In March, on the anniversary of Breonna Taylor’s murder, the Dominican Sisters of Houston hosted a conversation via Zoom on why Black Lives Matter. Brandon Mack, an organizer for Black Lives Matter Houston, spoke about the intent and origins of the Black Lives Matter movement. The movement seeks to validate Black lives in America and arose when, once again, Black lives were invalidated with the murder of Trevon Martin by George Zimmerman. “Black Lives Matter” is a simple, declaratory sentence that should not need justifying or spark controversy.
For hundreds of years, the systems and structures of our country have been founded on unchecked white power that has benefited whites to the detriment of Black people and other people of color. What happened at the capitol on January 6th of this year and the anti-mask movement during this pandemic are two prime examples of unchecked white privilege. White people created our country’s system of racism and therefore must work to dismantle it.
The conversation touched on topics such as All Lives Matter and defunding the police. Those who coined the slogan All Lives Matter never intended for it to include all people. Rather, the slogan has been used to try to silence the Black community and to dismiss the issues detrimentally affecting and killing Black lives. In response to questions about the movement to defund the police, Brandon asserted that “defund” is exactly the right word. If we do not advocate taking away taxpayer money from the police, then we are sanctioning police violence towards Black and Brown people. Proponents of defunding the police are asking us to be open to a new system and a new culture for public safety.
We discussed activism and how white people can collectively advocate with Black activists. Brandon addressed the difference between being an accomplice with the Black community versus being an ally. An accomplice is deeply committed and connected with impacted communities and will not walk away when uncomfortable or inconvenienced. White people might have to give up comfort or status and learn to speak out on behalf of Black Lives. Brandon challenged those attending to determine how to check the power of white supremacy and become accomplices with the Black community.