Words matter in the fight against systematic oppression

Yes, all lives do matter – but we mustn’t forget who we’re fighting for, writes Co-Director Munya Andrews.

Black Lives Matter (BLM) is an organized movement dedicated to non-violent civil disobedience in protest to police brutality.

It was formed in July 2013 following the shooting death of African-American teen Trayvon Martin.

The movement returned to national headlines and gained further international attention following the death of George Floyd who was killed by American police officers following his arrest for allegedly using a counterfeit bill. Video was taken of an officer placing his foot on Floyd’s neck, effectively suffocating him to death despite his pleas – “I can’t breathe”.

The incident caused feelings of outrage against the police for their brutality and global protests have since taken the world by storm.

Since then some people have taken the “Black Lives Matter” slogan to include the phrase ‘All lives matter’. While that is true, we must not lose sight of the fact that we are talking about the systemic brutalisation and discrimination of black people.

When this systemic brutalisation impacts all people in society equally, then we can talk about “All lives matter.”

One of the dangers of using the phrase, ‘All lives matter’ is that we lose sight of the target group when we attempt to include others or call it by another name.

For example, use of the term “Family Violence” loses the power and focus of the old term “domestic violence”. The overwhelming statistics indicate that women and children are the primary victims of so-called ‘family violence’, though the term makes it sound as if women and children are being violent towards men.

By calling it ‘family violence’ we lose sight of who is doing the violence i.e. men as opposed to women.

The same goes with changing the focus from “Black lives matter” to “All lives matter”.

Now there are some people who claim that the “Black lives matter” movement is not relevant to Australia but that’s not the case at all.

Aboriginal people face the same sort of treatment that African Americans do. Our social indicators, such as the high disproportionate figures of Indigenous incarceration, are virtually the same.

So, the “Black lives matter” movement is totally relevant and applicable to the situation here in Australia.

We all need to stand together as Allies to end this appalling, intolerable treatment of people based purely on the colour of their skin.

“Black lives matter”. Lest we forget.

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1 Comment. Leave new

  • Eileen Venables
    June 25, 2020 1:21 am

    I couldn’t agree more, Munya, but it’s very hard to convince a lot of my guddya family and friends, and even my lum, who is of aboriginal descent, that these facts are correct. I feel like I’m banging my head against a wall of ignorance!


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