Baton Rouge High School Black Lives Matters Protests
The Black Lives Matters Protests and movement have taken over the country and the world. It is not based only on recent cases of police brutality, but on unveiling a structure that systematically oppresses, punishes, and underrates the Black American community.
The Black Lives Matters Protests and movement are here to stay and this is what you should know about them.
Structural racism in the US
Let’s begin by saying that the xenophobia, racism, and hatred towards the Black American community are not something that started yesterday. The white privileges that created the racial gap in the US come from the very basis of the nation.
The economic gap in gender and color
The American economy was built upon the exploitation of people of color. Later on, exploitation took a more civilized mask and became wage gaps, selective human resources, and underrated, underpaid, overworked Black Americans all across the nation regardless of age and education.
According to the American Bureau of Labor Statistics, white men make an average of $1064.80 a week while black women make $777.40. Moreover, according to the CNBC, a black woman makes 61 cents for every dollar paid to a white man for the same position. Through a forty-year career, that difference comes close to a million-dollar gap, literally.
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The economic gap that Black Americans suffer is not just a random fact, but a systematic way of oppressing them. It translates, for example, in education and housing being more difficult to pay for. Also, working more hours to earn less goes to detriment of health care and time spent with the family.
Money can’t pay for lives
The gap between White and Black America is also in the way police brutality is seen by the Justice Department. Most of the cases of police brutality and racism that lead to the death of innocent, unarmed Black Americans were ruled with money and no prison. This is not a random event, but a clear message. White supremacy is telling the police “we got your back” even when, in most cases, video footage shows explicit police brutality.
Let’s make a recap on some known cases:
Jonny Grammage, October 12, 1992. He was 31 years old when he was pulled over driving his cousin’s Jaguar. He was beaten to death by police officers. No police officers are in jail, the dispute was settled in 1.5 million dollars.
Rekia Boyd, March 21, 2012. She was shot in the head while at a park with friends by an off-duty Chicago police detective. The police officer was found not-guilty although witnesses declared against him. The city paid 4.5 million dollars to the victim’s family.
Tamir Rice, November 22, 2014. The twelve-year-old kid was playing with a toy gun when someone alerted the police about it. Timothy Loehmann, a police officer, shot him without even getting out of the car. He was declared not-guilty and fired from the force. The city of Cleveland paid 6 million dollars to settle the lawsuit.
Eric Garner, July 17, 2014. Accused of selling loose cigarettes from unstamped packages, police officers choked Garner to death using a forbidden tactic by the NYPD called chokehold. Although the medical examiner ruled a homicide, the police officer Daniel Pantaleo was only fired from the force. The litigation was settled out of court for 5.9 million dollars.
Philando Castile, July 6, 2016. He was pulled over by Minnesota police and shot twice in front of his partner and four-year-old-daughter inside the car. The officer was found not-guilty despite evidence and national protests. The case was settled in 3.8 million dollars.
The list could go on including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and family, Ahmaud Arbery, Sandra Bland, and many others. Money doesn’t bring the lives of Black Americans back. White privileges rule over justice and most of the officers involved in these cases are now free, walking the streets and kissing their children while innocent black lives were lost forever.
Two justices; no solutions
While police brutality against Black Americans remains unpunished, racial profiling (“the discriminatory practice by law enforcement officials of targeting individuals for suspicion of crime based on the individual’s race, ethnicity, religion or national origin”) continues to flood towards the Justice system.
Pre-trial – By 2016, African Americans were 3.5 times more likely to get incarcerated pre-trial in local jails than white non-Hispanics. Historically, the odds of conviction increase drastically with pre-trial incarceration.
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Sentences – African Americans and Latinos make 29% of the total population in the country. They also make 57% of the total US prison population. Imprisonment rates for African Americans are 5.9 times the rates of the white population.
These numbers are a part of the Sentencing Project report on racial disparities, which is definitely worth taking a look at.
From subjective to objective
While at matters of opinion we can say fundaments are subjective to the speaker (or writer), the amount of police brutality cases against Black Americans dissolved this argument. It is impossible, today, to deny that fact. It has become an objective truth due to overwhelming evidence: white police brutality over Black Americans is taking people´s lives and the justice is doing nothing to stop it.
Why peaceful protests are the right thing to do
Police brutality towards the Black Community has been getting more press than ever in the last year. This is not because it happens more now than it did before, but because there is a wider awareness among the population about its importance. According to The New York Times, a poll carried on in Monmouth University in 2015 and repeated in 2020 showed a 26% growth in white Americans stating that racism and discrimination are “a big problem in the US”.
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This is why peaceful protests might hold the key for a long-term change; they create awareness and visibility. Although a core of white supremacists is indeed in favor of such brutality, the largest portion of the population is radically against it. By concentrating large numbers of peaceful protesters, the Black American community and its supporters can bring the message of Black Lives Matter to a bigger audience, thus creating social awareness. In the long run, social awareness can turn into a deeper understanding of the gap and a combined effort to close it pushing white elites to lose their privileges and making a more joust nation for all.
Conclusion: get up and do something about it
There is no change coming from the comfy couch in front of the TV. The elites holding the power and the privileges are not willing to just let them go. There might be a chance if large numbers of mobilized people can show the world that social inequity, police brutality, wage gaps, and oppression over the Black Community have to come to an end. Furthermore, there is a golden opportunity in a youth-led movement such as Black Lives Matter. The next generations can change the course of events, but they need all the help all of us can give.
Don’t leave them alone in such an important cause, make your part in changing the world and become involved. Future generations count on your support, don’t fail them, don’t fail yourself.
Get up and do something, Black Lives Matter.