What You Need To Know To Better Understand The Black Lives Matter Movement
© Image by Alexis Delilah, Projection by Videometry
An overview of the most "Black Lives Matter" topic-related terms and questions.
Since the killing of George Floyd on the 25th of May 2020, by a police officer in Minneapolis, a worldwide revolt has risen and is seeking justice for other members of the black community killed by the police and general equality in society. Read on to get a better understanding of black oppression, police brutality, the riots, white privilege and racism today.
Oppression is the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel or unjust manner. Black oppression means being discriminated against for the colour of the skin and other features that indicate a dark-skinned origin.
Institutional racism is the different access to goods, services and opportunities in society. When differentiated access becomes inseparable for institutions, it becomes common practice. The more common a practice is, the harder it will be to correct it. Ultimately, this racism dominates private companies, public institutions, higher education, healthcare, law and justice systems and is reinforced by the actions of newcomers.
Since institutional racism is not triggered by an individual, but built up in the system and spread and normalized by the population, it makes it more difficult to reduce the development.
© Image via LA Johnson/ NPR
The rate at which black Americans are killed by police is more than twice as high as the rate for white Americans. Since January first, 2015, 1252 black people have been shot and killed by police, according to The Washington Post's database tracking police shootings which don’t even include those who died in police custody or were killed using other methods.
NPR put together a list of final moments of some individuals killed by the police:
Ezell Ford was walking in his neighborhood,
Tanisha Anderson was having a bad mental health episode and her brother called 911,
Tamir Rice was playing in a park,
Walter Scott was going to an auto-parts store,
Philando Castile was driving home from dinner with his girlfriend,
Botham Jean was eating ice cream in his living room in Dallas,
Atatiana Jefferson was babysitting her nephew at home in Texas,
Dominique Clayton was sleeping in her bed,
Breonna Taylor was also asleep in her bed when the police mistook her house for the predators house and shot her to death,
George Floyd was at the grocery store.
Why do we need riots?
“We can change a lot through peaceful protesting”
Unfortunately, we can look back at history and see that this is not the case. Let’s take the LGBTQ Community as an example which has fought for their rights in peaceful protests. In response, they got beaten, arrested, molested and even murdered. The following feelings of anger and mistreat resulted in them losing all their fear and starting riots. Only then they were able to achieve real change.
We often hear comments like, “I would never do something like this” and that “This is not how our society is built”
That is correct. So why doesn’t everybody loot? Why doesn’t everybody break the law? Because we have agreed on things. Our society is, technically speaking, built on a contract. An unspoken contract amongst each other with common rules and practises on how to socially behave. This contract is only as strong as its people.
There is an extreme amount of people in the world who do not have the means to pay their own medical bills, struggle to get enough food on the table for their family or are even homeless and have to live day by day off of the kindness of others. Still, they play by the rules. Despite having nothing, they wish for society to work and exist.
Now imagine that some members of this society, in this case, the black people and/or BIPOC, have to see their mothers, fathers, sons and daughters getting murdered by the police day by day. The same police that swore to protect and serve their people. Innocent people's lives are being taken in a way that no person should ever have to lose their life. We ask ourselves, what part of the contract is that? The answer is, there is no contract unless the law and the people are upholding their end of it.
The contract that society has forced them to sign alongside everyone else, has and is being broken by the police again and again without the offenders facing consequences. The Black community has been fighting for equal rights for decades and yet they haven’t come very far. Imagine being 64 years old and still having to go protest for the same rights you did 40 years ago.
“These Riots are disgusting”
Racism won’t vanish just because they are destroying buildings and shops, yes. But it also won’t vanish if they don’t. Riots have brought big changes not just in the LGBT and Queer Rights Movement but also the Civil Rights Movement and the Women’s Rights Movement to name only a few.
You still want to find an answer on how to protest rightfully?
The answer is, there is none. There is no right way to protest. It can’t be seen as a right by the system they are protesting.
Racism and Privilege Today
You can easily distinguish whether you are experiencing racial biases or are on the side of the privileged. Here is a little self-test to check your privilege. Put both of our hands with all fingers spread in the air. Each time a statement applies to you, take one finger down.
Someone calling you racial slurs
Someone clenching their purse when you enter the elevator or sit next to or in front of them on the train
Getting bullied solely because of the color of our skin
getting accused of not being able to afford something expensive
Having fear of being stopped by the police
Actually getting stopped or detained by police without a valid reason
Having to teach your child how to act to not get killed by the police / having the talk
Feeling an extreme fear in your heart when being stopped by the police
Given a pass on sanitation you deserve
It is about going to the supermarket and only finding hair products for straight or light curly hair, going to a drugstore and not finding any makeup in your skin color, wanting to find pantyhose in your shade. It’s about moving through life without being racially profiled or unfairly stereotyped.
Racism vs. White Privilege
White privilege exists because of historical, ongoing racism and prejudice.
Racial bias is comparable to a belief and racism is the result of the belief put into practice. For example, one might have heard while growing up or through one's environment that colored people are more likely to commit a crime and come to subconsciously or consciously believe that. This is a bias. Any reaction caused by this bias would be the result of racism.
Some examples where a racial bias leads to racist action:
Crossing the street to avoid walking by a young black man.
Saying, “You’re pretty for a dark-skinned girl”
Acting surprised when someone speaks your language.
Police shooting an unarmed black man because he was “scared for his life”.
A jury finding a person of color guilty of a violent crime despite little evidence.
Denying service based on someone's skin color.
Racism and bias depend on racialization. This is the evaluation of people based on physical differences such as skin tones.
But why don’t All Lives Matter?
Of course, all lives do matter but right now the focus has to be on those lives that don’t matter in society as much as others, which are black lives. We need to focus on educating ourselves and showing empathy to fix this specific issue because it’s one that keeps all lives from mattering.
This is not a fight to make black lives matter more than other lives. This is a fight for equality. To work towards equality for all people we must start advocacy for the most marginalized.
All lives can not matter as long as black lives don’t matter!