Black Lives Matter: A Quick Explanation For Good Hearted Folks Who Want to Understand The Movement
I am a white female who in no way is speaking for this movement. I have a vast amount of empathy for those who do not hold the same privileges that I was born with. It disgusts me, and I am fighting for equality because of that. My goal is to strengthen the voices that the system is trying to silence through my privilege, but not to offer my own discourse on a problem I am not a victim of. I will stand with, and behind, but not in front of this movement. I know that nobody wants to hear another white woman’s opinion on this matter, so instead I am going to explain the movement for those people who do not understand it, but are good hearted in nature.
First things first…
I think it’s time to start sprinkling in political posts to my blog. To give you some background I’m an independent voter. I studied Political Science in college and graduated with my BA. In the future I will write a post outlining my political belief system. For now though you just need to know that I take each and every issue individually and critically analyze the issues related to it before I decide my opinion. You can trust that I do not hear an opinion and simply regurgitate it back to others as my own. With that said… here is my analysis on the Black Lives Matter movement.
It is extremely important that I start off with what exactly the Black Lives Matter movement is and means. I refuse to have debates about definitions. Here is an excerpt from the Black Lives Matter website. “#BlackLivesMatter is working for a world where Black lives are no longer systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. We affirm our contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression. We have put our sweat equity and love for Black people into creating a political project–taking the hashtag off of social media and into the streets. The call for Black lives to matter is a rallying cry for ALL Black lives striving for liberation.”
To explain this simply, Black lives currently do not matter (for various reasons that I will get into further) in many areas of society and this movement is looking to correct that so black lives hold the same values as all other lives that currently matter.
A history please…
Thinking about writing a complete history of how black lives have not mattered makes my brain want to explode. Honestly I may write an ebook about it or something similar in the future, but a complete history would make this post too long and everyone would move on. Here are the key points you need to know.
- Blacks (I will not say African-Americans because this will apply to Haitians, Jamaicans, etc) were brought to this very land originally as slaves (shocking right?). What this actually means is that these human beings were treated as property since before the United States was even a country. In turn, every single decision that was made about this country happened with the status quo making sure that only the folks who owned slaves made decisions. And that they did so with the intention of blacks always being slaves.
- This is important because it means, again, that every single law was written with slavery in mind. The freaking Constitution of the United States was written on paper that was milled using slaves, and signed by men wearing clothes that were created from slaves, while slaves brought them their brandy and waited on them through the Constitutional Convention.
- Moving along throughout history very rapidly, every decision made about the U.S. was decided upon with this slavery-infused Constitution. The racist tentacles are so far spread throughout this country’s justice system that to say there is no evidence of racism is short sided and very dangerous.
- Racism was an invention. After the emancipation proclamation racism was INVENTED by those in power as a tactic so they could stay in power. Hegemony is the term used by political scientists to describe this tool. They knew that in the south the number of blacks outnumbered the amount of wealthy whites and that meant they could hold more power. To combat this, racism was invented to ensure that even poor whites would feel more entitled than blacks. If blacks and poor whites came together to overthrow those in power they would win by a landslide. It was all about politics.
- Again, I could write a whole ebook just on the Jim Crow laws, but for the sake of this post I’ll just explain why they’re important. Another tactic used by those in power was to ensure that blacks couldn’t vote through Jim Crow laws. Since they couldn’t vote they couldn’t have a voice and they had no say in the political decisions that were made. So not only were those in power making all the rules, but they were writing laws with racist intent. This perpetuated the depth and scope of racism in this country’s justice system.
- An example of this behavior is when drug penalties were being decided. Since those deciding were racist these ideologies were implemented here too. Those who are found with 18 grams of cocaine are sentenced to the same time as those found with 1 gram of crack (more here). This is because poor and black communities predominantly use crack because it’s cheaper, and rich and white communities use cocaine, even though one is just the cheaper version of the other. This means more jail time for blacks for essentially the same crime as wealthy whites. There are hundreds of examples of this throughout our justice system so you’re just going to have to trust me when I say many laws were written to target poor, minority communities.
Explain what this means now…
Fast forward to today. Knowing just a few short facts about the history of racism in this country can help you understand how frustrating it is to hear that ignoring racism is the answer. Racism still is obviously rampant in our society. Ignoring it will definitely not reverse the laws that were written with racism behind the entire process. It also means that racism has become so normalized after 400 years that people believe the social inequities are “just the way it is”. This is very dangerous for black communities, as we have seen. This movement is not a push towards utopia for a society that’s already doing pretty well. Rather, Black Lives Matter is a movement that is trying to save an entire group of oppressed people and bring this country up to an acceptable level of equality. For those of you who are still not convinced, you are probably numbers people like me.
Explain the numbers…
- African-Americans make up 13.2% of the U.S. population
- Since the start of 2016 193 blacks have been killed by police (25% of all police killings)
- There are 2.2 million black males in the U.S. prison system, and blacks make up 37% of prison inmates
- The leading cause of black incarceration is non-violent drug offenses, even though whites do more drugs than blacks
- 15 blacks have been shot by police since Kaepernick sat during the national anthem
- A recent study pointed out that “a young Black male without a high school degree has a 59 percent chance of being imprisoned before his thirty-fifth birthday”
- White households are, on average, worth 13 times more than black households. White people make up 64% of the country’s population, yet have 88% of the country’s wealth. Compare this to black people who make up roughly 13 percent of the population, yet only make up 2.7% of the country’s wealth. The median income for white families in 2011 was $111,146 versus $7,113 for black families.
- Black people are more likely to be victims of subprime loans than whites with similar credit scores. They are also more likely to have a mortgage loan get rejected.
- Blacks receive 20% longer prison sentences than whites who commit similar crimes
These are just SOME of the examples of black oppression in the U.S. I think this list is long enough to remove any doubt that black lives currently do not matter to the same degree as white lives in particular.
Explain what I can do…
Educate yourself. Here is a great website that will explain the numbers to you and you can look specifically at your home state. After, and only after, you have educated yourself, SPEAK UP. Talk about this to every single person you can. People within our society who say “all lives matter” are not inherently evil, they are just uneducated (another hegemonic to keep the people with power in power). If the stereotypes were pointed out to them as fallacies I firmly believe individuals would believe them and work towards reversing them. Not everyone will, stubbornness is an American trait for sure, but if even one person listens you’ve made a difference. For example, imagine that one person is a mom. After listening she now raises her kids to combat the stereotypes that are going to be tossed at them thanks to the current education system. Those kids are now productive members of society who will be apart of the solution. What you say matters. How you live matters. Do not settle for mediocrity and do not allow those around you to be mediocre members of society. People’s lives are on the line.
This is the first post in a series that I will end up writing about this movement and oppression in general. I know it’s short, but the point is to give a quick explanation so people can read it and move on. I’m trying not to write novels and have people skip over it because they’re lazy (which I am also guilty of doing). If you have any ideas or comments write them below!