One year ago this Wednesday the Black Lives Matter movement began, and over the past months, tensions in America have only continued to rise with the continued high-profile deaths of black Americans at the hands of white Americans, particularly police officers. The recent deaths of Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Louisiana, which sparked the shootings of police officers in Dallas, have only increased media attention on the matter, and with seemingly everyone debating the stance of Black Lives Matter vs. All Lives Matter, some celebrities have begun to speak out.
Beyoncé has been fairly clear with her political stance, openly supporting Hillary Clinton in the next election, but until now she has remained subtle about her affiliations. That changed after the shootings in Minnesota and Louisiana, after which she stated on her Instagram, “We all have the power to channel our anger and frustration into action,” with the comment, “Clink the link in my bio to go to Beyonce.com and turn our anger into action by contacting our legislators, councilmen and women. Your voice will be heard.” The link to her website has since been taken down, but enough fans saw the message in time to effectively break the internet and crash the congressional website from the flood of web traffic.
Along with this statement, Beyonce’s song “Formation” has been hailed as a sort of anthem for the Black Lives Matter movement. The song and its video earned the singer some harsh criticism, as some police unions urged members to boycott her latest tour, while others have stated that she is inciting violence by calling fans to action. However, Beyoncé spoke out against the criticism in an interview with Elle Magazine, stating, “I have so much admiration and respect for officers and the families of officers who sacrifice themselves to keep us safe. But let’s be clear: I am against police brutality and injustice. Those are two separate things.” Whether you are for the Black Lives Matter movement or not, there is no denying that Beyoncé’s voice is a powerful influence, helping her fans contribute to the national conversation.
Kim Kardashian West also spoke out about the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, penning an essay on her website about her stance on the matter. The mother of two mixed-race children, Kim wrote, “I do not ever want to have to teach my son to be scared of the police, or tell him that he has to watch his back because the people we are told to trust…may not be protecting and serving him because of the color of his skin.”
Like Beyoncé, Kim argued for peaceful change through the judicial system:
“We must peacefully use the power of our voices and the strength of our numbers to demand changes in the judicial system so that brutality doesn’t ever go unpunished. It is our responsibility as Americans and as parents to create a safe future for our children. We must do something NOW. We must speak up until we are heard and real, effective changes are made…Hashtags not enough. This must end now.”
Grey’s Anatomy star Jesse Williams, who is outspoken about the issue on his own, paired up with director Laurens Grant to created the Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement, which was originally broadcast on BET. Williams said:
“I consider this movement a love movement. My experiences in Ferguson and everywhere else—as an activist and educator—are that all of our work and experience is, regardless of how [opponents] try to frame it, about love. Love for self, love for us, love for our people. Love for humanity and love for the real great potential we have as a culture, but also this nation has by putting its best foot forward.”
Not everyone agrees that #BlackLivesMatter is a good thing, however. The View hostess Elisabeth Hasselbeck seems to think that the movement is dangerous, and wonders why it isn’t a “hate group.” Others seem to miss the point of the movement entirely, like Sean “Diddy” Combs, who stated on Instagram that yes, Black lives do matter, but “no one will respect us f we as a people don’t have any respect for our own black lives.” This statement is common among protesters of the Black Lives Matter movement, who argue that intraracial crime between African Americans is much higher than interracial crime. This is true, but it is very important to note that not only is interracial crime between whites almost as prevalent as that between blacks, the overall percentage of black Americans killed by police forces is much higher than the percentage of white Americans killed by police forces when populations are accounted for.
Those who use the #AllLivesMatter also don’t seem to be aware of exactly what the purpose of the hashtag is. Because Black Lives Matter is a movement aimed at generating the awareness of and peacefully protesting against police brutality against people of color, it is actually a form of racism. While it seems to have intentions of starting a shared humanity, it actually detracts from the original movement’s point that black Americans are often treated as less than when compared to their white counterparts. Much like those who say feminism is about hating men don’t understand that it is about equality, those who say #AllLivesMatter don’t understand that #BlackLivesMatter is essentially saying that all men may be created equal, but they are not treated as such. One example of this would be J.Lo’s recent blunder of using the hashtag for #AllLivesMatter while highlighting her performance of “Love Make the World Go Round,” which benefits victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting. While she may have had good intentions, using the hashtag to highlight a different type of injustice still detracts from the Black Lives Matter movement. The tweet was promptly deleted, though the singer has not said anything about the backlash from it. This situation highlights why it is so important to understand Black Lives Matter and listen to those who are a part of the movement. Beyoncé and Kim Kardashian West are doing their best with their influence to make people listen. The question is, will you?