The Only Problem with the Black Lives Matter Movement
Perspective from a 1st generation African-American on why ALL Black lives still don’t matter.
In spite of George Floyd’s death being somewhat redeemed by the conviction of Derek Chauvin last month, I’m still not convinced that ALL Black lives matter. While I look at that conviction as progress, I also know from personal experiences, that there is quite a bit of work to do in order for every black life to feel as if it matters. A lot of attention has been given to race relations since Floyd’s death. Several minorities groups, primarily Blacks, Asian-Americans/Pacific-Islanders, and the Latinx community — amongst others — have seen an uptick in racially motivated violent crimes against them, simply because of their looks and complexion.
Personally, I’m not one to judge others because of what they look like, sound like, or where they come from. When you experience the levels of disdain from others that I have (especially since I consider myself an empath), in a weird way, it broadens your horizons and gives you much needed perspective. The perspective gained? How not to treat any other human beings…ever. A lot of work has gone into elevating the Black community into the mainstream collective zeitgeist of America. The incessant marching, media coverage, and protests have shown this nation that we are not all equals, that minority lives aren’t valued on a level akin to that of whites. White privilege really is real.
In spite of this, I couldn’t keep from asking myself a simple but profound question; do ALL Black lives matter to ALL Black people, or just the ones that can be tolerated. Let me elaborate further…
Growing Up in Philadelphia
I grew up in Philadelphia, aka the city of brotherly love. That brotherly love is real! The first two decades of my life were spent in the nation’s 6th largest city, interacting with individuals as diverse and unique as the city I called home. My days were spent taking in city sights, rooting for the professional sports team, fraternizing with a broad array of peers, and of course, venturing down to South Philly for an infamous cheesesteak from Geno’s (way better than Jim’s, Pat’s, or Tony Luke’s).
In Philly, even though I knew I was black, I wasn’t overly-conscientious of it. I never walked outside afraid that my complexion would be a hindrance to my ability to thrive, not because it’s problematic, but because others, usually with lighter hues, would take issue with it.
Life in Northwest Arkansas
Living in Arkansas was a stark contrast to what I grew accustomed to in Philly. For starters, there was an abundance of nature that left me in a perpetual state of awe…once I got past my seasonal allergies. I was genuinely excited about life in a state with excessive Southern Hospitality, a cultural norm that was the complete opposite of the hustle and bustle of the East Coast, aka “The Beast Coast.” Sadly, my tranquility was replaced with anxiety and paranoia from my interactions with ethnic minorities there.
My Black Southern counterparts seemed to take issue with how easily and freely I related to people outside of my race, particularly Caucasians. I’d hear murmurings or rumors about if I was “truly Black,” while others never hesitated to let frequent and intense vitriol ooze from their lips. In short, these Southern Black people seemed to envy the way I carried myself, free from the mental woes that those who lived their entire life in a state like Arkansas (which at one point considered interracial marriage “illegal and void) experienced.
The more this type of treatment was imposed on me, the more I began to uncover fundamental differences between myself and traditional African-Americans. For starters, I’m EXTREMELY privileged to come from a lineage that wasn’t subjected to slavery. My ancestors were intellectuals and warriors, passing down their determination, grit, and moxie to my siblings and myself. I also lived in a city, Philadelphia, that is far more advanced, developed, and diverse than any place I lived or visited while a resident of Arkansas. I call this “Northern Privilege,” a phrase I coined to account for the differences between myself and Southern Blacks.
Making matters worse, I found myself in an interracial relationship with an extremely beautiful Caucasian woman by the name of Evangeline. Looking back, her overwhelmingly good looks probably compensated for the fact that she had very little to nothing to offer besides those looks. I mention her because her enmity existed in conjunction with the harsh criticism I constantly found myself enduring at the hands of people who looked like me, talked like me, but shared no other similarities with me.
Her comments consistently undermined my appearance, making me self-conscious about my looks, which she deemed “African.” I distinctly remember being referred to as a monkey by her on more than one occasion. Her justification for using such a hateful statement? It was a nickname she used to refer to Arielle, her best friend at the time (who is also Caucasian).
The Million-Dollar Question
As stated at the beginning, all of these experiences led me to ask myself a very important question: do ALL Black Lives Matter, or is it just the ones that share a similar heritage and genealogy with their Caucasian oppressors?
Let me explain…
A Brief History Lesson
In an article published by PS Mag, a study was conducted by McGill University, a school based in Canada, on the effect slavery had on altering the genes of African-Americans. Specifically, it looked at life from the inception of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade all the way to the Great Migration and beyond. The study focused on 4,000 African-Americans in two cohorts, both sponsored by the National Institute on Health. The Health & Retirement Study comprised of older volunteers from urban and rural neighborhoods all across the U.S., while the Southern Community Cohort Study focused exclusively on the American South.
It’s worth noting that these two studies are amongst the largest sources of genetic info pertaining to African-Americans. They represent a broad enough sample for the data to be applied to African-Americans as a whole. The study showcases that 83% of Blacks in the South have African DNA, compared to 80% for the rest of the country. Additionally, Blacks outside of the South have more European DNA than those that still reside there. For instance, Blacks in South Carolina and Florida have less European DNA than those living in Kentucky or Virginia.
What this showcases is that before the Civil War, there was lots of mixing amongst Blacks and their captors, which steeply dropped off after slavery ended. The implications of the findings are simple; widespread sexual exploitation of Blacks took place during slavery, influencing the genetic makeup of most Black people today.
The Billion-Dollar Question
If most Blacks can trace their roots back to a time period when most African-Americans were confined to the South, then why is it that there seems to be a higher concentration of Euro-centric DNA outside of the South?
Simply put, The Great Migration. While it seems as though all Blacks had equal opportunity to leave the lives they lived in the South behind, it was those who had more Euro-centric features that were met with more opportunity. In short, they were least likely to encounter resistance to their desire to relocate.
Skin color still mattered then. As it does nowadays.
Back to the Point…
As mentioned earlier, I don’t have a lick of European DNA in my body. I used to look at that as a privilege, but I’m not so sure anymore. The way I’ve been treated, by Whites and Blacks alike, shows me how much progress is still needed before it can confidently be said that ALL Black Lives Matter. I’m looking forward to the day when, regardless of one’s ties to slavery, Black people can come together in support of one another, irrespective of looks, heritage, or complexion.
Until then, it can’t be said that ALL Black Lives Matter. Just the ones that look more Euro-centric.