A Change Overdue
Throughout history, protesting and standing up for a cause has been very common. It’s essentially a part of American history. However, some make bigger impacts than others. Peter Katel states in his article titled Racial Conflict, “Three words — Black Lives Matter — have sparked a new argument over race in America. Demonstrators chanting and tweeting that slogan have protested the deaths of African-Americans, many of them unarmed, at the hands of police officers — most of them white — in cities across the country in the past two years.” (15) The Black Lives Matter movement has fueled the fire for the discussion of racial equality in America. Most people felt, before the rise of the movement, that this topic of discussion was not necessary to discuss. The idea was that racism was non-existent in America and was not as bad as previous years throughout history. The movement has become very controversial and has resulted in some changes regarding police procedures but also an increased amount of violence in the black community. There are differing moral and political opinions, therefore the issue has no resolution as of now.
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Opposition has always been a part of American politics, but it is believed that Donald Trump’s election has sparked a larger era of protests. In an article titled Citizen Protests Alan Greenblatt says, “Fueled by social media, demonstrations have arisen over Trump administration policies on such issues as health care, climate change and immigration. Meanwhile, alleged police brutality and the removal of Confederate monuments have aroused mass protests, some violent.” (1) The size of today’s protests is reminiscent of the many protests in American history and especially the civil rights movement of the 1960s. The United States was founded in an act of protest, a rebellion against British colonial power. The Revolutionary War was followed by protests, such as the Boston Tea Party in 1773.Greenblatt goes on to say, “There was no time in American history when all views could be aired without some restrictions…There have always been some views that some people thought were so repugnant and dangerous that they couldn’t be allowed to be heard.” (8) The recent opposition of Trump’s presidency and protests related to Black Lives Matter follows right along with the U. S’s history of mass demonstrations.
Today’s racial tensions began in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. New attention was focused on dangers to black males in 2012 when a neighborhood watch volunteer kills black teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida. The slogan Black Lives Matter first showed up in media reports after the 2014 shooting of black teenager Michael Brown by Ferguson, Mo police officer Darren Wilson, resulting in Brown’s death. A series of mass demonstrations grew into the Black Lives Matter movement after multiple unarmed black men and boys were killed by police in New York City, Ohio, North Carolina, etc. Criticism of the movement grew as African Americans became more violent towards police. Incidents include the December 2014 killing of two New York City officers and the September 2015 shooting of Houston Deputy Sheriff Darren Goforth. This sparked a counter position labeled as Police Lives Matter. Today’s conflicts between police and African Americans have stimulated debate about the larger issue of race in America.
Over the past three years, the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement has inspired protests across the country against police violence. Some were continual over several weeks and drew a massive, militarized response from law enforcement. Some cities who held these massive demonstrations include: Ferguson, Mo, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Baltimore, Maryland. Collier Meyerson stated in an article titled When Protesting Police Violence Puts you in the Crosshairs, “…SWAT teams equipped with tear gas, armored vehicles, and rifles patrolled the streets, and protesters were subject to mass arrests and police brutality. In Ferguson, 10 days of protesting led to 150 arrests—80 percent of them for failure to disperse. Nearly 200 protesters were arrested in Baton Rouge. In Baltimore, a group of aggrieved residents sued the city” (20).
Advocates for the Black Lives Matter movement argue that the emergence of the movement is mainly due to the impacts that police brutality and injustice in America has had on people of color. The impact is not only emotional but psychological as well. Over the past two decades, the militarization of police forces has given black Americans more to fear. “With current technology, police killing of Black people is recorded for public scrutiny and consumption. Access to these videos has led to unprecedented public discourse on what constitutes brutality, its connections to White supremacy, and the consequences for Black lives” (Alang 662). After the terrorist’s attacks in 2001, because of the severity of the attack on the country, police resources increased massively. Police officers now are trained as if they are in the military and use military strategies to manage protesters. Poor treatment by law-enforcement officers has been a reality of African-American life since before the United States existed. Even after the success of the civil-rights movement, police brutality and discrimination in the criminal-justice system didn’t end, they just became hidden. Over the course of the past three years, the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement has inspired protests. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Today, black men are six times more likely to be incarcerated than white men, and black women more than twice as likely as white women. Black men are three times more likely than white men to die at the hands of law enforcement.
While advocates of the Black Lives Matter movement argue that the movement is a positive, productive way towards change that brings awareness to the racial tensions in America, opposers of the movement believe the movement promotes violence and is wrong and could even be classified as a hate group. Most opposers believe that both sides are to blame for the violence that comes from protests and rallies related to Black Lives Matter. Recently, Donald Trump stated that he agrees with the idea that both sides are to blame for violence. Trump’s election brought a new agenda for the movement’s opposers. Efforts were made to undo the things done during the Obama administration. The views of Trump brought on a debate from advocates and opposers of the Black Lives Matter movement. “As the 2016 presidential campaign unfolded, BLM activists gained a reputation for using disruption as a way to push the movement’s key issues” (McLain 13).
The Black Lives Matter Movement has created a conversation within the country as well as across the world. “Black Lives Matter represents one of the most influential and controversial of the contemporary protests movements. Much of the controversy is connected to misunderstanding, distorted portrayals, and attempts to discredit the movement” (Hoffman 596) Most minorities in America believe The Black Lives Matter movement should be recognized and challenged. During the civil rights movement, students protested and created movements like the Freedom Rides, people young and old marched on Washington, and many activists spoke out against injustice and locked arms with black men and women to demand change. In this era where racial tensions are at a high because of recent events, each of us should think about how we can effect change in all our communities and work to make it happen. It is time to speak up and speak out against injustice and wrong As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said: “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people”.
Alang, Sirry, et al. “Police Brutality and Black Health: Setting the Agenda for Public Health Scholars.” American Journal of Public Health, vol. 107, no. 5, May 2017, pp. 662-665. EBSCOhost, doi:10.2105/AJPH.2017.303691.
Greenblatt, Alan. Citizen Protests. CQ Researcher, 5 Jan. 2018, pp. 1-24, library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre2018010500.
Hoffman, Louis, et al. “An Existential–Humanistic Perspective on Black Lives Matter and Contemporary Protest Movements.” Journal of Humanistic Psychology, vol. 56, no. 6, Nov. 2016, pp. 595-611. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1177/0022167816652273.
Katel, P. (2016, January 8). Racial conflict. CQ Researcher, 26, 25-48. Retrieved from http://library.cqpress.com/
McClain, Dani. “The Future of BLM. (Cover Story).” Nation, vol. 305, no. 8, 09 Oct. 2017, pp. 1216.EBSCOhost, libraries.ou.edu/access.aspx? url=http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.lib.ou.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=125280009&site=ehost-live.
Meyerson, Collier. “When Protesting Police Violence Puts You in the Crosshairs.” Nation, vol. 305, no. 16, 18 Dec. 2017, pp. 16-21. EBSCOhost, libraries.ou.edu/access.aspx? url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=126492359&site=ehost-live.
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