While some continue to debate whether #BlackLivesMatter or #AllLivesMatter, we asked Mississippi students what one or both phrases mean to them.
Kimberly Ward, 30, is an entrepreneur who believes #BlackLivesMatter is a way of making others understand and pay attention to injustices the African American community endures today and historically.
“There wasn’t a platform for the Emmett Till situation,” said Ward.
Till was an African American teenager lynched in Mississippi at age 14 after reportedly flirting with a white woman.
“He died because no one felt like his life mattered,” Ward said. “Emmett Till, to me, was one of the very few moments where I felt black lives just did not matter.
“And even in this day and age, with Alton Sterling, a man who died for absolutely no reason at all, people then try to justify why his death was necessary because he had a criminal record, which in my opinion, has nothing to do with why he was gunned down with no mercy shown.”
Alton Sterling, 37, is an African American who was shot in July several times at close range while being held down on the ground by two white Baton Rouge Police Department officers. The shooting led to protests and a request for a civil rights investigation.
“Genuine people don’t like the truth, and seeing the open casket funeral for Trayvon Martin, Emmett Till, and Alton Sterling – actually being able to bear witness – it’s possible. Seeing it is very different than hearing about it.”
Trayvon Martin, 17, is a young African American who was fatally shot by George Zimmerman in Florida while walking through the neighborhood after purchasing candy at a local convenience store.
Terrence Thompson, 24, is a Jackson State University senior, who doesn’t believe #BlackLivesMatter is about race.
“People want to make everything a race thing, and #BlackLivesMatter is not a race thing,” he said. “#BlackLivesMatter is against police brutality, because we as tax payers, don’t want to be killed by the hands of the people whose salaries we pay.
“I look at it differently because I have experienced worse situations from my own kind. Some black officers get in a position of power and forget black lives matter. That makes no difference because he’s in a position of authority and feels what he says is more important than the civilian’s life in certain situations.
“You have some white police officers who are genuine and actually are here to serve the country and abide by the laws, and some are pigs, but I feel black lives matter also instead of seeing white privilege everywhere.”
Darius Youngblood, 22, a Mississippi College senior studying sports management.
“It’s understood that all lives matter, but the police brutality against blacks is magnified in today’s society, and the media then gets swept up under the rug, per say. Black lives matter too, but I do want to reiterate that all lives indeed matter.
Jade Oliver, 22, is a Mississippi State University senior studying social work.
“I feel like African American citizens in the United States need a platform so their voices can be heard,” she said. “#BlackLivesMatter … uplifts black lives and brings awareness to equal pay rates, poverty and police brutality in the black community. #BlackLivesMatter does not downplay the Caucasian race, but the Caucasian race seems to be the only race that’s offended, which speaks volumes.
“I feel like all lives do matter, but in saying the slogan #AllLivesMatter, black lives should most definitely matter to the same extent as the Caucasian race.”