A Philosophical Approach on Whose Lives Matter
In Charles Mill’s The Racial Contract, he argues that a recognition of white supremacy is itself, a political system. That is, through an examination of the history of white supremacy, politically and philosophically, it is clear being white automatically puts one at an upper hand. In the past, philosophers such as Locke and Hobbes have spoken as supremacists in that they refer to Non-Europeans as savages and barbarians. They go so far as to justify the colonization of Native Americans, claiming they do not have the right to that property as they would not make best use of it. Although as a nation we have developed, the progress is slow, and the inclusion of non-whites remains circumstantial in many cases.
This has left us in a period of formal, judicial white supremacy. Mills claims white privileges go unrecognized and are taken for granted. As a white individual myself, I like to think that’s untrue. I am very fortunate for all I have, I am thankful and have worked hard to get where I am. However, in light of recent events across our nation, I came to realize I do have privileges I fail to notice every day. Some I never knew were privileges at all.
Initially, I did not support Black Lives Matter, and I frequently quoted All Lives Matter in response to those who did. Now I see the racist and selfish intent behind ALM. In The Truth of “Black Lives Matter”, the author compares the movement to the Civil Rights Movement in the sixties and the message of Martin Luther King Jr. It too focused directly on African-Americans and their lives, though BLM focuses specifically on the idea that blacks are more likely to be killed by police than whites. They are not asserting black lives are greater than those of whites, they are suggesting black lives have been wrongfully discounted and do not matter.
In What’s Wrong with “All Lives Matter?”, Judith Butler, a philosopher, says all lives do matter – but not all lives are understood to matter. In regards to Blue Lives Matter, this point is equally as applicable. The lives of police officers do in fact matter, as every human life does. There is without a doubt injustice among every group in America, all of which should be addressed. However it is the worth behind the black life that seems to have been forgotten in our nation today, to the point where something must be done.
It is my hope that, while everyone’s lives are important, naming the lives of those who have been forgotten will draw the focus to where it needs to be and ultimately end the use of whiteness as a power – politically and otherwise. This is not a time for attacking one another or asserting one life’s worth over another. Nor is it a time for hashtags and meaningless group formations. This is a time for unity, where we must come together as a country to fight this injustice.
To sum it up, “Yes, all lives matter. But we’re focused on the black ones right now, ok? Because it is very apparent that our judicial system doesn’t know that. Plus, if you can’t see why we’re exclaiming Black Lives Matter, you are part of the problem.”
The New York Times – What’s Wrong With “All Lives Matter?” by George Yancy and Judith Butler & The Truth of “Black Lives Matter” by The Editorial Page
Charles Mills, The Racial Contract