Recently, Toronto has been buzzing about the Black Lives Matter movement. This movement protests against the discrimination of blacks by the Toronto police. However, there are mixed opinions about the effectiveness of the activists’ campaign. It’s common to hear the phrase “all lives matter,”  but you’re about to find out why “all lives matter” doesn’t address the problem of systemic racism at all.

You walk past the Toronto police headquarters and see some folks, predominantly black, on top of a pyramid-shaped sculpture. You pause, just for a moment, to take in their signs, their voices, and their message. A man beside you whispers, “Those Black Lives Matter activists, they’re such a nuisance. They only care about themselves.”

“You’re right,” says a woman, “All lives matter. Not just black lives.”

At first, this sounds like the right idea. It’s inclusive. After all, everyone’s life matters. So why have a movement exclusively for the lives of one, specific race?

A protester picks up her megaphone. “My brothers are carded. They are targeted by our police because they’re black. They have their names on record, even though they’ve done nothing wrong. The police promise change, but the change comes too slowly.”

The Black Lives Matter movement does not say that white, hispanic, or asian lives don’t matter. If anything, the movement is calling for the abolition of discriminatory and fundamentally racist policies, such as carding, which would benefit everyone. Carding involves the stopping of civilians by the police, which is justified if the person looked suspicious. The police takes permanent record of the person’s identity and location, even though the person has committed a crime. Judgement on part of the policemen, as to who seems to be a troublemaker, has disproportionately targeted the black community.

What the Black Lives Matters movement represents is the prioritization of a community that has been discriminated against for centuries. Since blacks are more likely to be unfairly targeted by police, they deserve more recognition. Awareness of the problem of systemic racism in Toronto police will more likely effect change if we focus on the victims.

The worldwide movement has made leaps and bounds since its inception in 2013. Like all other revolutionary movements, it takes to the streets to spread awareness through demonstrations. They are as much of an eyesore as roses—that is to say, they aren’t at all. Yes, they blocked traffic on the Allen Expressway in July [1], but occupying spaces is what all truly progressive movements do. The LGBT movement did not achieve its goals by just sitting at home. Black Lives Matter is a necessity to remind us all, especially those with power to effect change, that Toronto still has a racism issue. It is an issue that takes form in an ugliest of ways, through violence and police brutality.

The March protests by Black Lives Matter Toronto were in response to the refusal by Toronto Police to release the name of the officer who shot and killed Andrew Loku, a black male [2]. The murder of Alec Wettlaufer, a black and allegedly unarmed male, in early March only added fuel to the fire. The protesters demanded that charges be pressed on the offending officers and that the Toronto Police take steps to abolish the practice of carding. It is not uncommon to hear that by supporting Black Lives Matter, we are ignoring all the other individuals of other races that suffer from police brutality. However, by eliminating carding altogether, Black Lives Matter is setting a precedent that no race should be discriminated against.

Toronto’s own branch of Black Lives Matter has experienced recent success as a result of their efforts in March and April. The provincial coroner has ordered an inquiry into the death of Andrew Loku after being pressured by press and protests [3]. This inquest will suggest measures to prevent similar deaths. It will be up to the people, who understand that supporting the rights of another race will improve their own rights, to push the police to act based on the suggestions.

Still, many don’t see the value of a movement that ultimately promotes racial equality. “All lives matter” is preached by those that sweep systemic racism under the rug. Repeating those words is equivalent to dismissing the fact that racial profiling exists. To deny that Toronto has a racism problem is easy. After all, being kind and accepting Canadians is part of our national identity. God forbid that we support systemic racism. So don’t take the easy road. Don’t spout “all lives matter” if you want to live up to the Canadian ideal of being inclusive. Instead, join a cause and fight for the equality that we, as Canadians, hold so dear.

Illustration: Joy Wang

Illustration: Joy Wang