OPINION: The value of black lives is not up for debate

Opinion writer emphasizes the value of black lives and the demand for change. Photo of Black Lives Matter protest courtesy of Flickr.

Zoe Hill
Opinions Staff Writer

It has taken me nearly three weeks to finally put pen to paper– or rather, fingers to keyboard– on the issue of George Floyd’s death.

I knew I wanted to, nay, had to say something about the inconceivable injustices that the Black community has been enduring recently, and since the birth of this nation.

The problem was, I did not know what I, as a white woman, could say to make this any better. I felt like I did not have the place to speak up, nor did I have the right to do so. But as the days went on, I realized that I was incredibly wrong. 

 After a few of weeks of reflecting, listening, and learning, I discovered that the answer to my question was nothing. There is nothing that I could ever say that could bring Floyd back to his family and “fix” this.

There is, however, something I can say to guide others who feel the way I did. My hope is that my take can give White people in our community some perspective and honor those who have suffered under the knee of oppression.

People desire to be comfortable, and the topic of systemic racism and police brutality from the perspective of the oppressor is an uncomfortable conversation to have.

Discussing the ruthless murders of Black individuals in this country to family and friends is uncomfortable, and I get it. I have been in that place, and part of me is still struggling with breaking away from it.

But my level of discomfort has never and will never match the pain and heartache that the families of George Floyd, Ahmad Arbury, Breonna Taylor, and the countless others who have suffered following their deaths. 

In the time that I took to educate and collect my thoughts, Flyer News Sports Editor, Peter Burtnett, wrote a great opinion piece about his observation of racism and police brutality and what we should do going forward following the death of George Floyd.

What I want to discuss is what is being done right now; more specifically, why we are protesting and what it has accomplished so far. 

Protesting has been a staple in our democracy.

It is literally written into our Constitution as one of our first and most crucial rights. We have seen historic protests all the way back to America’s fight for independence concerning issues of climate change, abortion, gun control, voting rights, LGBTQ+ rights, anti-war, labor, immigration, and civil rights.

If you can think of an issue, there is a good chance there is a march for it. The protests for Black Lives Matter and George Floyd have been monumental with every state and over 18 countries participating.

Yet, protesting is a point of contention amidst this time of communal unification and standing up for justice. 

Rioting and looting has unfortunately overshadowed and villainized the efforts of the protestors. And frankly, I understand it.

I saw a protestor’s sign that read “If my son went for a jog and didn’t return… I would burn down the city too.”

Just think, if it was your son or daughter murdered in the streets, how would you react?

And when marching just is not enough and BIPOC die at the hands of injustice, we have to be louder.

There is something to be said when our White founders destroying British property in the Boston Tea Party is glorified in every textbook, but burning down a Target for the rights of African Americans to simply breathe is damned in the media.

This isn’t to say that all protests have been violent; many have been completely peaceful. And at the same time, it is important to acknowledge the loss and damage that many communities have faced during the spouts of violent riots.

However, something just does not connect for me. How is it that we perpetuate a tradition here at the University of Dayton to destroy property by burning couches after winning a basketball game, but look down on a suffering community who just wants to stop being executed in the streets?

In what way does a rowdy day drink where windshields are smashed and exit signs are ripped from ceilings outweigh the 430 years of oppression of an entire community?

 In addition to that, people countering with “All Lives Matter” are not on the right side of history.

For the most part, we all agree that everyone matters, no matter the color of your skin. Using that terminology is at its core only to undermine and discredit the Black Lives Matter movement.

We have all seen the Instagram stories that spell out how saying “All Houses Matter” is ridiculous when your house is not the one on fire. It is also my observation that the same people who claim “All Lives Matter” draw the line at those in the LGBTQ+ community, immigrants, the impoverished, and those with conflicting religious beliefs. 

 It is not my wish to watch the world (or Target) burn, but the hypocrisy and undermining going on when the people ask for safety when going to the store, sleeping, breathing, and living should not be controversial or up for debate. 

While the news and social media may be putting down the efforts of the BLM movement, it is working. It is a new kind of joy to read a headline that shows progress and change.

Recently, the City of Minneapolis voted to dismantle the police and create a community-based system. Protesting has also disallowed injustice to be swept under the rug as it often is.

All four of George Floyd’s murderers have been charged. Breonna Taylor’s case has been reopened by the FBI. Ahmad Arbury’s case will be taken to trial after it was previously dismissed by a judge for a lack of evidence. Millions of dollars have been donated to combat social injustice in Black communities. 

Justice is coming, but it’s not here yet.

We have to keep going.

We have to hold ourselves, our communities, and those who have sworn to serve and protect accountable.

Dayton has proved time and time again that it can come together to serve the common good. It is my hope that our little slice of community can make a huge impact on the world, but it all starts with educating yourself on the issues, speaking up for what is right, and demanding change at the polls.

I know that the actions of a single person can feel insignificant, but we have to let go of our reservations– be it our Instagram aesthetic or fear of being scrutinized. Because, at the end of the day, your voice matters; this matters. Black Lives Matter. 

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