It seems that almost every day, Black Americans are killed at the hands of the police. Why must our citizens walk down their own streets in fear of the people meant to protect them, simply because they exist?
Racism is arguably America’s oldest and most prevalent flaw. From the nation’s founding by the abuse and virtual extermination of our indigenous people to the deep history of slavery, a history that still affects Black Americans to this day, it’s hard to deny that white oppression over minority groups has consistently worked to shape the unfortunate social structure of our country. And because of this institutional racism, Black communities bear the brunt of this, facing higher poverty rates, poorly funded schools, and higher cases of being targeted by the police (not to mention harmful stereotypes, absurd demands on beauty and appearance, and the various other social obstacles that hinder Black Americans’ success). As a result, Black men – just 6% of the U.S. population – are 2.5 times as likely to be shot and killed by police officers as whites, making up roughly 40% of instances of police killing civilians. And with the bleak new direction in which America may be heading, the potential disregard for this issue by government and administration is worrisome, to say the very least.
When Black Americans aren’t being directly killed by the police, they are disproportionately affected by the prison industrial complex. One in three black men are likely to be jailed in their lives, often for minor offenses, while rampant mass incarceration in the U.S. targets Black people and essentially enslaves them in for-profit prisons. At the signing of the 13th Amendment, slavery was abolished unless as a punishment for crime; lawmakers, politicians, police, and others found ways to continuously criminalize black people in order to perpetuate the oppression of Black people in favor of white interest.
At this point, we can’t really deny it anymore: Black Americans are more often targeted by the police and demonized by the authorities, implicitly suggesting that their lives are disposable.
We say “Black Lives Matter” not to suggest other lives don’t matter, rather because the justice system, the media, police officers, and many other aspects of American society suggest that Black lives do not matter. This isn’t implying that Black lives matter more than anyone else’s, either, simply that they matter, because the history and inner workings of this country have tried to prove otherwise. To be pro-Black is not anti-white or anti-anyone or anything else.
So where do we go from here?
Let’s start by all taking up some form of responsibility. No matter what your race, it should not be acceptable to constantly witness Black Americans being killed at the hands of law enforcement; we should all be outraged by the systematic oppression and killing of Black people. Silence is compliance, and we’ve all got to get up and do something to make a change. It’s time to reach out to our politicians and urge them to take a stance on the issue and make a real, noticeable change. Right now our fellow Americans are being killed, and many of us are apathetically sitting by and watching. Think. Put yourself in the shoes of a Black person living in America. It’s time for the entire country to not just acknowledge but declare that Black Lives Matter.