Student BAME advocate Anna-Chiara Corriero discusses the meaning of Black Lives Matter and the actions students and staff can take to become anti-racist.
Lately we have been bombarded with news about international movements that are promoting racial justice and have the aim to stop, amongst other worrying things, police and structural violence on Black communities. While these movements started in the United States, following the brutal, inhumane murder of George Floyd by the police in Minnesota, the protests have now propagated themselves in the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe, reaching many countries in the Asian, African and Latin American continent as well. Protesters from all these countries, of many races, ethnicities, genders, sexualities and ages, are screaming, “Black lives matter”.
But let’s take a look at the origins of these slogans and what it really means to chant "Black lives matter". The BLM movement started six years ago, founded by three young black community activists who were overwhelmed and tired with the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of African-American teen Trayvon Martin. The movement has since then gained attention in 2014 and 2015, but has been really influential in the 2016 US presidential elections and recently, after the murder of George Floyd.
What does this slogan mean? Does it mean that Black lives matter more, or that only Black lives matter? Contrary to popular belief, it definitely does not. While together with this hashtag and slogan, the “All lives matter" slogan was created, “Black lives matter” does not stand for supremacy of the black community. It simply wants to recognise that while all lives have an intrinsic, priceless value, Black lives are, all over the world, considered less worthy. I recently read a post that said “All lives cannot matter until Black lives matter'' and this really opened my eyes to the meaning of the movement: the concept of life is in danger when Black lives aren’t respected, when Black people are victims of overt racist incidents and less evident microaggressions on a daily basis.
I had the privilege to take part in one of the BLM protests in my city, in Southern Italy. This, as well as remembering the tragic deaths of many people around the world, commemorated the innocent Black lives lost in the Mediterranean, when they were literally swimming towards a better future.
That’s where I really understood that “Black lives matter” means Black immigrant lives matter. It means Black trans and gay lives matter. It means Black children’s lives matter. It means dismantling the mentality of a whole world and the pluri-centenarian systems that make sure that one race becomes richer and richer, healthier and healthier, and many others are always forgotten about.
While it has been encouraging to see a fair amount of shares, retweets and reposts across various social media, I believe that as a community, we should do more. We should start having conversations with our family and friends, our peers and professors at ARU. We need to start by changing ourselves and challenge the way we think. We need to put in place actual measures that encourage appreciation of diversity in our institutions. It is not enough to say you are supportive, if you actually do not put in place measures that show your support. It is not enough to say you are not racist, you need to be actively ANTI-RACIST.
By Anna-Chiara Corriero, BAME Student Advocate