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Til this day, African Americans face a great deal of discrimination. The upcoming generation does not have it half as bad as their ancestors. Blacks were tortured, raped, and lynched hundreds of years ago. Lynching does not occur nearly as much, but blacks still face injustices that hurt just as much. There are other factors involved, but the Black Lives Matter civil rights movement mainly started because of one murder. The murder of Treyvon Martin. Socially, Black Lives Matter movement brought people together to protest and demand justice for victims. It is nothing new, but everyone feels that blacks are not treated Fairly. Specifically, within the court system. It is a proven fact that blacks do not get treated the same as other races with convictions, sentencing time, and justice. For example, if a white man and black man get accused of the same crimes, the black man is more likely to get convicted than the white man. Black men have a higher conviction rate than any other race. “African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites” (“Criminal Justice Fact Sheet”). Whites are more likely to be let off with a lighter sentence or no jail time at all. One of many reasons why this movement was started, is because justice was not served to Treyvon and his family. The movement started in 2013. Black lives matter became bigger after more black men were being murdered: with no convictions, people wanted justice, and the influence of social media. “The phrase “Black Lives Matter” first appeared on Facebook when activist Alicia Garza posted her response to hearing that a Florida jury…declared George Zimmerman not guilty of the murder of Treyvon Martin” (“Black Lives Matter”). Social media influences almost everything today. Teens and young adults are brainwashed by what they read and encounter on Facebook and Twitter. Social media can be dangerous to the young mind. In the case of Treyvon Martin, social media became a stepping stone for their cause.
Although Black Lives Matter movement is mainly about obtaining justice, a surplus of civil rights leaders and celebrities do not follow behind the movement. Older civil rights activist like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Andrew Young dislike their methods of protest and communication. The black lives matter movement lacks help from influential people. Their followers are mainly ordinary citizens that are fighting for justice. “Oprah Winfrey, have characterized the movement as lacking central leadership, clear demands, and a coherent political ideology. The movement has been further questioned for its tactics and unwillingness to compromise.” (“Black Lives Matter”). To the ordinary citizens, they felt it was a good cause to fight for. An infinite number of people feel that black lives are not valued as much as other races. It is true to a certain extent. Black people have always faced injustices within the court system.
With the murder of Treyvon Martin, George Zimmerman claimed self-defense. Blacks and others were infuriated. Treyvon, an unarmed teenager was killed; and the killer was released shortly after he was arrested. Zimmerman was not charged with anything. Zimmerman was also a suspicious man. Because of a rash of robberies within the neighborhood where Zimmerman and Treyvon’s dad lived; the residents of the community created a neighborhood watch in September 2011 (“Treyvon Martin”). The neighborhood watch consisted of many people of the residence, along with George. “Zimmerman regularly patrolled the streets and was licensed to carry a firearm. From August 2011 to February 2012, Zimmerman had called police several times to state he had seen individuals whom he had deemed as suspicious. All of the reported figures were black males” (Treyvon Martin”). When those recordings were released, an uproar of comments were made regarding racial profiling. Zimmerman called the police at 7:11, to report a suspicious guy. Maybe he thought Treyvon was just another black with bad intentions.
When the verdict was announced, the protest and rallies began. At first, they were seeking attention from civil rights activist. After examination of the movement, older activist decided not to help. Although everyone wanted justice for Treyvon, the movement lacked leadership and demands. Activist did not know what their needs were. Yes, they wanted justice; but what else were people fighting for. The Black Lives Matter movement also took on the police with violence. As we all know, violence is not the answer to justice. The older generation of civil rights activists did not like violence. “Many in my crowd admire the cause and courage of these young activists but fundamentally disagree with their approach. Trained in the tradition of Martin Luther King Jr., we were nonviolent activists who won hearts by conveying respectability and changed laws by delivering a message of love and unity” (Reynolds). The older generation of protesters primarily had peaceful mindset. For example, Martin Luther king Jr only wanted peace. With any of his protests or rallies, he never influenced violence. His demands were not questionable. Everyone knew what he was fighting for and his leadership mentality is unmatched. On their website, the purpose of the Black Lives Matter movement is explained. “The Black Lives Matter Global Network is a chapter-based, member-led organization whose mission is to build local power and to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes” (“Black Lives Matter”). Also, they are working to live in a world where black lives are no longer systematically targeted for demise. To an ordinary citizen, this is a good cause to believe in and be apart of. To many activists, their purpose and demands are not strong enough for them to follow behind the movement.
There was a series of murders between 2013 and 2016 that significantly influenced the Black Lives Matter movement. Black men were killed by police, and they were not charged for murder. Michael Brown, unarmed man killed in Missouri, by a white police officer. Eric Garner, killed in New York City, by excessive force of police officer. Video of this horrific act went viral on social media and ignited the movement even more. In Ferguson, protest turned violent quickly. “Protesters from around the country who gathered in Ferguson were met by a police force armed with military assault rifles, shotguns, pistols, body armor, armored fighting vehicles, and chemical agents banned in warfare, such as tear gas” (“Black Lives Matter”). This brought national attention to the movement. The movement gained and lost protestors simultaneously. Violence often turns people away. Older individuals do not see violence as a way of solving conflicts. The violence within the Ferguson protests encouraged many to view the movement as a violent group, that is hostile towards law enforcement and white people (“Black Lives Matter”). At this point, a lot of white policemen were being looked at as the bad guys. Black individuals began recording every encounter with policemen. People were scared. With that was being seen on social media and the news; it had people frightened. Law enforcement were being caught on camera killing citizens and not convicted for the murders. These actions by police, called for policemen to begin wearing body cameras. This may cause officers to act differently, knowing everything they do is being recorded by a body camera. The body cameras will capture every hostile act. It will be easier for the judge to determine who is in the wrong. Body cameras are used in law enforcement; but not nearly as much as they should be. The Black Lives Matter movement is working along with other civil rights movements to force policemen to wear body cameras. When civil rights groups work together, their voices are heard, and changes can be made.
Blacks have always faced discrimination with law enforcement, it goes back hundreds of years. Whites often wanted to be in control of everything and wanted blacks to stay in the lower tier of society. In 1838, the first form of city police in America was established. First it was Boston and then along came New York in 1845 (Potter). Although laws were put in place to form a fair society, nothing was fair for African Americans during the time. Slavery was not even abolished at that time. Therefore, African Americans were still being put to work by masters and forced to do things they did not want to do. They often did not have a choice, they would be killed or whipped if they did not comply with masters. This ties to society today, because police often try to force people to do certain actions. Many policemen get carried away with the power they have, and they often abuse their power. Various people are being killed by cops that are not properly doing their job; which is to serve and protect the community.
Through the years, white cops have made a negative impact on society. Especially in impoverished and low-income neighborhoods. Blacks in poor neighborhoods try to avoid encounters with policemen. Black men often feel as if the police are after them, because of their skin color and the neighborhood they may be in. Although one may be in a bad section of town, it does not give officers the right to assume they are involved with crimes. Many do not have a choice on where they are raised. Quite frequently, police officers portray blacks as drug dealers and people that start violence.
African American protest have always wanted to be civil and peaceful. There are certain events in history that sparked major violence and riots throughout cities in the United States. For example, the beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police officers. Riots sparked in Los Angeles after officers seen beating King, were not convicted. “The outrage was loud and intense, culminating in the massive Los Angeles Riots (or L.A. Uprisings, as they have since become known) of April and May 1992, when 63 people were killed and 2,383 injured. It was the largest civil disturbance in American history” (Feuerherd). People were simply enraged by the unfairness and discrimination within the law enforcement. While officers stood by and watched, Rodney King was struck by police batons over fifty times. He suffered eleven fractures. The jury refused to indict seventeen officers that stood by and chose not to take action (Feuerherd). Over 1,100 Marines, 600 Army soldiers, and 6,500 National Guard troops patrol the streets of Los Angeles. This riot was simply out of control and described as one of the most violent riots to date. African Americans were tired of being treated unfairly; which ties to the Black Lives Matter movement. They just want to live in a world where they are no longer targeted. Not by police nor ordinary citizens.
In all, African Americans want to be accepted in the society. The social media push by the founders heavily influenced the Black Lives Matter popularity. Teens began to take notice, and eventually got involved. Black lives matter became bigger after more black men were being murdered: with no convictions, people wanted justice, and the influence of social media. Thousands of U.S citizens have gathered together to fight for justice. Treyvon Martin, Eric Garner, and Michael Brown were significant murders. They caused major uproar and even violence throughout certain cities. Violence is not the answer, but sometimes protest get out of control. The protest in Ferguson was one of the most violent. Police had to take action to settle down the upset crowds. Frustration is understandable in these cases, because many officers involved were not being charged with murder. Comments on social media by activist, expressed a great quantity of fury. Social media was the foundation of this movement.
- “Black Lives Matter.” Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection, Gale, 2018. Opposing Viewpoints in Context, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/RMBGVS336742654/OVIC?u=lincclin_pcc&sid=OVIC&xid=c3889a25.
- Black Lives Matter, blacklivesmatter.com/about/herstory/.
- “Criminal Justice Fact Sheet.” NAACP, www.naacp.org/criminal-justice-fact-sheet/.
- Feuerherd, Peter. Why Didn’t the Rodney King Video Lead to a Conviction? 28 Feb. 2018, daily.jstor.org/why-rodney-king-video-conviction/.
- Potter, Gary. “The History of Policing in the United States, Part 1.” A Brief History of Slavery and the Origins of American Policing | Police Studies Online, 25 June 2014, plsonline.eku.edu/insidelook/history-policing-united-states-part-1.
- Reynolds, Barbara. “I Was a Civil Rights Activist in the 1960s. But It’s Hard for Me to Get behind Black Lives Matter.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 24 Aug. 2015, www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/08/24/i-was-a-civil-rights-activist-in-the-1960s-but-its-hard-for-me-to-get-behind-black-lives-matter/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.5c346d2b224b.
- “Trayvon Martin.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 1 Aug. 2018, www.biography.com/people/trayvon-martin-21283721.
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