Race matters. The color line was not only a defining issue in the 20th century, it is a defining issue this century and for the foreseeable future.
One of the greatest challenges race scholars face is getting people to see the effects of the legacy of racial injustices and contemporary discrimination on black/white differences in such areas as education, residential segregation, overall economic well-being, access to voting and the criminal justice system.
It means helping people see beyond mere flags and monuments to public policies and private practices. It means helping people understand that the sentiment behind the hash tag #BlackLivesMatter is not new.
Black Lives Matter joins abolitionists, protestors against the Scottsboro and Emmett Till court decisions, with residents who boycotted buses in Baton Rouge. Black Lives Matter was in the hearts of a quarter of a million people assembled in Washington, D.C., in 1963, calling for jobs and justice. Today, it is on the hearts, minds and consciousness of people suffering the collateral damages from wars on poverty and drugs.
The movement is not easily quantified or defined because it is just that — a movement. In the tradition of adaptive leadership, it seeks to mobilize people to tackle the tough challenges facing blacks so they may not only live but also thrive.
There are no membership cards or headquarters in the traditional sense. The movement includes people anywhere who consider themselves part of it and part of the continuing fight to close the gap between what (and whom) we say we value and how we treat people.
Black Lives Matters does not mean that other lives don’t matter, or matter less. It is the proclamation of the humanity and dignity of all people — including black lives.
associate professor, LSU Departments of Sociology and African-American Studies