Black Lives Matter

Maggie Leone '17 and Maura Ward '17, Sports Editor and Staff Writer

What does it mean for a generation of young people brought up to respect the police when the people who are supposed to keep us safe are taking innocent lives of people of color?  Unfounded aggression on the part of white police officers makes one question whether American justice is truly just. Today, the need some feel to justify the actions of these police officers reveals the covert racism. The spike in killings of young African American men and women within the past five years and subsequent protests attempted to shake the institutionalized racism with which America was founded.

In August of 2014, riots erupted in Ferguson, Missouri following the fatal shooting of African American teenager Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson.  The city was in complete disarray, with many protesters resorting to violence, so the police issued curfews and employed riot squads to maintain order. The incident sparked a nationwide debate on the issue of police brutality and the relationship between officers and African Americans. In November 2014, Darren Wilson was not indicted and the violence continued following the decision,as the citizens were outraged. In March 2015, the Ferguson Police Department was investigated and was found guilty of misconduct against the citizens of the city regarding the discrimination against African Americans.

The Sandra Bland case sparked national outrage over the summer of 2015.   In Prairie View, TX, Sandra Bland, a twenty seven year old African American woman, was pulled over for improper lane change.  The dashcam of the police car recording reveals that the officer who pulled Bland over did not follow proper police protocol, and Bland was arrested for assault.  Failing to post the $500 bail, Bland was kept in her cell and was found there, hanged.  Her death was ruled a suicide, but the controversy about the case continued as millions of people used social media to examine the facts of the case and question her treatment in the Walker County Jail (#sayhername).  

Recently, Officer Jason Van Dyke, who fatally shot and killed seventeen year old Laquan McDonald on October 20th, 2014, posted bond.  In shooting and kill McDonald, Van Dyke did what he believed was justified at the time.  However, what justifies firing sixteen shots at a person?  What justifies the continued use of brute force when the “suspicious character” is already subdued?  These are questions social justice activists and socially-aware citizens are asking on social media.

The growing popularity of social media outlets has played a huge role in viewing these cases of police brutality.  The questions people pose on social media are questions about whether or not certain racist police officers uphold or obstruct justice.  Many post videos from protests in places like Ferguson.  Some post videos of minor uses of excessive force by police officers that do not result in death but still spark national outrage (the pool party video from Texas, the schoolroom assault in South Carolina).  But most of all, social media does not let anyone forget about the people killed, and its never-ceasing scrutiny of the issues does not let these cases get swept under the rug.

The Black Lives Matter movement, founded by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, began growing into a national movement when supporters on social media began to use the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter.  However, a counter-hashtag was started which proclaimed that #AllLivesMatter. And while that statement is completely true and releventt After so many sickening acts of violence against individual African Americans and the Black community movement as a whole, this is not the time to silence those voices with the excuse that using the hashtag #AllLivesMatter is more inclusive of everyone. Black people have been told for so many years that they don’t matter as much as white people (⅗ Compromise, anyone?), and this movement helps them assert their worth.

Now, some might bring up the fact that not all police officers are bad, but not all young black men in hoodies are “up to something,” and, yet, the stereotype remains.  Police officers cannot let prejudices of the past blind them so that they may have the ability to uphold justice in a proper fashion.  

Racism is alive in the United States, which is both frightening and sickening.  This is the year of 2015 and the fact that the color of someone’s skin still affects how he or she is treated is senseless. The human race was created out of love in order to keep one another company and care for each other, not to wreak havoc and terror on one another for any reason, least of all for the color of a person’s skin.  However, America was founded with slavery, and the inferiority of other races to whites is a message thoroughly ingrained in our history. This is why people are protesting.  This is why social media is exploding.  Because the results of brutality cause the death of a human person. Because the backlash resulting from police brutality is forcing America to air its dirty laundry.  As citizens of America, we must unite to squelch racism and live together in a state of harmony. We must help bring justice.