Guest column: You’re against racism or for it, there’s no third side

"All lives do not matter. But all lives should."

Aerica McIntosh, Guest Columnist

Editors’ note: This column, written by 2020 graduate Aerica McIntosh, contains a sensitive word.

“I am to always be hyper aware of the color of my skin,” McIntosh said. “But I am not my skin. I am a person who deserves to be treated like one.” (Courtesy Photo)

The first time I remember experiencing racism was when I was about 5. A little girl pushed me off the top of a slide, telling me she hated “coons.” I told my mom I didn’t know what that meant, and the next day I sat with the girl in timeout. I thought we were friends.

When I was about 8 years old, I came outside to see that someone had scratched the word “nigger” into our car. Comparatively, that was only a minor offense, but it was still difficult to process as a kid. 

As I got older I experienced the basic racism: being followed in stores, being called the n-word, people locking their doors as I passed, etc. 

My sophomore year after one of my first school dances at Maize, I came outside to see the police at the far end of the parking lot. My friends and I just thought it was someone who was caught speeding. I texted my mom repeatedly asking where she is. She responded with one word.

 “Police.” 

I immediately started walking over to her with my friend following just to make sure I was safe — an example of someone using their privilege for good. I got in the car and placed my hands on the dash. 

“What are you doing in this neighborhood?” the officer asked, to which my mom replied that she is picking me up from the school dance. She repeatedly asked why she was pulled over. We were told it was a routine stop.

This is one story of many first-hand experiences with racism and discrimination. In the last few years, we have been stopped more than 10 times. When we see the police, we aren’t just scared of getting in trouble. We are scared our lives may be in danger over something trivial. 

To this day, my mother forces my siblings and me to follow strict rules in public to lessen the amount of times we are followed and questioned in stores. 

“Keep your hands out of your pocket.” 

“Take your hood off inside.” 

“Don’t touch stuff that you don’t intend on buying.”

“Avoid any tense conversation with people in public to avoid altercations escalating.”

 I am to always be hyper aware of the color of my skin. 

Over time, all of these small things start to make you feel as though you are “less than,” not even a person. I have always felt like I was someone left out of a cruel joke because of the color of my skin. 

But I am not my skin. I am a person who deserves to be treated like one. 

Black Lives Matter isn’t just a cry for murder to stop. It is a cry for overall equality. Black people face hundreds of problems that stem from racial inequality: redlining, job disparities, astronomical incarceration rates, food deserts, healthcare inequality, unequal schooling and funds. The list goes on for miles. 

 

Senior Aerica McIntosh received this direct message following a post on her personal Instagram account earlier this week. McIntosh said this was far from the first incident of hate speech she has received.

There are two sides to everything. If you aren’t siding with this movement or its beliefs, then your side is racism. There is no way to deny it. Black lives matter, have value and should be treated as such. 

This movement is not debatable. Human rights are not debatable. This movement is not a trend. The lives shouldn’t only matter when they have ended and turn up as a top 10 hashtag. This is not something that should pop up only when an innocent black life is taken and becomes viral. This is something that should infiltrate the system and foundation of the racist country we live in. 

Fact of the matter is, all lives do not matter and will not matter until black lives do. I must repeat: All lives do not matter. But all lives should. 

How come anytime someone says that black lives matter you come rushing in to defend the others. They do not need defending. No one ever said they didn’t matter. If your immediate response to the BLM movement is all lives matter, then you may need to reevaluate where you stand. 

That phrase completely disrespects, devalues and contradicts the lives of black Americans everywhere. All lives matter shows the delusion of equality that people still hold and is a clear indication that people are blind and must educate themselves.

The blatant disregard for the movement should be sufficient enough evidence to show you why they do not matter. BLM is not just simply something you utter when an unarmed black man is killed by the police. Tell me, when you see names like Treyvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Emmett Till, teenagers — black teenagers — do you sit there and wonder what would have happened if that were you? 

Black lives matter is a way to hone in on the important issue here: police brutality and racial inequality, not to exclude. If you want to prove all lives matter then start showing it. 

Don’t devalue the voice and outrage of black individuals because you want to be included in a movement. Support the one that is existing and be happy that your identity doesn’t need a revolution.

I encourage you all to use your privilege. I encourage you to educate yourself daily. I encourage you to be actively anti-racist.