Alton Sterling. Philando Castile. Andre Johnson. Korryn Gains. They are only four of the 168 black people in the United States who were killed by the police this year so far, according to “The Washington Post.” While the summer months are typically spent enjoying time with family and friends, this summer was another year of open season on people who share my complexion. This summer proved, once again, the importance and necessity of the Black Lives Matter (B.L.M.) movement. But, I’m not sure if the significance of the movement is thoroughly understood by most people.
The B.L.M. movement was created in 2012, after George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager. Trayvon’s death and the lack of accountability towards his killer were the first of many events that sparked a national outcry and protests from black people and their allies. B.L.M. continued to stay relevant each year, as a new face was at the front of the movement with a cause of death that was similar to Martin’s. The story of a white person with some form of authority – typically a police officer – killing an unarmed black teenager simply because they seemed threatening turned into a pre-recorded soundbite. The repeated acts became a testament to the necessity of the B.L.M. movement to continue.
Whenever I turned to various forms of social media or joined a conversation about the most recent act of discrimination against a black person, I was often met with a singular response: “Don’t all lives matter?” I, like most supporters of the B.L.M. movement, am a firm believer that the life of one human being isn’t more or less valuable than another’s. That said, the message and purpose of B.L.M. isn’t to say lives of non-black people don’t matter, but to state that our lives matter as well – a value which I don’t believe is reflected in the American justice system. For example, black people make up 13.3 percent of the United States population; however, they make up 25 percent of those killed by police violence this year.
This completely disproportionate number is not because black people commit more crimes, but because centuries of systemic and institutionalized racism still plague our country. The demonization and racial profiling of black people create several toxic ideologies which have a detrimental effect on the lives of black people. The B.L.M. movement is trying to spread the notion that the lives of black people deserve the same respect, dignity, and justice as our white counterparts, and whenever our lives are ended by police officers who have sworn to protect and serve us, they need to be held accountable.
Despite these injustices committed against black people, there still are numerous forces opposing the B.L.M. movement by asserting that “Black Lives Matter is anti-white,” “More white people are killed by the police each year,” “The Dallas shooting of police officers shows that B.L.M. is violent,” and the list goes on. In all honesty, I can’t truly tell you what it’s like to constantly worry about simply existing whenever I’m out in the world. And I don’t know if I can make you care about what it’s like to be a black person in the United States. But, I can tell you that if people took the time to listen, watch, and read about the very real killings committed by police officers, then they would realize why B.L.M. matters so much to black people.
As Andover students, our understanding and outlook on the world is greatly shaped during our time here on campus. While striving to acquire a comprehensive understanding of B.L.M. can be time-consuming, such an effort is necessary to combat racism and police brutality. Being part of the Andover community offers limitless opportunities to learn to listen, understand, and empathize with the B.L.M. movement, regardless of one’s race.