George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Rayshard Brooks. These are just some of the names that helped shape the course of a social justice movement. Starting over the summer, protests and demonstrations broke out across the country, demanding justice for innocent lives lost at the hands of police officers and figures of authority. It was simultaneously controversial and empowering, sparking national discussion and dominating media coverage for months. As time wore on, the phrase ‘All Lives Matter’ began to pop up, hoping to stop support of Black Lives Matter. However, people were quick to point out that the phrase was not always accurate in the day-to-day lives of minority communities.
“We can’t all be equal if Black lives are at risk, so I feel like we need Black Lives Matter to help people understand that, for everyone to be equal, those lives need to matter too,” said Lauren Gachanja, 9.
Some people, however, disagree with the need for Black Lives Matter.
“It’s a lot of people standing up for what they believe in [which] is fine and all, but the protesting, that’s just being little babies,” said Luke Noll, 11.
Now, the phrase mainly used in opposition has shifted to ‘Blue Lives Matter,’ hoping to highlight the perceived juxtaposition between the two ideologies.
Blue Lives Matter, as a phrase, was first created in 2014 after the killings of two NYPD officers. It is believed that the killings were in revenge for the police murders of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. More recently, however, the phrase is mainly used as a refutation against Black Lives Matter.
“I do back the boys in blue. Michael Brown, let’s just bring up the Michael Brown one, he had a knife and he rushed the police officer. The officer got out, he got the knife out of his hand, and then he tried to grab the police officer’s gun, and the police officer shot him. That’s what I see as a justified shooting…Black Lives Matter, I get it, it’s just not my thing,” said Koen Ottenschnieder, 11.
The main argument that proponents of Blue Lives Matter have made is that police officers keep people safe, and that the actions of the many cannot be judged on the actions of a few.
“I’ll admit that there were shootings where white cops killed black people, like yeah you can’t deny that, like George Floyd or whatever that was. That was bad, but that was what, four cops? You can’t hold that against all cops everywhere,” said Noll.
However, there are some who feel the opposite.
“I support ACAB – all cops are bad…I’ve been in situations where I’ve been around cops or authorities of the Blue Lives Matter organization where I have not felt safe. My parents, my dad especially, have been racially attacked by cops. I’m not going to support the job of being a cop, but I don’t think the people are bad,” explained Sylvia Thaithi, 10.
Then there are those who support the fight for racial equality while still backing the police.
“We’re seeing countless incidents where the police are killing people, [and] they’re not being held accountable for it because of our justice system…I don’t think that we can all just say ‘all cops are bad.’ I know too many good cops to be able to say that. But when it comes to one [movement] or the other, one is more justified and has a reasonable right to be protesting, which is Black Lives Matter,” said Trevor Cecini, 10.
Other students agree that Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter should not be in opposition.
“I still support the original movement and am trying to bring awareness to racism and all that, but the way they’ve handled it – I don’t agree with that. I feel like everyone should support Black lives and the police. What the Black community needs is a better relationship with the police. I feel like it’s a divisive statement. It’s just separating the Black community and police apart which need to come together,” said Anthony Lakin, 12.
Another topic of controversy in recent months has been the Confederate flag; organizations like NASCAR have forbade the flag being flown at events, and it has sparked heated debate.
“It means southern pride, and it has nothing to do with hatred of African American people or any race,” said Jack Lockard, 11.
While many share Lockard’s belief, there are those who look at it and only see pain.
“Anytime I see the Confederate flag I always feel like ‘mmm, I probably should not be here.’ I get a sense that it’s not a safe place because I feel like it reflects too much of the past history of the conflict between Black and white people,” said Lakin.
This danger is felt by many.
“If I walked into my friend’s house and she had a Confederate flag hanging, I would think ‘I’m in a movie and someone’s about to give me tea and drug me or something.’ I think of the KKK and all the bad things that have happened to Black people over the years. I feel like if you really have southern pride you don’t need to show it through that flag,” said Thaithi.
Differences of opinions such as these have led to a divide in the community.
“People started calling out or being disrespectful to other people at our school. I feel like it divided our school by a lot, by who we hang out with and stuff like that,” said Gachanja.
It is suggested that this division and disrespect is merely due to a lack of diversity.
“Yes [Spring Hill is divided], and I don’t want to say it’s the school’s fault or anyone’s fault: we’re just not a diverse area. A lot of people don’t get to see what’s actually going on,” said Thaithi.
Some students, however, do not see it that way.
“To be honest, I don’t think there is a problem with equality,” said Ottenschnieder.
The statistics show otherwise. Spring Hill High School is majority white, with only 20.5% of its students being BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color). The town is even less diverse, with less than 4% of its citizens being BIPOC. It is this lack of diversity that leads to unconscious privilege.
“I feel like the people saying [it is not an issue] grew up in an area where they are privileged enough not to see these things happen,” said Thaithi.
However, privilege is not an excuse for not being aware of the environment.
“Racism is something we should not be normalizing. Have courage. Staying silent about something that is a growing issue will only make the issue worse,” said Cecini.
A good way to be aware of the surroundings is self-education.
“Our voices aren’t being heard, and I think they should be. Look into Black Lives Matter. Look at stories and do your research,” encouraged Gachanja.
Before broad change can be made, people must be willing to educate themselves on these topics so they can help create a better, more equal world for everyone.
Read part one of Stampede’s Black Lives Matter coverage here (originally published June 15, 2020).