All Black Lives Matter
Not just the ones you can relate to.
In the beginning of the pandemic, I found myself looking online for tips on where to buy supplies like toilet paper and disinfectant wipes. That’s how I stumbled upon a local Facebook group created for information sharing during Covid-19. When I first joined, most of the chatter was solely about the coronavirus, but over time it slowly turned into a forum where we discussed other issues affecting our community, including the Black Lives Matter movement, police brutality and racial injustice.
I think it’s obvious how Covid-19 and the current movement are intertwined, but some of the discussions drew backlash. I became very vocal in the group, talking about racial justice and challenging my mostly white neighbors to think critically about their role in white supremacy, and to do better.
I was met with a lot of support, as well as some very palpable vitriol. The people who were against me, were against me. They implied, over and over, that the conversation about the current racial justice movement was not relevant to our community. They consistently dismissed my lived experience. One neighbor even told me my comments were “noise.”
First of all, what is happening to the most marginalized people in your country should be of interest of you. And secondly, what about your Black neighbors? I found myself focusing on that neighbor aspect, reminding others that I exist in this community and my life matters.
Later on, I began to think more critically about my assertion of being a neighbor as a defense of Black lives. What if I wasn’t their neighbor? Should my life lose value? I found myself reminding people to care about Black lives—even those who aren’t in your community.
Here’s the thing: Our society often uses relativity to justify why one should care about an issue. This person could have been my brother. This person is someone’s mother. The examples go on and on. While I understand the sentiment, I think it shows a terrifying flaw in our society. Someone, or more broadly, a group of people, should not have to audition for humanity or sympathy. We should always care about other human beings even if they theoretically present no tangible value or relation to us.
This thought process also made me examine my own privilege and how it may impact my interactions with my mostly white, middle-class, educated neighbors. Don’t get me wrong; I very visibly take up space as a Black woman and I am outspoken about my lived experience. However, I am also very educated (I have a master’s degree) and middle-class. I grew up in the suburbs, the daughter of highly educated Nigerian immigrants. My grandfather was born under colonial rule, and came to America in the 1970’s to complete his second master’s degree at Columbia University.
I have to be honest and acknowledge these facts, and furthermore acknowledge how they may make me more relatable to my neighbors.
I love my neighbors, appreciate all the support they’ve given me, and don’t doubt that their support is genuine. However, I want my fellow Arlingtonians to care about all Black lives, not just the ones you can relate to. I want you to care about poor Black lives, transgender Black lives, Black folks over the bridge in Southeast D.C., Black folks that you may have nothing in common with or may never interact with.
Black Lives Matter means we all matter, not just the ones you deem relatable.
Olamide Goke-Pariola is an Arlington transplant from the Atlanta, Georgia area. She currently works as a program assistant, and has spent most of her career in the nonprofit sector. She is currently working on a blog which will focus on social justice and issues relating to Black women.
Arlington Magazine’s Race & Equity essay series is a community voices project, and all perspectives are welcome. To submit, send a 400-500 word essay or a 3-4 minute spoken-word video, plus a photo of yourself, to editorial@