Black Lives Matter.
They are words you've no doubt seen stamped all over the Internet. A simple phrase, meaning, quite directly, that the lives of Black people matter. That they need to be protected, cherished, respected, not systematically targeted or shattered.
An idea so straightforward, yet it's one of the most hotly debated across dinner tables, news panels and your social media feed, with responses such as "all lives matter" being bandied about.
Which, of course, is the point. All lives do and should matter, but it's the Black ones that are historically under attack, as the death of George Floyd last summer once again made painfully clear.
Many a metaphor has been employed to illustrate this. In a 2019 Harper's Bazaar piece entitled, "Why You Need to Stop Saying 'All Lives Matter;'" academic, writer and lecturer Rachel Cargle explained, "If a patient being rushed to the ER after an accident were to point to their mangled leg and say, 'This is what matters right now,' and the doctor saw the scrapes and bruises of other areas and countered, 'but all of you matters,' wouldn't there be a question as to why he doesn't show urgency in aiding that what is most at risk?"
Continued Cargle, "At a community fundraiser for a decaying local library, you would never see a mob of people from the next city over show up angry and offended yelling, 'All libraries matter!'—especially when theirs is already well-funded. This is because there is a fundamental understanding that when the parts of society with the most pain and lack of protection are cared for, the whole system benefits."
Nor does saying that Black lives matter mean that other causes are being tossed aside, as E!'s Nina Parker reasoned, explaining why she remained flummoxed by the "All lives matter" messaging that continued to flood her social media feed. "It's insane to me," she said in a June Daily Pop discussion, "because...if we're marching for AIDS, there aren't people coming in with posters that say, 'What about cancer?'"
It's long past time to listen to those at the forefront of this years-old movement. As we embark on another Black History Month, countless voices are offering their views on why it's so important that we all spend the next 28 days (and beyond) educating ourselves. And they're spotting us the first lesson by sharing their lived experiences. Read their takes, absorb, learn.
"E! stands in solidarity with the black community against systemic racism and oppression experienced every day in America," the network said in a statement on May 31. "We owe it to our black staff, talent, production partners and viewers to demand change and accountability. To be silent is to be complicit. #BlackLivesMatter."
(Originally published June 8, 2020, at 12 a.m. PT)