The Efforts of the Black Lives Matter Movement

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A detailed study of the strategies, campaigns, and grassroots initiatives spearheaded by the Black Lives Matter movement, and their tangible effects on policy, public opinion, and racial relations. Additionally, PapersOwl presents more free essays samples linked to Black Lives Matter topic.

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2019/06/06
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Social Change: Police Brutality and The Efforts of the Black Lives Matter Movement

CRM 328
Spring 2018
Rodney Morvan

Introduction

America is known as the land of opportunity and freedom, where equality prevails all across the country, and the justice system is said to protect each and every one of us equally and fairly. However, in 2012, neighborhood watch leader George Zimmerman, while on patrol, shot and killed 17-year-old African-American Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman was subsequently taken to trial and, surprisingly, acquitted based on his claim of self-defense.

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The verdict caused public outrage within the African American community, resonating not just locally but nationally. Following this event, the Black Lives Matter Movement was created by co-founders Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, and Patrisse Cullors. They have since been advocating for efforts in the African American community and across the U.S. to eliminate the violent racism that deteriorates America’s society today.

As a young Black male in society, I have chosen this topic because I have firsthand experience with and understand the feelings of being stereotyped or perceived as a threat solely based on skin color. I know what it’s like to feel fear in the presence of law enforcement officers despite knowing that I am not carrying anything harmful or illegal and that I could still be shot for no reason. This topic’s importance has been fluctuating through society, and if it is not addressed as a priority, the way the African American community perceives American society and law enforcement may grow increasingly negative. This could potentially escalate the current racial tension and cause a significant setback in American society. Trayvon Martin’s tragic death is neither the first nor the last example of racially motivated murder. As citizens in America, we should come together as a nation and acknowledge that we are harming our own. This nation is not just made up of one color; it is made up of us all, and his death should bring about social change.

Police Brutality

Police brutality is defined as the excessive use of deadly or physical force by a law enforcement officer. The brutal behavior by police officers against the African American community has raised a national uproar of protest against discrimination and hate crimes. What has sparked the most widespread public reaction is that most of the perpetrators of these specific crimes have only either been put on paid leave or have been fired rather than convicted and punished to the full extent of the law. This raises the issue of white law enforcement officers enjoying white privilege and being above the law because they could potentially get away with clear hate crimes. For example, if they shoot a young Black male, they claim he appeared to be a threat for whatever reason or excuse they provide. Conversely, if a Black law enforcement officer were to shoot a white victim, the public would likely push for the death penalty, and the criminal justice system would likely sentence the African American officer to the harshest punishment, potentially even the death penalty.
Nearly 80% of homicide criminals, whether they are white or black, are sentenced to the death penalty when the victim is white. These statistics underscore the devaluation of non-whites and the prevalent relevance of white privilege today. The conflicts involving police officers committing illegal acts highlight the excessive power and authority they possess in society. This proves that not everyone should be accepted into law enforcement roles, as not all can responsibly handle power and authority over others.

Literature Review: The phrases “I can’t breathe,” “Hands up,” and “Black lives matter” are examples of statements the African American community has coined to voice their experiences of discrimination and police brutality. Ostensibly, these incidents arise from hate, color blindness, or racial profiling. The Black Lives Matter Movement evolved in response to these violent actions, focusing specifically on the killing of young African Americans by police officers who face no repercussions even after trial.

Some individuals push back claiming that “all lives matter,” yet those who fail to recognize the clear hate crimes perpetrated by these officers tend to enjoy the benefits of white privilege. White privilege, as Peggy McIntosh defined in 1988, is like “an invisible, weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, code books, visas, clothes, tools, and blank checks.” The movement’s push for social change shows that no one is above the law, not even officers. This is reminiscent of the post Civil Rights movement which continues to affect today’s criminal justice system. Furthermore, the present-day idea of racism, compared with the past, influences why certain races might be perceived as more threatening than others, or why people may have harmful assumptions about specific races.

Throughout American society, white privilege has afforded white individuals numerous advantages towards success or opportunities. It has provided a certain unearned edge, ranging from job openings to positive racial recognition or even the simple feeling of comfort around that race. This systemic bias has often left other races at a disadvantage.
They are seen as the norm in society, the basis of what a regular person is supposed to do each day. Peggy McIntosh makes a list illustrating how white privileges shield many societal issues faced primarily by African Americans, particularly in relation to encounters with law enforcement. Some examples McIntosh provides are, “As a white person, I can turn on the television or open the front page of a newspaper and see people of my race widely and positively represented,” (McIntosh, 1988, p. 53-54) and, “Criminality is not imputed to me as a genetic component of my racial character; I am not assumed to belong to a group of people predisposed to crime,” (McIntosh, 1988, p. 54). These white privileges arise from the fact that white people are not generally perceived as threats or assumed to be exhibiting deviant behavior due to their skin color. However, for black people, it is often the exact opposite. A black person, when depicted on television or in the newspaper, is more likely portrayed as a dangerous perpetrator or a criminal to watch out for. These societal assumptions that black people are inherently predisposed to crime breed fear in the minds of other citizens which can lead to harmful stereotypes and profiling. For instance, a simple late-night walk home or pulling out a cell phone can be wrongly perceived as suspicious or threatening.

Despite these obvious advantages, many white people remain oblivious to these unearned benefits and continue to believe that universal equality prevails, with some even insisting that racism no longer exists. In today’s society, few individuals wish to acknowledge any tendencies of racial bias. According to Lesly Picca and Joe Feagin (2007), white individuals often feel insulted when they perceive themselves as being accused of racism, leading to defensive backlashes. These responses are particularly common among those unaware of their own implicit racial biases. Stereotypical beliefs held by some whites, such as black people consciously choosing to live in harsh environments or neglect their health, or that they’re not interested in hard work or education, and are more frequently imprisoned due to committing more grave crimes (Bonilla-Silva, 2003; Brown et al., 2003; Reitman, 2006) facilitate the perpetuation of racial bias and preclude an understanding of racism as experienced by black individuals today. It is therefore imperative that ways are found to help white people pay better attention and understand the experiences of other races, the foundation for movements such as Black Lives Matter.

Post-Civil Rights Movement Racism in Criminal Justice System

Despite significant progress made during the Civil Rights Movement, racism remains a pervasive issue in today’s society. We currently inhabit an era of colorblind racism, deeply embedded within the criminal justice system. The criminal justice system is in place to protect law-abiding citizens from criminals, however, large-scale racial bias within its operations continues to undermine this protective role.
Nevertheless, people of color (non-whites), particularly African Americans, have been subject to unequal protections of laws, excessive surveillance, extreme segregation, and neo-slave labor via incarceration – all in an attempt to control crime. Looking at prison incarceration statistics, it’s undeniable that the poor and black people are overrepresented in every part of the criminal justice system. Research indicates that the explosion in incarceration is negatively correlated with Black male employment rates (Travis, 2002). The high rate of job or career rejection for black males leaves some with no choice but to engage in deviant acts because they are unable to support themselves or their families financially. This forces them to resort to anything they can to gain financial support.

According to notes from Dr. Esposito’s Race, Class, and Crime class, 2.2 million African Americans and 13% of black men are disenfranchised – seven times the national average. This loss of rights potentially hinders their ability to improve their current circumstances, leading them to resort to what they know best: crime. Efforts to establish fairness in the criminal justice system have been ongoing since the 1980s when the Black Panther Party introduced the 10 Point Program. The program demanded an immediate end to police brutality, freedom for all black prisoners, and jury trials comprising peers from their black communities, as stipulated by the U.S. Constitution (Foner, 1970). Unsurprisingly, these demands were disregarded. The Constitution itself was considered colorblind, inadvertently perpetuating racial inequality.

In the criminal justice system, whether a black or white homicide perpetrator was convicted, nearly 80% of them were sentenced to the death penalty when the victim was white. In contrast, when the victim was black, the chances of such a sentence reduced significantly. This discrepancy further illustrates the inequality in the criminal justice system. The Black Lives Matter movement strives for equality for the African American community in all aspects of society.

Racism: Past and Present

Racism has so-called “adapted” over the years, persisting after the Civil Rights Movement rather than being eliminated. Presently, when Whites acknowledge racism, they often regard it as isolated incidents rather than systemic issues with policies, laws, and institutions (Sommers & Norton, 2006). Since they haven’t experienced the history of victimization firsthand, they remain unaware. Unless they delve into a black person’s history, they will never fully grasp the disadvantages that African Americans face, even today.
It has become less apparent in most cases because it has been viewed as negative in society, especially when done individually. However, in today’s society, racism has been classified into three levels: institutional racism, personally mediated racism, and internalized racism. Jones states, “Institutionalized racism encompasses unequal and restricted access to goods and services (e.g., healthcare facilities, under-resourced schools) and opportunities (e.g., confinement into impoverished communities, low-wage labor), all of which can diminish the life chances and health of people of color. Personally mediated racism, one of the most commonly studied forms of racism among psychologists, can be characterized as intentional or unintentional discriminatory acts against people of color through negative interpersonal interactions and prejudice, including being followed around in stores, thought of as less smart than others, called names or insulted, and given poorer services. Internalized racism can be defined as the acceptance of negative attitudes, beliefs, ideologies, and stereotypes perpetuated by the White dominant society as being true about one’s racial group.” All three forms of racism can impact the health of people of color but can also have implications for diminished population-level health (C. P. Jones, 2000). The immense discrimination has made some African Americans feel devalued and underappreciated, which can result in negative emotions such as hate.

Take, for example, past racism that contributed to creating the mass murderer Mark Essex, who developed a hatred for white police officers. His reaction isn’t an excuse, but it shows how horribly a person can take being discriminated against or having people of their race discriminated against.

The Black Lives Movement shows how there’s been a development in managing racism and discrimination, even when it was first created after a horrific tragedy that left an unarmed black teenager dead. The protest helped lead this movement, instead of reacting in violence just like some white people or the criminal justice system expected them to react.

Conclusion

The Black Lives Movement has been starting to change how others see black people in society. This movement has brought together the African American community after years of national killing of young black people, and discrimination. The future of the generation has moved them to take serious action and make it nationally known. Black Lives Matter is demanding respect for them as human beings with equality of human rights, as set by the United Nations that the past generations of African Americans did not have.

Many people have made the case that “all lives matter”. Even though that is true, not all lives are being treated this way, or have been treated this way, throughout history to present-day society. Therefore, Black Lives Matter is not a statement trying to assert that black lives are more important than any other race. Rather, it is the idea against the continued harsh interactions, assumptions, and unfairness that is subjected mostly to the black community, a remaining trend since the days of slavery.

The Black Lives Matter movement has set a goal and a challenge for society: for everyone, not just black lives, to be treated fairly. Will the people of society rise up, take on the challenge, conquer it, and finally come together completely?

References

  1. Alicia Garza, “Herstory,” accessed June 29, 2017, Black Lives Matter website. Bonilla-Silva, E. (2003). Racism without Racists. New York, NY: Rowman & Littlefield. [Google Scholar]
  2. Brown, M. K., Carnoy, M., Currie, E., Dustin, T., Oppenheimer, D., Shultz, M., & Wellman, D. (2003). Whitewashing Race: The Myth of a Color-Blind Society. Berkeley: University of California Press. [Google Scholar]
  3. Jones, C. P. (2003). Confronting Institutionalized Racism. Phylon, 50, 7-22. doi:10.2307/4149999. Foner, P. S. (Ed.). (1970). The Black Panthers Speak. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott.
  4. Gratz v. Bollinger, 02-516 (2003). McIntosh, P. (1988). White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondence through Work in Women’s Studies (Working Paper 189:120). Wellesley, MA: Wellesley Center for Research on Women. [Google Scholar]
  5. Memmi, A. (2000). Racism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. [Google Scholar]. Reitman, M. (2006). Uncovering the White Place: Whitewashing at Work. Social and Cultural Geography, 7, 267-282. doi:10.1080/14649360600600692. [Article], [Google Scholar]
  6. Sommers, S. R., & Norton, M. I. (2006). Lay Theories about White Racists: What Constitutes Racism (and What Doesn’t). Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 9, 117-138. doi:10.1177/
  7. Travis, J. (2002). Invisible Punishment: An Instrument of Social Exclusion. In M. Mauer & M. Chesney-Lind (Eds.), Invisible Punishment: The Collateral Consequences of Mass Imprisonment (pp. 15-36). New York: New Press.
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The Efforts of the Black Lives Matter Movement. (2019, Jun 06). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/the-efforts-of-the-black-lives-matter-movement/