It is sometimes assumed that #BlackLivesMatter, the social movement that emerged as a result of the outrageous and unfortunate deaths of hundreds of Black lives, believes that only Black lives matter. This is far from the truth. Constant disputes about the true meaning of the movement sparked arguments on social media and left many annoyed and frustrated after the shooting deaths of two Virginia news team members in late August. These two victims just happened to be white.
The initial shock came early morning on August 26 when CNN reported that reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward were gunned down by an unknown shooter. That shooter turned out to be their former co-worker Vester Flanagan II, who the WDBJ-TV news team knew as Bryce Williams, a Black man.
Many news outlets questioned his rationale for shooting the two co-workers, and a few days later, Flanagan’s document about wanting to start a “race war” emerged. Flanagan cited the shooting of nine Black people in Charleston, S.C., and constant instances of racial discrimination and harassment at his former workplace as reasons for his pent up anger. Still, this did not mean that the #BlackLivesMatter movement backed his actions.
Several members of the “Black Twitter” community gave their condolences to Parker and Ward’s families and friends while also expressing that Flanagan’s actions were unforgivable. The violent death of anyone is tragic and the victims deserve respect. As a human, condoning violence or harm against anyone – regardless of race or ethnic differences – is appalling.
People claimed the #BlackLivesMatter fueled Flanagan’s actions with ignorant comments:
“If a disgruntled white ex-employee had shot 3 blacks, killing 2, the #blacklivesmatter crowd would already be in the streets looting. #WDBJ” – @Average559Guy
“#WDBJ shooter was a black SJW. Feminists and #blacklivesmatter are at fault here. Racists” – @cookiesinmymouf
“#BlackLivesMatter Is at fault for #WDBJ. Make no mistake about it. We live in a world where you can lose a job and its “Racism’s fault.” – @awyattman88
“I wont be surprised if the shooter is a member of #BlackLivesMatter mob, he seems as braindead as them. #WDBJ” – @EnemyWithinn
To say that a movement that seeks to bring justice and equality for the protection of Black lives IN ADDITION TO other lives was used to justify shooting two innocent people is revolting. To say that one man who killed for his own personal reasons is the product of #BlackLivesMatter defeats the purpose of the entire movement.
This is why it is necessary to not only acknowledge the oppressive and damaging psychological effects of systemic racism, but violence in our society as a whole must be acknowledged, too. #BlackLivesMatter cares about white lives, too, but their lives aren’t in as much danger right now. Ours are.
Tiffany Pennamon is a senior English major at Spelman College. She covers topics including social issues, social media, higher learning, African American studies and college lifestyle.