Bach: Hope In Troubled Times

Black Lives Matter should give us hope for better things to come.

by Jinsung Bach | 7/17/20 1:00am

With all that is happening in the world today, it is easy to get lost in what seems to be an endless slew of hopeless news. Between rising cases of COVID-19 and the ugliness of police brutality in the United States, it seems there is little reason to be hopeful for America’s future. I, however, look to the future not with despair, but with hope; the Black Lives Matter movement has renewed my faith in our ability to improve American society.

At the same time, it has become evident that many still regard Black Lives Matter with skepticism. Some claim that the movement is unnecessarily exclusionary. Many agree that Black lives matter but ask: what about everyone else? Does the movement’s slogan imply that Black lives matter more than others? Some cite recent events to discount BLM’s rhetoric: what about the criminality of looters? Do they speak for the movement?

In 2016, I wrote a column entitled “A Bloody Reputation” criticizing Black Lives Matter and highlighting many of the previously mentioned concerns. Today, I no longer stand by what I wrote in that column. Here, I would like to offer what I have learned since.

The statement Black Lives Matter is merely that: a statement. It does not negate the value of other lives, and only seeks to draw attention to a long-suffering segment of our society. BLM does not imply Black supremacy, nor are chants that “Black lives matter” made in bad faith. It is merely the statement that in a nation that ostensibly values racial equality, some lives do not yet matter as much as they should. To ignore this principle is to ignore both the essence of the movement’s message and the underlying injustices that fuel its fire. BLM is often defined by raw and frightening anger. But the anger is righteous and justified.

It is an anger that demands that our nation live by its cherished ideals without reservation. It is a call for governments to become accountable to the people they serve, for brotherhood and sisterhood, for freedom and liberty and for love and tolerance. It is a message upheld by our Constitution and the ideals that built us as a people.

The death of George Floyd and the recent unrest within American cities creates new urgency for BLM’s message. There is a systemic failure in how law enforcement is trained and held accountable for the use of force, and it takes a terrifyingly cold heart to have no outrage over such an injustice. 

So why bring this up now, long after the fact? I believe there is hope to be found in how my own views have changed with time. I am grateful to friends and family who have helped me understand the Black Lives Matter movement for what it is. I am glad I realized that I was wrong and that I now have an opportunity to highlight what I have learned.

BLM’s message is beautiful and does not deserve to have its reputation dragged down by those who act in bad faith. Of course it is distressing to see looters and criminals take advantage of George Floyd’s death and I was tempted to return to my old doubts: that the movement’s proponents invite political violence. 

I may no longer stand by my column of July 2016, but I understand that there remain many others stricken by doubt and despair. To such people, I offer a message: The ones who insist that the statement “Black lives matter” comes with fine print at the bottom of the page do not represent the movement. Instead, it is all of us who acknowledge that we are all believers in racial equality, nothing more. All lives do matter, and that is exactly why people emphasize that Black lives matter when our society does not.

That I and many others can come to understand such things with time gives me much hope going forward. As awareness of our nation’s issues come to the forefront and become part of a larger conversation, I believe we are headed for better, brighter things.

Bach is a member of the Class of 2017.

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