THE BLOG
12/23/2014 07:14 pm ET Updated Feb 22, 2015

Why 'All Lives Matter' Is Not Interchangeable With 'Black Lives Matter'

As per request by Fox News, which recently published an article objecting to student response to Smith president Kathleen McCartney's Dec. 5 email titled "All Lives Matter," I am sharing my thoughts. I am sharing them as an individual who goes to Smith, and these are by no means those of the student body as a whole. I am also sharing them as a white person who has never had to question if my life matters to America's justice system.

In defense of our president, Martha MacCallum stated on Fox's "America's Newsroom" that the value of Black life is self-evident, insisting, "Black lives matter, which of course they do." I urge her to consider the facts. According to the NAACP, a Black person is killed by a member of law enforcement every 28 hours. A seven-year study conducted by USA Today analyzing the FBI's justifiable homicide database revealed that 96 percent of all cases involve Black people dying at the hands of white police officers, who are rarely indicted, let alone brought to trial.

She should consider that the killers of Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and Aiyana Jones were have not been brought to justice, when none of them were armed, but all of them were Black, and that lethal force is justified in instances where an officer has cause to fear for his life or the safety of others. I would be interested to hear MacCallum explain how Aiyana Jones, an unconscious child, could be a threat to an officer with a gun in any way.

I understand that as the president of a college, Kathleen McCartney has a responsibility to address all of us, and I commend her for immediately following up her first email with an apology prompted by students. I do not doubt that her intentions were good, nor am I seeking to vilify her. Students, as she said, are struggling. But they are struggling for different reasons, and she needed to consider race among them in the subject line of her initial email.

I expect her, as the president of our college, to know what "Black Lives Matter" means if, as Fox correspondent Julie Roginsky said, she is our biggest advocate.

Alicia Garza, along with Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, came up with "Black Lives Matter" in 2012, after George Zimmerman was found innocent. In an article for The Feminist Wire, she defines it as an "ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise." Moreover, "It is an affirmation of Black folks' contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression."

MacCallum states that students who contacted President McCartney did so in the interest of "bullying her into submission." How is communicating with our president that she had decentralized the current devaluation of Black life in America in a campus-wide email bullying her? I should hope that the president of our college did not take responsibility for what she said in a subsequent email for any other reason than to hold herself accountable for using a statement that reasserts the value of white lives, which are not the ones in question if MacCallum has been following recent events.

I would also like to point out a comparison correspondent Lars Larson made, that is not only absurd, but like MacCallum's statement, similarly disengaged. He said President McCartney is being punished and that "there was a time in America where if a person of color said the wrong things to a white person, they would be punished, sometimes physically abused, for saying the wrong words in the wrong circumstances, now we have the flip of that." She is the white president of a well-respected college who was called out over email. She is in a position of power. Her situation is not comparable to someone like Eric Garner's, who was killed for turning around and saying, "Please do not touch me" to an officer arresting him for allegedly selling cigarettes.

All lives should matter, but this is not a current reality for Black people and people of color in America. Perhaps the five minutes Martha MacCallum dedicated to discussing the email exchange between the Smith community and our president should have been dedicated to that.