Saying my Black life matters shouldn’t be a political act

Opinion: The constant wave of punishing Black people for simply stating “Black Lives Matter” is reinforcing white supremacy.

(Photo: Getty Images)

After a previous summer of racial uprisings and calls for racial justice, Black people are still being persecuted for simply saying their lives matter. 

Last week, brothers Bentlee and Rodney Herbert, ages 8 and 5, respectively, were taken out of their Oklahoma elementary school classrooms and punished for wearing “Black Lives Matter” T-shirts. 

According to the New York Times, the superintendent of their school district told their mother, Jordan Herbert, that politics would “not be allowed at school.” 

“He told me when the George Floyd case blew up that politics will not be allowed at school,” Herbert told the publication at the time, referring to the superintendent. “I told him, once again, a ‘Black Lives Matter’ T-shirt is not politics.”

Bentlee and Rodney Herbert
Bentlee and Rodney Herbert, ages 8 and 5, respectively, were taken out of their Oklahoma elementary school classrooms and punished for wearing “Black Lives Matter” T-shirts. (Photo: Jordan Herbert)

Read More: Boys pulled out of class for BLM shirts in Oklahoma

Now the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma has gotten involved in the incident, arguing that it’s a violation of the brothers’ First Amendment rights. But sadly, such “Black Lives Matter” censorship is only growing — even globally. 

Recently, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that athlete protests and political messages will continue to remain banned at the Olympics after the latest survey they conducted found that a majority of competitors (who are mostly non-Black) wanted to keep such a ban in place. 

Translation: If someone were to raise a Black power fist on the podium (like Black gold and bronze medalists, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, did during the 1968 Olympic medal ceremony) or decide to more modernly take a knee — they would face negative consequences at the Tokyo Games this year.

22nd October 1968: Olympic medal-winning, Afro-American atheletes for the 400 meters (from left to right) Lee Evans (gold), Larry James (silver), and Ron Freeman (bronze). (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

To add insult to injury, the IOC also made it clear that statements such as “Black Lives Matter” were banned on athlete apparel at Olympic venues, although it ironically approved using the terms “peace,” “respect,” “solidarity,” “inclusion” and “equality” on other gear. The fact that the Olympics, a global competitive sports institution, don’t see how these positive terms are in alignment with what the Black Lives Matter movement stands for reveals a double standard — one that is rooted in white supremacy. 

If a Black person simply says that their Black life matters is considered “politics,” but wearing a “Proud to be an American” t-shirt isn’t — what does that say about society? How come whenever Black people are acting in ways that are non-violent that express some sort of respect for their existence, it’s treated as something more than just that? Like, would saying Black lives don’t matter be a non-political statement, like decades of Jim Crow laws had previously shown us? Or are Black people just not allowed to acknowledge any of the things happening to them in the world? 

As these recent examples of censorship prove, the answer is no — Black people are supposed to just not acknowledge anything about themselves, for it can be considered a political act. The newsflash here is that everything can be interpreted as political, therefore, choosing to cherry-pick the expressions of Black people is clearly a form of anti-Black racism.  

In recent months, the surge of Asian hate crimes inspired the #StopAsianHate movement that was supported by both conservatives and progressives across various political spectrums. During that time, you didn’t witness a mass of far-right media pundits try to claim “All Hate Matters” or suggest that such a viral hashtag was racially divisive. Instead, people just got the point and showed up in solidarity with the Asian community as they should have. 

Large Rally To Stop Asian Hate Held In New York City
People participate in a protest to demand an end to anti-Asian violence on April 04, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Damn, if only Black people wouldn’t have to be dealt a different hand of cards when it comes to white people understanding that such hate we experience should be given the same immediate cancellation. You would think after 400 years of slavery, segregation, mass incarceration, and racial profiling — us saying Black Lives Matter would be the least of their concerns.  It’s seriously the anti-Blackness for me.

Until the anti-Blackness dissolves, now is not the time to be complacent and fearful — but to pushback and call it out. If any organization, job, or group you’re apart of are making you rethink saying or wearing “Black Lives Matter” ask why and let others know what’s up. Chances are, your free speech might be violated and/or there’s a clear racial double-standard that’s beneath the surface. 

Now isn’t the time to be silent, for our Black lives matter too much for us to be.


Ernest Owens is the Editor at Large of Philadelphia magazine and CEO of Ernest Media Empire, LLC. The award-winning journalist has written for The New York Times, NBC News, USA Today and several other major publications. Follow him on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram and ernestowens.com.

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