Support for the Black Lives Matter movement has only intensified following the tragic death of George Floyd in May. As a response, protests and riots were seen daily throughout the country.
But with President Trump deeming these protestors as “thugs” and continuing to actively support the militarization of police, the meaning behind the demonstrations began to morph into a political statement. It became another way to create a divide despite the need for unification. Declaring your support for the movement became synonymous with declaring your support to the Democratic Party.
But the movement isn’t about supporting Democrats or Republicans, and we can’t let it boil down to that. The fight is much more linear and clear: to acknowledge the injustices people of color endure, then reform the systems that provoke the inequality we've acknowledged.
Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi created the Black Lives Matter movement in 2013 as a response after George Zimmerman shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February 2012. Martin was wearing a hooded sweatshirt and was carrying only Skittles and a bottle of juice, yet this was enough for Zimmerman to racially profile the teen. He believed that Martin looked “suspicious” which was enough for him to follow the teen. Shortly after, Trayvon Martin was dead.
Garza, Cullors and Tometi formed this movement to fight back against the discrimination and prejudice that African Americans have dealt with for over 400 years. It’s a movement that cries for compassion toward their humanity.
And as the movement strengthened, it was common to see big businesses show their support over social media. When Black Lives Matter protests began in May, stores such as Starbucks, Chick-fil-A and Dutch Bros were among the many well-known businesses to announce their support online. While their images were gleaming online, their support stopped at their physical locations. In Eugene, Market of Choice was another business that proclaimed their support online yet put a ban on any paraphernalia that had any connection to the Black Lives Matter movement, including any masks, shirts or buttons that showcased the slogan “Black Lives Matter.”
Employees across the state protested. Madeline Ritchie, an employee from its Willamette Street branch, claimed it was a choice to support the movement or “support hate.” And she’s right. It’s not about supporting a political idea; it’s about supporting the idea that basic human rights — basic human decency — should be accessible to everyone.
I know the movement has been tied to politics because it deliberately fights back against individuals who sit in a position of power. We see right-wing politicians who continue to avoid addressing the humanitarian crisis at hand. We watch as they continue to support and fund the militarization of police departments to help their middle-class white supporters feel “safe.”
But to do this, they actively justify the oppression that African Americans are fighting against. They refuse to admit that it’s about people; it’s about acknowledging we’re all human. It’s about how George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Stephon Clark and countless others were also human.
It’s inconsequential if you’re a Democrat, Republican, Independent, pro-life supporter, pro-choice supporter, Trump supporter, Obama supporter or anyone else with any range of beliefs — you can also believe Black lives matter.
It’s honestly one simple question: Should one group of humans treat another group of humans in a manner that violates their constitutional rights with total impunity? If you answered no, you’re still not claiming you’re against a certain party. You’re claiming you support human rights — and that’s worth celebrating no matter what party you identify with.