Opinion

The New Civil Rights Movement

By HELENA WU, columnist

In July 2014, Brooklyn police officers strangled Eric Garner to death, using a chokehold outlawed by the NYPD. One month later, Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager, was shot and killed by a police officer in Missouri. And not long after in October, another unarmed teenager suffered a similar fate in Chicago, his body riddled by not one or even two, but 16 bullet wounds. Each of these victims was black, and their deaths are among the most high-profile cases, out of hundreds, that instigated the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. As surely as the moon follows the sun, an opposition movement burgeoned, countering that “All Lives Matter.” What this group of people completely misunderstands is that BLM does not denigrate people of other races. America for African-Americans has not been the land of the free but rather the land of the oppressive. Summarily, those who decry BLM ignore both history and reality.

 

African-Americans were introduced to this country as slaves, and only for the past few decades have they enjoyed the same level of liberty and legal protection the vast majority of Americans take for granted. Progress, for them, inched along like a tortoise, tripping over obstacles in its path. Countless people endured racism before they earned equal rights. When Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the spearheads of the Civil Rights Movement, was assassinated, it was clear that many begrudged the legal victories. Even today, rates of incarceration and violence remain disproportionately high for black Americansnot to mention subtle racial profiling, victimizing, and microaggressions. When the President of the United States admits that there were times when his mere presence sent bystanders scurrying nervously into their cars and locking their doors, there is an undeniable problem.

 

The vociferous All Lives Matter crowd is not surprising when considered in light of this country’s intensifying atmosphere of political correctness. Many people raise their hackles when they perceive that something excludes them or ignores their rights. Of course, in an ideal world all lives indeed matter equally. But when people of a particular race endured cruel injustice and hatred for years, continuing even into the modern era of civilized society, that enough is more than a reasonable explanation for their outcry. Because of a trait they cannot control, many African-Americans feel unsafe, condemned, and marginalized. BLM is a rallying cry, reasserting its identity and resolve to keep the issues that it faces in the spotlight.

 

Most of us will move on to college after leaving the halls of JP Stevens. Independence will be foisted upon us as we explore new environments full of other young adults. It is an exciting time, but college campuses and the real world are rapidly flaring up with controversy and microaggressions. For protesters and students alike, BLM is an iconic idea they can draw inspiration from to rally against racism and oppression. But these demonstrations are not all met with agreement; some feel that these movements may be overreacting and fighting for petty causes. Whether or not you personally support them, these protesters and students constitute a wave of social activism that is already becoming a more prominent fixture of the real world and college life. With the tumult of student protests rippling through campuses everywhere and our approaching entrance into these environments, we need the empathy and the maturity to understand what is being fought for and support whatever we believe to be a worthy cause, respectfully and unwaveringly.

 

If you do not support Black Lives Matter, consider this: what would you do if society categorically discriminated against everyone with your last name? When you seek solace with people sharing your traits, people retaliate by drowning out your voice with theirs. They shove your message to the fringe and lambast you for not including them in your outcry. This is exactly the dynamic between the BLM movement and its detractorsan inherently unfair reaction. Like all campaigns, it has radical components, but its heartfelt idea is one that does not necessitate the disparagement of people of other races.

Featured image from everydayfeminism.com

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