Why it matters that a Black Lives Matter flag flies over UMaine
Black lives matter is such a simple concept and yet even now there are those who do not believe the black community needs to say it, or that it is an exclusionary message that permits violence when in reality it is a battle cry of a community that has faced state-sanctioned violence and hardship since the moment they arrived in this country.
Black lives have always been at risk with police brutality, but only now within recent years has it moved to the forefront of our national conversation, thanks to camera phones, and even with video evidence of wrongdoing our murderers go unconvicted and families mourning their loved ones go without justice. Until the day where no mother or father has to tell their children to be wary of those in uniform, that the country they live in sees no law broken when they are beaten, raped or murdered by those sworn to protect us, that every section of their lives is touched by racism whether it be education, health care, financial, social or otherwise, we will remain steadfast in our statement that black lives matter.
I refuse to be silenced by those who claim all lives matter but don’t stand up for our middle eastern brothers and sisters who are being arrested and refused entry to this country even while there is war in theirs, for our LGBTQIA+ brothers and sisters that feel the sting of discrimination every day in this country and around the world, for our Muslim brothers and sisters who fear a future that looks far too much like the dark past of fascism, for Flint, Michigan that still does not have clean water, for our Native brothers and sisters who are fighting to keep their land clean and their ancestral burial grounds safe.
I refuse to be silenced by those who say that the black community has nothing to fear when every day we learn new things about the past that show blatant targeting of our community and we see legislation that blocks even our most basic rights, like voting. I ask those who refuse to claim that black lives matter to explain to me why our demands for equality upset them so much and why, if black lives matter, theirs cannot. Much to the luck of those in power, black people are only looking for equality and not revenge.
I am proud of our Black Student Union for the work they have put into getting this flag to fly over our campus and make UMaine one of the few schools in the country to do so. We are committed to fighting anti-black racism and standing in solidarity with other marginalized groups each day and to educating others about problems like systemic racism and police brutality. The violence and racism faced by people of color in this country must end and the only way to end it is to speak about it, to say the names of those lost, to demand change with both your voice and your actions and to inspire in your community the change you wish to see, especially in this new and terrifying political climate that in only its first few days has targeted so many of us.
We must not stay silent, we must not get complacent and we must not forget that black lives do and have always mattered. Thank you.
Remarks as delivered at the flag-raising ceremony on February 1, 2017. Photo via the University of Maine.
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