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The Black Lives Matter Movement: Exploring Generational Change

24 Jun 2020

Amira Osbourne

The Black Lives Matter Movement: Exploring Generational Change

The Civil Rights Movement was established in 1954 in a hopeful attempt to end judicially approved racial discrimination. While there was evident progress between 1965 and 1967, with the United States legalising black voting rights and interracial marriage, due to the recent virality of George Floyd’s death, it seems as though, 66 years later, not much has changed. Racial inequality continues to be ingrained within the justice system, with black people accounting for 38% of the total deaths by police brutality, despite only being 21% of the population in their respective jurisdictions. This stems from a systemic fear that being black is a bigger threat to one’s safety than carrying a gun, with the image of black people often being criminalised as ‘thugs’ and pertaining to gang violence, permeating through global media channels and news outlets, in conjunction with the apparent heroism of their white counterparts.

Throughout history, the mass incarceration of black people has often been a direct consequence of political reform, such as the three-strike policy implemented by Bill Clinton, which stated that once a person commits three crimes, regardless of the severity, they would receive a mandatory life sentence. Due to the intensity of racial profiling within the justice system, with black citizens being significantly more likely to be stopped by the police than white citizens, this led to a disproportionate amount of black people being held in prison, often for petty crimes. This was worsened by article SB-1070, which was an anti-illegal immigration policy, which allowed the police to stop whomever they felt could potentially be an illegal immigrant, further giving rise to the ability for racial profiling. Despite the efforts of the Civil Rights Movement, the liberal freedom of the police, subject to little consequence, allowed them to incarcerate leaders and those fighting for justice, slowly tearing apart the movement. Furthermore, the death of Martin Luther King Jr. provided a warning towards black voices and the danger of using them publicly to demand justice, urging their silence and submission.

However, we currently stand in the midst of the biggest civil rights movement in history, with all 55 states initiating protests in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, following the death of George Floyd, alongside 40 countries. The hashtag Black Lives Matter was coined in 2013, following the unlawful death of Trayvon Martin, allowing the cause to be shared and acknowledged with growing ease. The birth and growth of social media has led to a global platform for both receiving and sharing information with unbeknown rapidity. The virality of George Floyd’s death, projected through a variety of social media channels, heightened through the confined conditions associated with the recent coronavirus pandemic, has led to a shift in focus in the world’s attention to the devastating actualities of police brutality, particularly in the United States.

The abundance of youth within the protests, taking active participation in creating change and confronting past ideologies gives rise to hope for the new generation. Their willingness to show support both physically and mentally, assisted through the globality of social media, allowing them to gain access to petitions, information and donation funds has propelled the Black Lives Matter Movement, with growing strength, to the forefront of the news. Within the first weeks of protesting Minneapolis banned the use of chokeholds; Charges were upgraded against Officer Chauvin and his accomplices; MBTA in Boston agreed to stop using public buses to transport officers to protests; Police brutality captured on cameras will now lead to almost immediate suspensions and firings of officers in several cities. Furthermore, the rise of the movement has led to a greater understanding of the black struggle. A vast array of information such as documentaries, Instagram posts and the sharing of stories diffusing into standard media outlets, has forced people to confront the issue as opposed to turning a blind eye. While we are seeing change and growing optimism regarding equality, we are still far away from the end of racial discrimination and must continue to fight for justice. We must remember that racial injustice displays itself in many forms, not only in the form of overt action such as police brutality but also in more covert manners, such as discrimination in the workplace, microaggressions, the likelihood of a stop and search, the education gap and the disparity in poverty levels. Until we are able to change mindsets as well as both conscious and unconscious racial bias, the black struggle will always persist, even if it becomes less apparent. Therefore, it is our duty to both educate others as well as ourselves, to create an environment whereby we can see not only racial equality throughout our community but also racial equity.

Wikimedia Commons and Win McNamee/Getty Images