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#BlackLivesMatter: A Revolution in 2020 and Beyond

by Melissa Lipari, Maya Cherins, and Hannah Kil 

 

On July 17th, 2014, Eric Garner died in a chokehold after NYPD suspected Garner of selling untaxed cigarettes. 

On August 9th, 2014, Michael Brown was unarmed and was shot and killed walking to his grandmother’s apartment from a convenience store.

On February 3rd, 2020, Ahmaud Arbery was on a run and was shot and killed by two white men who thought Arbery was a burglar.

On March 13th, 2020, Breonna Taylor was shot at least eight times, as police officers were looking for two men selling drugs in a house far from Taylor’s. 

On May 25th, 2020, George Floyd was arrested and killed by four police officers who accused Floyd of forgery. Derek Chauvin, former Minneapolis police officer, kept his knee on George Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. 

These are merely five names. 

The countless deaths of black people at the hand of police officers in this country shed light at the system built around us to oppress BIPOC (black indigenous, people of color), and to support white people. 

Since the inexcusable and tragic death of George Floyd, protests and riots have broken out all across the world. The protests began in Minneapolis, the location of George Floyd’s death, and spread nationwide, eventually world wide. Many of the protests are peaceful, many are not. As protests are resulting in riots and looting, many white people have found the destruction of property to be more devastating than the killing of BIPOC for centuries.

This country was founded on looting. Colonists stormed through America and stole the land of indigenous people. White people founded rioting and looting, they taught black people looting. Don’t tell black people how to protest their long-lasting systemic oppression when you have been looting and stealing from BIPOC for centuries. 

And when people say “rioting and looting are fogging up the point,” let’s look at the facts. Derek Chauvin, the former police officer who kept his knee on George Floyd’s neck was arrested in one of the shortest timelines it took for cases involving police. That is from the attention that the protesting, the rioting, and the looting attracted. 

Until the world can value black human beings as much as they value damaged property, racial justice will not be reached. 

White Silence

White Silence is deadly. As George Floyd took his last breath, he was forced to pay the ultimate price. He was forced to be silenced in death. Floyd is yet another black man who has lost his life to police brutality. When will white Americans wake up? 

The silence that white people choose to partake in, is part of the reason as to why there are so many deaths in the black community. White people have the privilege to be selective activists. Because #BlackLivesMatter does not directly affect them, they can choose if they want to participate or not.

It takes the life of another to awaken the voices of many, but it shouldn’t have to. People of all races, creeds, and nationalities should be aware and against the injustices that the black community has faced for centuries. It should happen far before life is replaced by death. Silence is consent in these trying times. If you allow the police and our governmental systems to continue their injustices, change will never come. This is an impending doom that many black people have been feeling over the last decade, with several murders of their people being plastered on news headlines far too often.

In 2020, it seems that finally, some white and white-passing Americans are beginning to use their voices - voices that haven’t been heard this loudly since 1968. 

To paraphrase journalist Sirry Alang: I know many white Americans who did not vote for Donald Trump. I know many white Americans who voted for Obama - twice. I know many white Americans who are absolutely gutted by what is going on in the world. I know many white Americans who believe that #BlackLivesMatter. But, it takes more than just feelings to make a difference. Action is what is going to bring change to our country. 

The Salon.com writes, “Your anger and sadness about the big things are meaningless if you choose to do nothing about the small things you have control over”. 

Donations, sharing information, protesting, and simply being an ally to those who are disenfranchised are small steps that white people can make during this time. Education is vastly important as well, as we have more time now than ever during COVID-19 to watch documentaries, listen to black educators, and to read books by black authors. Having white skin automatically puts you at an advantage. Recognize that privilege and use your platforms to spread information about the movement. Have those difficult conversations with family members and friends but most importantly, do everything with authenticity. 

These are steps that can help end White Silence, a silence that the Salon deems as “deafening”.

The Corrupt Government & Defunding the Police

The reason why White Silence is so disruptive is because of the systematic racism that both the government and police forces have shown towards the black community. It has been ingrained in the minds of many white people that it is okay to not speak up against police brutality - because our government allows it to be okay. Our government allows the lives of black people to be put at risk or to be diminished. This creates a trickle-down effect that then leads to inaction.

There are a plethora of reasons that lead people to believe that silence is okay. Perhaps they have a family member in the police force or they might be afraid of controversy. Whatever the reason may be, it is not right. We can not sit back idley. Imagine if it were someone in your family who was being unlawfully murdered. Would you sit back in silence?

Even with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, discrimination is still taking place. Just because we no longer have a segregated school system or black people have been able to vote, does not mean that the war is over. Where our government has failed us, we need to pick up the pieces and right their wrongs.

Unfortunately, there are many wrongs that have to be made right. One of which is the United States Police Force. The police have been notoriously violent, especially towards the black community, in American history. The difference now is, the deaths outweigh the saviors. Or, police brutality is simply being filmed. It’s always existed. Yet, now, since you see it on video, does that legitimize the long-lasting oppression of BIPOC?

According to the Boston Globe, “The 1980s “Broken Windows” theory of policing posited that cracking down on small-scale infractions like vandalism, public drinking, and loitering prevented more serious crime from occurring in neighborhoods. This resulted in discretionary enforcement, with minority communities targeted most often, leading to controversial tactics like stop-and-frisk, which disproportionately impacted Black and Latino men”.

It is now more common to see a person of color being berated by the police than it is to see a cop participating in a good deed towards them. I was recently in a situation where the cops were called on me because I was playing music loudly outside. As a woman of color, I was a bit frightened. However, I could not imagine being a black man, let alone a black woman, in this type of situation.

I had privilege in this instance because the police simply took my information and gave me a slap on the wrist. If I had been a black person, I would have been in the back of a cop car, or worse. Despite my experience, this situation is not about me. It is about one instance of our law enforcement doing right by its citizens. This one instance is few and far between and rarely extends to the black community.

Not only must the behavior of police officers change, but their funding must be cut as well. If they are a well-oiled machine, they are invincible. However, if the government were to cut their funding, they would no longer be an army that could hurt black Americans so brutally.

Black Lives Matter Co-Founder, Patrisse Cullors, spoke to the Hollywood Reporter on this issue by saying “An abolitionist believes in a world where police and prisons are no longer weaponized as a tool for public safety”. If we can abolish the corruption that has plagued our justice system, then we can create a system that will treat all civilians with respect.

The corruption that these systems display has failed us. We have been failed by the president, who calls protestors “thugs”. The government has failed us by not allowing us to exert our rights peacefully - instead, they choose to cover the streets with cops that are ready to be violent. Our officers have failed us because they refuse to keep us safe, they would much rather harm us instead.

This all might sound quite hopeless, but thankfully, social media has become a safe haven and an educational platform during these angering and heartbreaking times.

#BlackOutTuesday

Social Media can be known for toxicity, but on Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020, irrelevant sharing was put on pause. On #BlackOutTuesday millions of social media users stopped posting about their own personal lives and contributed to platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook with content solely related to the Black Lives Matter Movement. Companies blacked out their services, encouraging people to focus on staying away from listening to music or playing games on their phones. This time was meant to educate one another and allow the voices of black people to be heard.

As well as businesses contributing to #BlackOutTuesday, Instagram users posted a black tile on their feeds. The photo was supposed to be a symbol of solidarity, as users chose to spend the day away from promoting their own lives to help spread awareness towards the movement.

However, the posting of merely a black square was perceived as distasteful and unproductive. The #BlackOutTuesday hashtag has 28.8 million posts. The Justice for George Floyd petition on Change.org has 15.5 million signatures. The point of #BlackOutTuesday was missed. Going on social media and posting a black square with a hashtag is not helpful. Crucial information and resources were drowned in the millions of black squares. The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter was simply black screens, not useful petitions, numbers to call, nothing. If you’re going to engage in social media activism, add to the conversation by sharing information. 

Social media activism is normally extremely beneficial, as many millennials would not have known George Floyd’s name if it were not for an Instagram post. However, Black Lives Matter is not a trend. Let’s continue to use our platforms to educate and inform, beyond #BlackOutTueday, and beyond a black screen. 

Social Media and Misinformation 

On Monday, June 1st, the hashtag #DCBlackout was trending on Twitter. With hundreds of thousands of likes, this hashtag sparked a wildfire of misinformation regarding the protests related to the Black Lives Matter movement. 

The hashtag, #DCBlackout, was incited to spread claims that the Washington D.C area was under attack in the form of potential violent pursuits by Black Lives Matter protestors that were proven to be false. The spread of misinformation didn’t stop there. There were also claims of internet and cell phone blocking and fires throughout the area. Twitter had later removed the hashtag, #DCBlackout, from it’s ‘trending topics’, but it had already been exposed to millions of viewers. 

In terms of the spread of information, social media is a double-edged sword. It is an essential way to connect and communicate, yet its speed can be devastating. In this day in age, it is crucial to be media literate. The importance of fact-checking, being aware of bias and agendas, and overall thinking critically is a great defense against the spread of misinformation on social media. 


Here are some concrete ways in which you can help fight the long-lasting systemic oppression of BIPOC. Check your privilege. Educate yourself. Call. Text. Email. Donate. Sign petitions. Engage in conversations. Vote. Do not stop fighting for black lives when Instagram posts slow down. Do not stop after #BlackOutTuesday. Do not stop today, tomorrow, or ever. We are in this fight for the long-haul. 

Register to Vote:

Educate Yourself:

Books to Read

  • Black Feminist Thought by Patricia Hill Collins
  • Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
  • White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo, PhD
  • So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Movies and TV Shows to Watch

  • 13th (Netflix)
  • Dear White People (Netflix)
  • The Hate U Give (Hulu with Cinemax)
  • When They See Us (Netflix)
  • See You Yesterday (Netflix)

Podcasts to Subscribe and Listen to

  • 1619
  • Intersectionality Matters
  • Pod Save the People
  • About Race
  • Code Switch 

Call, Text, Email:

  • Find your representative and demand they take action against police brutality and ensure that BLACK LIVES MATTER.
  • Phone Script:
      • Hello, my name is ______ and I am a resident of _____. I am contacting you because I want to know what you will do to protect black lives and prevent further instances of police brutality. I am calling to urge you to condemn police brutality, racial profiling, and the use of excessive force by police.
    • Email Script:
      • Dear _______, 
      • My name is _______ and I am a resident of ______. I am contacting you because I want to know what you will do to protect black lives and prevent further instances of police brutality. I am writing to urge you to condemn police brutality, racial profiling, and the use of excessive force by police.
      • Sincerely,
      • _________
    • Text "ENOUGH" to 55156 to demand Justice for Breonna Taylor
    • Text “SIGN SEUDKP” to 50409 to sign the “Ending Qualified Immunity Act” and have the message delivered to your officials
    • Text “SIGN RISTUS” to 50409 to sign Repeal 50-a, which allows the NYPD to hide records of misconduct
    • Send an email to the Kentucky Attorney General, the Mayor and the Governor demanding justice for Breonna. This link will open to a pre-written email. Fill out the missing fields on your information and send. Let’s hold those who murdered Breonna Taylor accountable. http://tinyurl.com/EmailBreonnaTaylor

    Donate:

    Petitions to Sign (DO NOT DONATE TO PETITIONS ON CHANGE.ORG):

    Black-Owned Bookstores to Buy From:

    • Brave and Kind Books (Decatur, GA)
    • Semicolon (Chicago, IL)
    • Brain Lair Books (South Bend, IN)
    • Afriware Books (Maywood, IL)
    • Detroit Book City (Detriot, MI)
    • Mahogany Books (Washington, DC)
    • Uncle Bobbie’s (Philidelphia, PA)
    • Hakim’s Bookstore (Philidelphia, PA)
    • Ashay by the Bay (Bay Area, CA)
    • Eso Won Books (Los Angeles, CA)
    • The Lit Bar (Bronx, NY)
    • Cafe con Libros (Brooklyn, NY)
    • Frugal Bookstore (Roxbury, MA)

     

    References:

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