social equality and justice

Black Lives Matter by Ella via flickr

In the wake of the gruesome events of the past few weeks between police officers and black civilians, it’s worth noting that the black community is not alone in their anger and sorrow. In fact, I stand by you and though I don’t and can never understand what you’re going through, I do sympathize with you. My heart and soul hurts when I see the news of yet another young black man being fatally shot by police. The continuous murder of young black men by police officers MUST CEASE. For this to be happening in this day and age in the US is deplorable.

That being said, when we look at the history of America, these events are not isolated ones. There is no escaping the fact that slavery in America existed and that it was morally, spiritually, socially, and in every other aspect, wrong. This deeply divisive issue even led to a war within our own country. So called ‘experts’ and ‘textbooks’ will argue that the war was over states rights, but in fact, the South needed a reason to fight for slavery without actually stating this as the reason for secession. Their ‘rights’ to slavery were protected under secession and thus war began. Eventually the war ends and slavery is outlawed.

Victory for blacks? Not exactly. Reconstruction begins in the South, headed by the US government yet, as states of the Union; the Southern states had the right to govern themselves. Jim Crow laws began to emerge. It isn’t until Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and the countless others who fought for Civil Rights in the 1960s that blacks finally won social equality. But did they really? No. Sadly, as a nation, today we still face the simple and true fact that many whites have steered around since the end of the Civil War; reparations are yet to be made.

This isn’t a monetary issue, or even an issue of racism (though racism unfortunately does exist); it’s the issue that society has not done what is necessary to make amends for our nation’s desolate past. Small gestures such as removing public Confederate battle flags go a long way in kindling the relationship between blacks and whites in America. Regardless of what anyone argues the flag stands for, it needs to come down. No one today was alive during the Civil War, and we can remember those troops who were lost without it. Furthermore, Southerners can sport their ‘Southern Pride’ without it. Sure you can celebrate your heritage, but it can be done without the Confederate flag, a symbol for a lost war and the dishonorable act of slavery it supported. Such symbols continue to negatively marginalize black communities even today. In fact, the days of slavery and their long-standing affects likely have played a huge, if indistinguishable role in the modern issue that is police brutality.

The police in America fatally shoot an extremely large number of people. Yet, of the millions of police and first responders that bravely serve our communities everyday in America, only a small percentage of these can truly be classified as ‘dirty cops.’ Thus far in 2016, 587 people have been fatally shot by police, according to the Washington Post. Of those, 148 or 25%, were black. Of those 148, 139 were male. Furthermore, 65 of those men were between the ages of 18 and 29. There is no denying that this is an issue. To compare, police have also killed 62 white males of the same demographic. Whites make up 47% of the overall number killed by police, 261 of those were male. To say this issue only exists within the black community would be incorrect. HOWEVER, blacks are a minority in America, making up only about 13% of the total population in America, according to the current census estimates. Whites make up roughly 77% of the US population. Now we can truly see why this issue is so much more unsettling for blacks.

Blacks make up 13% of the American population, yet 25% of those killed by police are black. This is insanely disproportionate, especially when you consider that 77% of the US population is white and only 47% of those killed by police were white. So yes, in shear numbers police kill more whites than blacks, but blacks are killed in a much larger proportion.

When you take $100 from a rich man, it doesn’t hurt him, but when you take $100 from a middle class family, it’s much more devastating. That is why we are seeing these social movements beginning, such as Black Lives Matter. What they are fighting for is a legitimate cause and I implore anybody that says otherwise to search their soul for the empathy the black community deserves.

Though I have justified the Black Lives Matter movement and I support their cause, such a movement further alienates blacks from equality. Blacks deserve social equality and equality of justice and in order to do so, society must stop isolating them, and the black community must stop doing this to themselves. For example, the Black Lives Matter movement, made up predominately of blacks, has sparked a counter movement, All Lives Matter, made up predominately of whites who feel left out. It is also worth mentioning that the Back the Blue movement also has formed in these unfortunate weeks.

While all three of these movements are noble in their intentions, they divide us. The Black Lives Matter movement has the potential to inadvertently pit blacks against law enforcement; just as the Back the Blue movement has the potential to inadvertently pit law enforcement against black communities. Neither of these will ever solve the problem. Even the All Lives Matter movement cannot succeed because it fails to recognize that the black community is disproportionately in danger of being victimized by law enforcement.

For justice to be achieved we must all come together and form one movement for the alleviation of police brutality against a targeted demographic: blacks and Hispanics. As I watched a video via CNN of the Black Lives Matter protest and the All Lives Matter protests in Dallas cross paths, my own heart was warmed and began to heal. The two protests, instead of arguing with one another, came together. A predominately white protest and a predominately black protest came together to fight for what is right. This is just a glimpse of what America truly is. We are a loving, gracious, and above all, unified nation that can and will come together to alleviate the social strife the plagues us. This is the America that we are and it’s the America that I love, the one we should strive to be.

Only when we can solve this issue will we be able to begin to solve the overbearing issue of police brutality. This isn’t too much to ask for; in fact it’s the true goal for everyone. If police brutality can be put to an end, marginalized communities, such as the black community, will be able to stop fearing law enforcement, and once they are no longer threatened, they’ll no longer live in fear. Wounds will be mended and police won’t be in quite as much danger as before (their jobs would still be inherently dangerous regardless). The relationship between black communities and law enforcement would begin to heal and society would grow stronger as a result.

Justice must be served eventually; we must all come together in this time of need to search it out. Yet, in a society where our front running Presidential candidates are either racist or uncharged for crimes they have been found guilty of, it is hard to rally together. Yet again, this is America, and Americans always find a way to band together for the common good. It’s the one quality that sets our society apart from all others; it’s that spark that ignites our passions, settles our fears, and lights up as a beacon in the night. We’re all Americans; white, black, Hispanic, Asian, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, gay, straight, transsexual, nonreligious, atheist, and everyone in between, and as such we are all equal and we’re all entitled to the same rights and opportunities outlined within our Constitution.

So instead of Black Lives Matter, instead of All Lives Matter, instead of Back the Blue, let’s all come together, in a movement that needs no other name than in the name of what is right. My generation will be the generation that lays the groundwork for change and the strengthening of relationships between blacks and whites.



Image: Black Lives Matter by Ella via flickr and used under a Creative Commons license.
Brandon Collins

Brandon Collins

Brandon Collins is an Undergrad Political Science major at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia. He writes pieces on particular social and political issues in America today.