The slogan “all lives matter”, describes the thought process or justification of supremacists, people who benefit from the existing paradigm and who want to undermine the struggles of people from minority groups that face social, political and economic issues. Though it’s true that all lives matter, it is important to recognise that given the inequalities that prevail in our societies, there are certain groups that are treated unequally, deprived of their rights and face discrimination and, thus require more aid and attention that ensures their progress and over all well-being AND safety . These experiences are not only in the form of subtle discrepancies but at times, also come at the cost of lives. “Black lives matter” movement which was initiated to protest against police brutality.
Violence against Blacks has become increasingly common in the United States of America, as a result of a rise in white supremacist ideologies ever since the election of controversial president. Donald Trump, who is himself infamous for comments that have racist, sexist and outright disrespectful undertones, has stated that “Black Lives Matter” is a divisive term and that the term is inherently racist. What’s actually divisive is “all lives matter” and political issues being projected onto social, civil and cultural aspects of the society leading to unfair, discriminatory treatment of African-Americans, Immigrants, Refugees, Muslims, Brown-skinned people and basically anyone who does not fit the description of ‘White.’
Police brutality in America, refers to unjustified encounter killings and manhandling of African- Americans, often including unarmed and innocent children, by law enforcement agents solely on the suspicion of being involved in criminal activities. These incidents have terrorized the African- American community who now feel unfairly targeted and fear the safety of their loved ones. It seems as though the Police, who are actually supposed to protect the citizens objectively, foster supremacist ideologies on the lines of which, they have started to devalue and dehumanize the people belonging to the community by not considering them as equal citizens with rights. This movement also attempts to highlight the unjust justice system that tends to give out harsher sentences to African-Americans than to White-Americans for similar crimes. For example, Brock Turner, a White American, was sentenced to 6 months of incarceration followed by 3 months of probation and rehabilitation programs for rape. On the other hand, many African- Americans have been incarcerated for years for petty crimes. This distorts the crime statistics that are based on communities.
Privileged groups can play a huge role in the upliftment of minority, suppressed groups. People who belong to privileged communities have the power, resources and ability, and therefore the responsibility to ensure that people belonging to oppressed communities enjoy equal rights. For example, to empower women with their rights, it is important that men, who benefit from patriarchy and misogyny, also actively support women in their quest to dismantle sexist, internalized mechanisms and refrain from oppressing women.
This is basically a long-running debate between equality-giving people the same thing, and equity-giving people what they need or fairness in every situation according to the requirements. It can be applied to various other scenarios, countries and communities where, in the name of equality, some groups of people believe that there is no reasonable need for affirmative action, protective laws and aid to uplift and empower, which consequently leads to disparity and inequality. Let’s take a look at how this is particularly relevant to the contemporary Indian society
Reservation for People belonging to Lower caste, Scheduled tribes and Economically Backward Communities in India:
The Indian Constitution provides for affirmative action for the upliftment of minority and oppressed communities in India comprising of people belonging to Lower caste communities, economically backward communities, religious and linguistic minority communities, physically or mentally disabled people, women and scheduled tribes. These communities have reservation quotas in institutions like government jobs, schools, parliament or and colleges. Furthermore, these communities are also given a relaxation of fees or cut-off percentages in educational institutions in order to encourage academic participation. Many people and groups and political parties object to this ‘preferential’ treatment and believe that they get an undue edge over them and, even obstruct opportunities for them. They believe that these opportunities should be given solely on the basis of merit. What they fail to take into account is that belonging to these certain backward communities, they are held back inherently because of socio-economic problems like stigmas, deprivation, poverty, working multiple jobs, less access to resources and healthcare, disabilities etc which in turn, skews or hinders their performance and/or ability.
Men Responding to the Feminist Movement and Women talking about experiences of Abuse:
Patriarchy, a system that benefits men by vesting most power in them, for years has played a very important role in oppression of women. For patriarchy, or any power dynamic, to be functional, it has to be beneficial to all minorities and genders when it comes to preserving everyone’s rights. However, like any kind of power, patriarchy has become a means of establishing superiority, pushing one’s own agendas and subjugating and controlling the personal aspects of everyone else’s individuality through subtle and open means. It has come to prioritize the needs of men over the rights of women.
Feminism seeks equality and justice for women in every walk of life, but most importantly, freedom of choice in terms of education, marriage, sexual freedom and protection from abuse etc. It also seeks to secure for women, their other basic rights. Most men respond to feminism by calling it extreme and one-sided but what they don’t understand is that not standing up for yourself makes it easier to be oppressed and complicit in one’s own dehumanization. Often, when women talk about sexual, physical or emotional abuse, men attempt to override the discussion by saying that men face these issues as well. However, in general, men do not have to take measures like dressing conservatively, not going to secluded areas, carrying pepper spray etc., in order to protect themselves from these situations. Rates of sexual violence against women are drastically higher than those against men.
Every female has faced sexual harassment of some magnitude at some point in her life. So while it stands true that men face sexual abuse too, if the only time it is discussed is when women are taking a stand against it by talking about their experiences, then it is just an insecure attempt at undermining the struggle of women. Women create spaces and try to work for the rights of women. If men who face abuse or violation of rights is a truly a cause for concern for these men, these issues should be brought up independently in spaces created for men, by men and not only brought up in conversations about women whose rights have been in violation in abundance for ages now. Unlike women, in terms of gender, men have always enjoyed rights and have in fact, used their gender as a justification for subjugating women. No religion or country has oppressive laws regarding men but governments and religion have many a times attempted to violate the rights of women to marry or remarry, dress the way they want to (Arab countries enforce modest dressing and western countries prevent modest dressing), right to sexual consent, abortion rights, right to education, right to own property etc. Restrictions on women’s right and mechanisms that control women’s individual choices s are in fact very apparently contributing to the stability of toxic patriarchal institutions that exist for the benefit of men.
When people say that “all lives matter”, do they really mean it? As we can see, in a lot of situations, human rights are being continually violated. Preferential measures and movements like reservations, relaxations, feminism, black lives matter, medical and political aid etc. are just some tactics that these oppressed groups employ to reclaim their basic and rightful human rights. These steps are important to protect and secure the rights of minority or weaker communities that are being oppressed and treated unfairly and often, inhumanely.
These movements are important because equality, or at least the level of equality required, does not exist and so measures do not imply that their opposing groups should be deprived of their rights. They only assert that they deserve those rights just as much and just as well as the privileged/ opposing groups.
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