As protests spread across the world against police brutality, systemic racism, and injustice, this is a great time for our community to reflect on what we can do to empower Black lives and all people of color within our communities and within our world. In order to accomplish this, we must be more than “not racist;” everyone must fight to be actively anti-racist.
On May 29th, George Floyd, an African American man living in Minneapolis, Minnesota was brutally murdered by a police officer who kneeled on his neck for upwards of eight minutes while three others helped the first officer and watched as George cried out to them saying, “I can’t breathe.” After days of protests across America, all four officers were finally arrested. While these officers have been arrested, this is just one case of police brutality targeted at people of color among many, many others that people are speaking out against and demanding justice for. The fight is not yet over.
Spearheading this call for action is the international human rights movement titled “Black Lives Matter.” These three words are a cry to dismantle white supremacy, end racially targeted violence, and fix the broken system in which Black people struggle more simply because of the color of their skin. This push to fix the outdated and racially targeted system applies to many different outlets such as schooling systems, housing, job opportunities, healthcare, and the most talked about today - policing and incarceration. As the Black Lives Matter movement has gained more and more traction since it's origin in 2013, some have fired back at the statement by saying “All Lives Matter,” unable to see how this message minimizes the movement for equality and ignoring the deeply rooted racial divide within the United States. While it is understood that all lives have importance, the reason for saying “Black Lives Matter” is because they are under attack from different systems purely because of the color of their skin, while white people are not. We are able to see this plainly in many different systems, especially within law enforcement and criminal sentences. Willie Simmons, a Black man from Alabama, was sentenced to life without parole for stealing nine dollars back in 1982, while Brock Turner, a white student at Standford was convicted of three charges of felony sexual assault and only served six months time in jail for his actions. There are so many cases similar to this where a Black person is condemned for minor crimes and must serve years and years in jail, while white perpetrators get off almost freely for horrendous crimes, showcasing the white privilege and systemic racism that is alive and well today. We must lift up all Black lives and support them in the fight to freedom and equality in all areas from a long history of systemic oppression.
Many voices are speaking up against these injustices - all different races, backgrounds, and ages. When asking some of my peers what “Black Lives Matter” means to them and what actions they want to see done to further equality in all different spheres - policing, incarceration, political action, etc - they brought forth similar ideas. What they want to see is political action that moves to defund the police and focus on using that money for things such as housing services or schooling systems where African Americans are disproportionately affected, along with electing people into power that will make a genuine effort to make sure Black people are able to have equal treatment and opportunities within all areas. Now is the time to stand with the people of color within your communities, amplify their voices, and take action.