On September 16, 2015, I opened up my Facebook and saw an article reposted by many of my Wesleyan friends entitled “Why Black Lives Matter Isn’t What You Think”. My hope was that a very keen and intelligent member of the Wesleyan community was going to publicly acknowledge and affirm the existence of the collective mobilizing efforts of my courageous black and brown people, as something positive, restorative and transformative. I was entirely wrong. Instead, I took up 3 minutes of my day to read an article that would therefore ruin the rest of my week due to the gross criminalization of Black Lives Matter activists, the invalid claims of the Movement, and the question of legitimacy of a movement that fights for black and brown people’s livable existence. Throughout this message, I will not utter your name because there are so many like you that feel it is their place to speak up, when they should stand down and let history un-repeat its course.
As an alum, avid activist, and supporter/doer within the Black Lives Matter Movement, I cannot begin to express how genuinely disappointed with not only the careless construction of the piece, but the audacity to question my life and the lives of my brothers and sisters with the following:
“Is this all worth it? Is it worth another riot that destroys a downtown district? Another death, another massacre? At what point will Black Lives Matter go back to the drawing table and rethink how they are approaching the problem?”
Well, let me tell YOU. With those questions, you have endangered the lives of the black and brown students, faculty and staff on your campus. With those questions, you have tried to delegitimize the work and existence of X House, the AFAM program, Ujamaa, the Ankh, the Office of Student Activities & Leadership Development, the Office of Equity & Inclusion, and the Divestment Coalition, who continually address the same principles for which Black Lives Matter stands for. With those questions, you have created a larger gap for allies, who resemble your pigment, to participate in the Movement because we can’t afford misguided actions, lack of action, silence, or unjust/invalid words to hold us back from our Liberation.
You are asking me, is my life worth fighting for? You are asking millions of black people, are their lives worth fighting for?
Be careful when you start to group and misname “the Movement”. The coined hashtag #BlackLivesMatter originated from the formation of an organization dedicated to address aspects of institutional racism, through the lens of the disproportionate police slayings of brown and black people. #BlackLivesMatter has evolved as a revolutionized platform for the Civil Rights Movement to continue affirming and embracing the resistance and resilience of black people. Therefore, if you are questioning whether the efforts of #BlackLivesMatter are worth it you are questioning the abolishment of slavery, black people’s right to vote, black people’s access to economic security, black people’s access towards social mobility…I can go on and on.
I guarantee you that if you had to wake up like I do every morning, thankful for your life because your very existence didn’t threaten an institutional actor and leave your body dead in the streets for 4 hours before someone removed it, and still you did not receive “justice”, you would not have uttered those words.
No movement is perfect. No one person is perfect. These are facts; it’s impossible to label something as perfect. These are facts. Your article was not rooted in truth, but rather ignorance, and therefore not factual, which makes you imperfect, as we all are. And unfortunately, your imperfection was given a huge platform to be displayed on a publication that is supposed to “serve the whole Wesleyan community”. And unfortunately, it is not your place as a white person to critique or question the Black Lives Matter Movement, or the efforts of black people demanding their livable existence.
To the Argus: This is not how you serve your community. I used to pick up a paper every Tuesday when I walked through Exley; I hardly want to open the webpage now. I am sure there is a reason why you didn’t share this post through your Facebook account. Don’t become another institutional structure that buries us. Acknowledgments and apologies are simply invisible band-aids upon our bleeding wounds.
Heath is a member of the Class of 2015.