the last two weeks have been heartbreaking and exhausting and even more mentally draining than before. whilst i’ve been sharing stories on my instagram and retweeting/liking tweets on my twitter, i know it isn’t enough, and it may never be enough.

but here is a list of things you can do to help.

what we’ve seen with George Floyd is something we have seen a countless number of times, for years. i can say it’s been happening for over 400 years, because it has. but then i say that and some people will respond with “but it’s not a race issue, it’s a police brutality issue”. sure, yeah, it’s a police brutality issue, you’re right–but it is about race.

it’s about race because black people are always subjected to this kind of abuse.

i don’t need to list out statistics here because whoever disagrees, do your own research. and as for me, i have done research–i’m not just saying all this because it’s a “trend” like some say, and having said that for some people it is, because after posting the #blackouttuesday pictures what did they do? nothing. there was, what, 19million black squares posted? but how many signatures were signed on the petitions?

it is about race because black people are more likely to be stopped and searched. killed. not hired for a job. paid less. more likely to die in pregnancy and childbirth. imprisoned.

black lives are the ones in danger now, are the ones suffering, are the ones being murdered. look at Emmett Till’s story. Eric Garner. Tamir Rice. Trayvon Martin. Sandra Bland. Breonna Taylor. Philando Castile. Stephon Clark. Aiyana Stanley-Jones.

here is a link to a list of black men and women who have been killed by police

there is power and privilege, and there is racism and discrimination against your skin tone and race. as a white person, you won’t be singled out because of your skin tone or because you’re white. you won’t be followed around shops because of that. if you do get followed around shops that’s because you look dodgy. not because you’re white. that’s the difference. white people have power and privilege black people don’t. watch Jane Elliot’s study.

speaking of which, in 2018 i wrote an essay (that was, looking back, extremely shittily written with poor grammar) on Black Lives Matter when i applied for Sociology & Psychology, which i think has some relevance now.

Discuss the progress of the Black Lives Matter movement and how it has influenced social change

Black Lives Matter is a movement that began in 2013, following the exoneration of George Zimmerman, who fatally shot Trayvon Martin (a seventeen year old, African American boy) in Sanford, Florida, the previous year. Trayvon was unarmed, a narrative that repeated itself again with Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and many more. Trayvon had just bought himself iced tea and a packet of skittles.

The founders of this movement, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, began with creating Tumblr and Twitter accounts, using the hashtag #blacklivesmatter. This was a call to action, an attempt at creating a safer world for black people. They were living in a world where white supremacists were found not guilty, where they were acquitted of all charges relating to second degree murder and manslaughter. Black people were not safe in this America.

On 9th August 2014, in Ferguson, white police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown. Darren Wilson shot him four times in his right arm and twice in the head. Michael was unarmed. The day after Mike Brown’s shooting, protests broke out and more than five hundred people from eighteen cities across America joined Garza, Cullors and Tometi in a ‘freedom ride’ to Ferguson under the support of the Black Lives Matter campaign.

After a sixth month inquiry, a grand jury came to the decision that Darren Wilson wouldn’t be indicted on civil rights charges or any state charges. “Hands up – don’t shoot” were the rallying cries of the protestors, following the shooting in Ferguson.

In June 2015, Dylann Roof, an unrepentant and perilous white supremacist, opened fire in a black church in Charleston, killing nine people, after having sat and conversed with them. The media called Dylann Roof a “lost child”, whereas Mike Brown was a “troubled young man”. Dylann’s reasoning for killing innocent people in a church was simply because of their skin colour – because they were black. He told his victims that “Blacks are taking over the country” and he was a man who felt as if his norm of supremacy, prerogative and privilege was being jeopardised.

Despite the fact Dylann Roof was charged with thirty-three counts of federal hate crime, the glaring not guilty verdicts in the case of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Philando Castille and Freddie Gray are highlighted in the protests that took place – it is a vivid sign of failure for racial justice and discrimination.

The Conflict Theory by Karl Marx suggests that, “two or more groups build tension surrounding a social issue.” Black Lives Matter is a social group, aimed at addressing discrimination and the oppression faced by certain groups or individuals. Oppression usually leads to the desire for social change and justice. Marx believed that conflict within different social groups and classes was unavoidable, due to competing for power and resources. Though his focus was on class, the Conflict Theory can also be used to understand other social statuses, such as race, sex and religion.

Marx believed once a group recognises an injustice against them, they would fight the opposition (Rogers, 2013). This is vivid in current America, wherein Black Lives Matter is a revolution which is making its supporters and protestors aware of the oppression and injustice faced by one particular race for centuries. It is also a fight to defend themselves against unlawful police killings and police brutality, as well as unjust sentencing.

The deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, and many of the other victims, caused feelings of outrage and disbelief, thus sparking the movement for social change and having an impact on not just a local and national scale, but global, as news spread fast via social media. The Conflict Theory explains groups/individuals within society are inferior to groups or individuals with more power and resources, thus leading to focusing on the imbalance of power and inequalities. From this, we can see how segregation began also.

Segregation was the ideology that black people did not deserve to be treated with equality. Black people have been fighting for the same rights, throughout history, time and time again. Before Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Philando Castille, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Alton Sterling, Renisha McBride and so many others, there was Emmett Till. Till was a 14-year-old visiting relatives in Mississippi, and had been brutally beaten and lynched for allegedly whistling at a white woman in 1955.

Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice’s cases bring forward the case of Emmett Till, wherein a black boy was killed and there was no justice. Two months after Milam and Bryant were cleared of murdering Emmett Till; Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus, inciting the Montgomery bus boycott and the beginning of the Civil Rights movement, led by Martin Luther King.

Emmett Till’s mother wanted to show the world what two white men did to her only son, her way of saying “my son’s life matters” and this message is clearly visible in the Black Lives Matter movement. His death kicked off an activism that has lasted to this very day. It is also worth noting that Carolyn Bryant Donham, the woman linked to one of the most heinous crimes and responsible for the vicious violence and lynching of Till, stated six decades later that she had made up the allegations which led to his tragic death.

This elucidates the impressions that in the 1950’s black people were seen as ‘not human’ and faced insurmountable violence by authority figures, and this view carried over to the 21st century. This is an era where the revolution is being televised, where name after name after name is being listed all over social media, alongside #BlackLivesMatter, cries of “I Can’t Breathe”, “Hands Up – Don’t Shoot”, “No Justice, No Peace, No Racist Police” and “Hey, Ho! These Racist Cops Have Got to Go” being heard in protests.

Black Lives Matter isn’t to say that all lives don’t matter – because they do – but the conversation is that black people are under threat and violence, and are constantly being gunned down by (primarily) white police officers. White-controlled and white-interest-oriented modern state regularly generates racial conflict, enforces racial divisions, and attempts to exploit, exclude or eliminate certain racial groups through homogenising or marginalizing processes (Goldberg 2001).

Black Lives Matter is a movement for social change and justice, fighting anti-black racism and addressing social issues as well as the oppression of this group. Where racism is the systematic oppression of a particular group or race, this movement works to seek justice and liberation not just for black people, but for all people.

References

Beckett, L. (2018). For black voters, gun violence a more serious problem than police misconduct. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/28/black-voters-gun-violence-police-misconduct-poll [Accessed 11 Jan. 2018].

Storify. (2018). Conflict theory and social change: Black Lives Matter (with images, tweets) · sharnaehannah. [online] Available at: https://storify.com/sharnaehannah/social-interaction-theory  [Accessed 12 Jan. 2018].

Anon, (2018). [online] Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/263722293_Rethinking_Racial_Formation_Theory_A_Systemic_Racism_Critique [Accessed 12 Jan. 2018].

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as mentioned above, the Black Lives Matter movement isn’t a dismissal of other lives or races, but simply saying “we matter too”. it’s not just a police brutality or Amerikkkan issue, but it’s a human rights issue. ethnic minorities, the black community, have been suffering. it doesn’t mean white people don’t suffer or have their issues, and disadvantages–but right now, it’s not about them. right now, it’s about the black lives that have been taken when they shouldn’t have been and the people who got away with it, over and over again.

it’s about Black Lives that need to Matter.

because for fuck’s sake, Black Lives Matter. and if aLl LivES mAtTeR then why are black people getting killed and their killers still walking free? why is it taking protests and riots for the world to wake up and see that this has gone on for long enough and why did it take so long for Chauvin’s charge to go up to second degree murder? why aren’t Breonna Taylor’s killers in jail? or Trayvon Martin’s? or Shukri Abdi’s? why does it always take so long?

WAYS TO HELP THE MOVEMENT

Sumaiya, x

Posted by:Sumaiya Ahmed

Sumaiya Ahmed is a student, poet and freelance features journalist, aiming to break down the boundaries of cultural stigma and shame attached to mental health and sexuality within the South Asian culture, and bringing marginalised topics to light. She is the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Poised.

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