Zachary Hammond And Black Lives Matter VS. All Lives Matter

August 10, 2015  |  

By now you may have heard the name Zachary Hammond. He’s the 19 year-old shot and killed by a police officer in Seneca, South Carolina. Hammond was killed on July 26 during an alleged marijuana transaction. For the past two years, we’ve been hearing about senseless deaths at the hands of police at an alarming rate, but there is a stark contrast between this story and that of Sandra Bland, Eric Garner or Samuel DuBose. See, in this particular instance, the victim was a white male. And yes, his life mattered, too.

But when Black folks say #BlackLivesMatter, the response from some Whites (or should I say non-Black people) is #AllLivesMatter. Of course all lives matter, no one would ever debate that. However, I’m having a hard time dealing with the lack of outrage by those same non-Black folks–Ben Carson included–who retort that all lives matter in response to the frustration that Black folks have been expressing for what seems like decades when it comes to police violence and murder. If all lives matter, then where is the outrage for Zachary Hammond?

I’m sure his parents want to know what their son did to deserve death. I’m sure their questions echo the same confusion Samuel DuBose’s family. We all want answers.

Had the media covered this story with the same intensity as if the “perpetrator” (not victim) was one of color, the questions would be: Was Zachary fleeing the scene? Did he try to run over the officer, thus causing the officer to fear for his life so that the only thing he could do was fatally shoot him? Was Zachary a “thug?” However, I didn’t see any photos of Hammond throwing up gang signs or wearing a hoodie. I didn’t see any photos of him with a “menacing” look on his face. I didn’t hear anyone discussing his drug habit or scouring his social media for clues as to his guilt and why he may have deserved to die. No one is blaming him for his own death.

The truth is, no one has to say all lives matter, because we as Black folks already know that. It’s everyone else that has to understand that “we” are a part of the “all.” What people of color understand that others don’t is that this type of brutality can, and will, affect all of us sooner rather than later; it’s just a matter of time before White folks who defend police violence notice it creeping on their doorstep, too. The irony in the #AllLivesMatter rebuttal is that while it’s convenient to use the expression to display apathy for Black lives, the people who use it are evoking their apathy for “all” the other lives they’re talking about as well.

By not being outraged by Zachary Hammond’s death, the “all” hashtaggers are telling us they don’t give a damn, at all. Otherwise, police brutality is “their” problem…or not a problem at all. Even though police misconduct has become a national problem that all races face, somehow that “all” gets lost in the Black lives vs. All lives debate. What some fail to realize is that saying Black lives matter is not meant to be divisive. It’s meant to shine a light on how police violence and bad policing disproportionately affect people and communities of color. It doesn’t mean only Black lives matter, but that we don’t want non-Black people to forget about us when the human race is concerned.

The “all lives” people need to realize that our outcry benefits all people, and that’s when real reform can take place. We’d be able to have a real discussion about the Black and Brown experience – and about Zachary Hammond the same way we’d be able to discuss what happened to Sandra Bland. We’d be able to see that police violence, while it’s glaring when it comes to racial inequality, is a national issue that affects people of all ethnicities not separate from class, gender or orientation. It means challenging the notion that police are always justified when they kill someone, or that the justice system will get them if they aren’t justified. It means working together instead of challenging hashtags so that these tragic, unnecessary deaths can stop. If #AllLivesMatter, open your eyes to what Black and Brown people already see…before it happens to you.



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