people?

Would our lives matter if we all went by the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. doctrine of peace and welcomed unifying fellowship with others? Both King and Malcolm X worked to ensure that black lives be counted.

Malcolm X was perceived to be the loud militant. He was considered, in the eyes of many white Americans, as the Bad Negro. King, on the other hand, was looked upon as something different. He represented the Good Negro. He was the peaceful one.

King and Malcolm X had separate visions for black equality, but with sights on one end goal for African Americans. Malcolm X’s philosophy to achieve this was “by any means necessary.” King used the channel of civil disobedience to push the agenda of black America.

Both were taken out by an assassin’s bullet. Did their lives matter? How about Medgar Evers? What was his life worth before he shot dead by hatred? All three civil rights leaders have the same thing in common as Sterling, Castile, Rice, Oscar Grant, Walter Scott, and scores of other African Americans: black lives cut down way too soon.

The killing of black people is not a recent phenomenon. It is a long-threaded history, starting with slavery. Black lives didn’t matter much when the oppression of slavery bound the African to America in shackles and chains, emasculating the freedom of a people for the good and benefits of whites.

Black lives didn’t matter too much to the Confederacy when they fought for the right to preserve slavery. Black lives didn’t matter two cents to the Delegates of the Constitutional Convention, whom came up with the brilliant idea to declare those with African ancestry to be less than a person. Ever heard of the Three-Fifths Comprise?

It was drawn up and embedded into America law that blacks could only count as three-fifths of a human being. Black lives didn’t matter to the United States Supreme Court when the High Court reaffirmed that widely-held belief in the Dred Scott case in 1857.

When have black lives ever mattered? They didn’t matter when black people were working under duress in the fields picking cotton, largely contributing to the multi-billion industry with their free labor. The black lives of Mary Turner and her unborn child weren’t worth a plum nickel when they were viciously killed by a white mob in 1918.

How much of a factor did black lives matter during the terroristic reign of Jim Crow racism? How much did black lives matter when Bloody Sunday went down? Black lives didn’t figure too much into the equality of American’s fiber when we were denied the right to vote and the right to dine anywhere we wanted.

The Black Panthers Party was obliterated with gunfire and raids. Did Fred Hampton and Mark Clark’s lives matter when they were basically assassinated as they slept in their Chicago apartment? Apparently not.

Saving black lives is going to a lot more take action than a lot of talking. There’s been too much talking already. Nothing has been solved. No real solution has been brought to the table to waive off this perpetuating cycle of violence towards African Americans.

So, it is incumbent on us to handle this order of business ourselves. If you don’t help yourself, don’t expect anyone else to do help you. Our lives do matter.

Dennis J. Freeman
About Dennis J. Freeman 1118 Articles
Dennis covers the NFL (San Diego Chargers), NBA (Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers), Major League Baseball (Los Angeles Dodgers) and NCAA sports (USC, UCLA, Long Beach State). As a professional journalist, Dennis has also covered and written on topics such as civil rights, politics and social justice. Dennis is a graduate of Howard University.

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