Following the brutal murder of George Floyd, yet another African American man’s death as a result of police brutality, the injustices of the centuries-long lynching of black men in America are no longer concealed or hidden from the public eye. With the power of social media, people around the world from Auckland in New Zealand, to Mogadishu in Somalia, are standing in solidarity with the protestors in the US to ensure that the message is clear: Black Lives Matter.
The BLM movement is not something new, however. Created by Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullor it was formally established in the year of 2013 following the murder of Trayvon Martin who was gunned down by George Zimmerman in claim of ‘self-defence’. The hashtag went viral on Twitter that same year when Zimmerman was acquitted; this ultimately gave a name to a movement that has previously existed in support of Black lives. The hashtag resurfaced not too long after when Michael Brown was shot by police officer Darren Wilson, this time focusing on the increasing rate of deaths of African Americans at the hands of police.
Black people in the USA are 2.5x more likely to be killed by police compared to their white counterparts despite making up only 13% of the population, a study led by Frank Edwards from Rutgers University School of Criminal Justice discovered. He argues “We need to increase transparency of police use-of-force if we are going to decrease the number of civilian deaths in this country as a result of these encounters”, emphasising the importance of holding the criminal justice system accountable for the excessive and fatal police force used, especially on black men.
Some argue that the movement has simply manifested itself time and time again under different names but still ultimately fight for the same cause. Those of the Black Panther organisation, National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) and Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) have all fought and protested for both individual and societal reformation in the United States.
However, previous organisations – those with a name and those without – have often resorted to violent expositions which detracted from the core message they wanted to be heard. Similar situations have occurred in recent times, with riots and looting taking the focus away from the movement and re-capturing the media’s attention so that they have the liberty to paint the BLM movement in a disparaging light.
Alicia Garza reiterates that the message of the Black Lives Matter movement is not a moment that should only resurface when acts of institutionalised racism are exposed, but a continuous campaign for the freedom of black people across the world. Garza’s belief that “Our movement is grounded in love” shows that the BLM movement is not interested in just condemning the criminal justice system or calling for the “murder of law enforcements” but rather strengthening the black community through job provisions, better education, safer homes and equal opportunities.
In order for all lives to matter we have to recognise that black lives matter too, not just for one moment, but as a means of striving for freedom all over the world.
There are many ways in which we can help this movement too. We can start by educating ourselves on the history of the BLM movements and trace its roots through American history. We can also acknowledge the deep-rooted racism within our own history and challenge them with the morals and standards we have in place today. We can also sign petitions to reform the legal system, advocate for better education for all and a better appreciation for the black community.
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor”Desmond Tutu
- Bloomberg Quick Take Originals (2016) A History of the Black Lives Matter Movement, Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMedqlxbFfM (Accessed: 10 June 2020).
- Lally, R, (2019) Police Use of Fatal Force Identified as a Leading Cause of Death in Young Men, Available at: https://www.rutgers.edu/news/police-use-fatal-force-identified-leading-cause-death-young-men (Accessed 10 June 2020)
- Fusion (2016) Black Lives Matter (BLM) Has a Message You Don’t Hear, Available At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIUnz3cfo-w (Accessed 11 June 2020)
Written by Filsan Hussein