Black Lives Matter (BLM) is a movement which protests against black lives being discriminated against and unfair, unjust police brutality. BLM started in 2013 following the murder of Trayvon Martin. The movement is not one which says black lives are more important than white lives but rather they still continue to face struggles based on their race. A common metaphor used to explain this is a house on fire and a house not on fire; both houses are obviously important however the one which is on fire needs people to pay attention to it at that moment in time.
The BLM movement is incredibly important as we need to realise that black people are still being killed because of the colour of their skin. The media frequently portrays black characters as violent or dangerous which leads to harmful stereotypes. The recent protests were sparked by the death of George Floyd, a man who was killed during an arrest by a white police officer after kneeling on his neck for around 8 minutes. He died over an allegation that he had a counterfeit bill. More recently, a young man named Elijah McClain was murdered as he was walking home from a shop. He had not engaged in any illegal activities. He was wearing a ski mask and police officers were called, paramedics injected him with ketamine which caused him to have a heart attack and he died in the days following after being declared brain dead. Neither of these men did anything wrong, and were not even allowed to prove it in court because they had been wrongly murdered.
But it’s not just the US, the UK isn’t innocent either. We need to acknowledge this. Stop and search activities continue to disproportionately affect black people, especially when it comes to drug usage. Despite making up less than 4% of the UK population, they are eight times more likely to be searched for drugs than white people. Statistics show police officers are also five times more likely to use force against black than white people.
There has been a significant amount of controversy around the protests which have happened all around the world-from America to Japan. However, black people have been peacefully protesting for years and still received criticism. In 2016, quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem to bring attention to issues of police brutality – he received complaints from Republicans saying that it was disrespectful although nobody is required to stand during the national anthem.
As well as the protests, there have been many statues around the world vandalised due to many of the figures having a racist history. Many petitions have been formed to get towns and cities to remove these statues as they don’t reflect most of modern society’s views. However, we should accept that we cannot and should not erase history: we learn by looking at our past mistakes. Learning from past mistakes and realising false biases is how we develop and learn to understand other people better. We shouldn’t condone the racist history, but instead admit that they were not all good people.
Many beneficial changes have been made from the BLM protests and petitions. One is that many states have enforced a ban on chokeholds following George Floyd’s death, police departments are having budget cuts which will be used for more beneficial things like education and all of the officers involved during the murder of George Floyd have been charged. It has brought attention to many people of how black people are still being targeted for the colour of their skin in the modern day and led people to understand any racial biases or prejudices they may have.
As white people, what can we learn from the BLM movement? One thing is that we cannot and should not be silent , when people make racist remarks which continue to impact minority groups it fuels harmful stereotypes, we need to challenge this behaviour. Another thing we can learn is that black voices are important, we do not know what challenges they face; we must listen and learn.
Article by Young Reporter Abiane Forrington
First appeared in Grimsby Telegraph 14th July 2020