It’s always difficult to put pen to paper – or fingertips to keyboard in my case – when it comes to a subject that matters to so many, that you care about yourself, but feel as though you need to properly represent when writing about it.
I’ve probably bitten off more than I can chew when it comes to discussing the Black Lives Matter movement. I don’t have an African American background, but I am a woman of colour and every time I read about another shooting, another life lost, it not only infuriates me, it makes me lose another little shred of hope for humanity and justice.
I, like many others, have been watching the way in which race relations in the US have continued to be tested with news about victims like Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. Two black men dying at the hands of white police officers. At one point it seemed like the entire world was waking up to the brutality. People who had never paid the Black Lives Matter movement any attention, were taking off those rose tinted glasses and finally questioning what they were seeing in footage that emerged of the shootings.
Protestors took to the streets of Dallas and it looked like people from all walks of life, were not about to tolerate the brutality that has been plaguing the black community.
But just like that, during this protest, gunfire was opened killing five police officers. The Black Lives Matter movement have always maintained a peaceful stance and a clear objective:’for police to respect the rights of the country’s black citizens and be held accountable, or an incitement to crime and violence,’ according to a New York tabloid.
As it was revealed that the gun man was in fact 25 year-old Micah Johnson, a black veteran who said he was upset about Black Lives Matter and that he wanted to kill white police officers, the entire movement understandably held their breath, concerned that this would set them back and undermine their purpose.
The Black Lives Matter movement isn’t about promoting an eye for an eye mentality. It’s about opening up the discussion about racial tension, gun control and excessive force used against African Americans. It’s about forcing those at the top to take responsibility and find a solution that ensures everybody’s safety and freedom.
A study by the Guardian found that last year there were 1,134 deaths at the hands of law enforcement in America. Brittany Packnett, an activist and a member of the White House taskforce on policing, rightly said that ‘this epidemic is disproportionately affecting black people. We are wasting so many promising lives by continuing to allow this to happen.’
What’s crucial is that we don’t forget Sterling, Castile and all the other victims lost along the way, just like we don’t forget the police officers who were targeted. Further divide isn’t going to help overcome some serious societal issues within America. It’s been refreshing to see protests cropping up around America and even in the UK to show solidarity and make a statement that something has to be done to curb the way in which some police officers treat people of colour.
Change will only come from the top. I have no doubt that citizens have it within them to present a united front but it is the authorities that need to change their attitudes towards people of colour and the government must enforce this too.
There is the argument that a lack of urgency for change could be because the system itself wants to foster hate between people of different backgrounds. They’d rather see citizens fight one another based on the false and biased stereotypes they have constructed rather than have them take the time to question the system’s motives. More chaos within society surely means more control, more excuse to use excessive force and perhaps more of a reason to impose martial law.
The media, with I’m sure a lot of influence and agendas, have been doing the same thing to Muslims on this side of the atlantic. Being quick to link a terrorist attack to Islam, subconsciously deepens our association between the two. Every time this happens, my stomach churns that little bit more knowing that somewhere, someone’s opinion on an entire group of people has changed because of the reckless reporting we don’t question.
This is why I disagree with people who condemn an entire police force. Not all cops are racist or abuse their power in the same way that the majority of Muslims are not terrorists.
The fact that the media constantly presents false stereotypes or ignore issues that are plaguing groups of people is damaging us within society more than anything. What’s even more discerning is that nobody is holding them accountable for the distasteful rhetoric they sometimes spew.
As far as I can see we’ve all drawn the lines as this being a black vs white issue. Let’s not make it that. Let’s make it a systematic issue. We are well within our rights to question the authorities that are meant to be serving and protecting us.
People power is often underestimated but it can make a profound difference – just look at Egypt’s uprising or even further back at the effect of individuals such as Mahatma Ghandi.
It’s worth remembering that the people we place in positions of power and people who ascend to positions of societal power are meant to be working to serve all of us. Not their friends, not the wealthy 1%. So let’s keep shouting about it and let’s keep the conversation going. Because between authorities who turn a blind eye and media outlets who skew the truth, it’s really down to us to take the reigns and inform the wider world of harsh realities.