Black lives matter. A phrase that we hear so often nowadays. But what does this truly mean? Black Lives Matter now describes itself as a “chapter-based national organisation working for the validity of black life”.
The movement was born in 2013, after the man who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin, was cleared of his murder. A Californian activist, Alicia Garza, responded to the jury’s decision on Facebook with a post that ended: “Black people. I love you. I love us. Our lives matter.” The hashtag was born, and continued to grow in prominence with each new incident and protest.
The movement was recently ressurected on May 5th 2020 when a 46-year-old black American man, George Floyd, was killed in Minneapolis, Minnesota during an arrest for allegedly using a counterfeit bill. Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, knelt on Floyd’s neck for almost eight minutes while Floyd was handcuffed and lying face down, begging for his life and repeatedly saying “I can’t breathe”.
Officers J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane further restrained Floyd, while officer Tou Thao prevented bystanders from intervening. During the final three minutes, Floyd was motionless and had no pulse while Chauvin ignored onlookers pleas to remove his knee, which he did not do until medics told him to.
Now, this is just a popular and well known act of police brutality. The truth of the matter is that occurrences like this have been happening since the United States of America began. For centuries, black people have been targeted by the police and have had the highest toll of deaths significantly higher than any other race.
But why is that though? Is there a reason behind this? It is common knowledge that blacks in America receive the most drastic responses from law enforcement. Is it due to their notoriety for criminal activity? Something I have learnt to know is perception many times, is stronger than facts.
However, that is not an excuse for murdering unarmed people. It is one of the most painful realities that we as humans have to face. That the men and women who swore an oath to protect us are sometimes the ones harming us. However, there are some things that we have to consider when we discuss the issues of Black Lives Matter.
It is common knowledge to know that the blacks are the race in America that suffers from poverty the most. And studies have proven that low income areas have higher crime rates. So let us put ourselves in the shoes of a white policeman in the United States. Imagine you have been assigned to patrol the streets of a low income, predominantly black neighborhood.
As you are driving, you see a car take a right turn without traficating. Therefore you decide to pull this person over. As you walk over to the person’s car, you observe that it is an African American man in his mid 20s. What do you think would come to mind?
This is the problem that many policemen face. They are never sure if they are dealing with a criminal or if they are dealing with a civilian. And in my opinion, it is not their fault. There are so many African Americans involved in criminal activity and as a policeman, it would be extremely difficult to decipher who is actually guilty of something. However, there is so much more that can be done by the policeman to prevent tragedies from happening.
The killings of young black men in the United States by police officers is a leading cause of death for the black race. This should be a clear sign that something is wrong and nobody is doing anything about it. Racial profiling is not a good enough reason to execute an unarmed civillian.
The police are supposed to protect the people but based on videos that I have seen and that have gone viral, (such as the George Floyd video) it seems as if the brutal force that the policemen are using is not a last resort. There are so many more ways that situations such as these can be avoided, and it is up to the policemen to implement them. Acts of violence against black people have been happening for centuries,but the only thing that has changed, is the cameras.