Identity is a complex intermingling of many different factors. This is especially true in the context of racial identity, which although a part of identity in general, also represents its own set of challenges. Not only do individual people struggle with recognizing their own identity, but larger cultures do as well. Some people do not understand that what makes life beautiful is the intermingling of cultures. There will always be people who are racially insensitive and prejudice against others who are different. That is no excuse to allow bigotry to exist in the world and fortunately; many others agree with this statement and have sought to deal with prejudice at its roots. Black Lives Matter is one modern example of a group that reorganized thoughts about race to promote open-mindedness, active participation in politics and education about racial disparity. While this group has created its own unique set of principles, it has also drawn inspiration from famous leaders in civil rights from both the past and present day.
Open-mindedness is one of the major tenants of the Black Lives Matter movement (Day, ND). Of course, due to the nature of the movement, the group writes extensively about African American issues however, they also speak and write effusively about acceptance in general. This acceptance extends to people of a different racial, religious, cultural, economic and even sexual background (Tatum, 2013:22). In fact, Black Lives Matter has been one of the well-versed groups in speaking about human rights to exist in the modern world (Hunt, 2015). This exemplar reminds one of the well-constructed 2008 Race Speech delivered by Barrack Obama, which analyzed the history of racial injustice in the United States’ affect on the African American population as well on the general populace. President Obama’s message was consistent with Black Lives Matter interpretations of race simply assuming that a white person does not deal with issues of race, class and prejudice is equally as wrong as being racially insensitive toward a minority group (Obama, 2008). Similarly no one should pre-assume that another individual has been subject to some sort of racial prejudice or other subjugation. Every person has some access to the understanding that life is not far. No person should be treated with special assumptions in mind. Instead, Obama in his speech and Black Lives Matter in their protests, online blogs and other media representations all espouse that every person should be treated as an individual and, with the understanding that while some cultures are considered a majority and others a minority, every person has a connection to his/her race and identity. This connection should be treated with the utmost respect and equality. The law should be in place to assure that this ideal is never taken for granted (Zarya, 2015). Unfortunately, there has been a wealth of historical instances in which the law supported bigotry such as forcing African Americans to use different schools, legal courts and even bathrooms. We cannot ignore this history either because it is one that has created longstanding institutionalized racism within the American culture.
While remaining accepting of other cultures is one extremely important part of the Black Lives Matter movement, this open-mindedness actually extends beyond passive writings. The group encourages people to remain actively engaged in politics (Ruffin, ND). This includes highly publicized cases for example, the recent shooting of Michael Brown, which occurred on August 9, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. Police, while in pursuit of the young man who had just stolen two cigarillos used, what many felt, was excessive force when they shot and killed the man while in pursuit of him. This case was highly relevant in the media and protesters in support of Black Lives Matter were seen holding up signs in the distance in support of Michael Brown. On the surface this seems like an extremely positive result of the movement however, it is one that has also lead to significant controversy. Many people have interpreted this call to be actively involved in politics as an open invitation to protest.
And there are numerous reasons for protest. Though nobody will nowadays admit his or her racist prejudices, though it is not Okay any longer to speak anything out that would have racist flavor to it, racism is still there and in many instances has become even harder to struggle against. Many researchers write, that the statistic evidence is there to show that African Americans are still much more frequently imprisoned than whites (Human Rights Watch, 2008), though blackness will hardly ever be officially named as a reason for suspicion or imprisonment. African Americans still have harder time getting a job compared with whites (Bertrand, 2004). But the matters of race will hardly be brought up as a motivation of refusing to hire a person. Thus, hidden racism as we know it nowadays is harder to struggle against. And protest does not remain to be the only method of struggle, though it is certainly an important one. Institutional racism calls for education on the matters of race, discrimination, equality and other related issues. But protest is one of the methods to inform the society about the problems and challenges with which African Americans and other people of color have to deal with.
Protesting is an important way to get involves in making governmental changes at the most basic level (Lopez, 2000). One is often reminded of the life changing protests led by Martin Luther King (Tatum, 2013). Indeed, remaining politically engaged has the potential to do a great deal when it is done with the right finesse.
Education about race is another strong tenant of the Black Lives Matter group. People working with this organization are engaged in speaking and learning about the history of civil rights. While this history involves important figureheads such as Martin Luther King, the group Black Lives Matter does not necessarily have its own figurehead. Instead it was created by a group of African American women who felt the need to help educate others about black issues. The group was initiated with Trayvon Marin, a young African American was shot on February 26, 2012 by another man, George Zimmerman. While Zimmerman suggested this was done in self defense there was little to support this claim, particularly because Martin was not armed at the time. The police did question George Zimmerman however, he was released from the station remarkably quick particularly considering that Martin was killed. Many people felt that Martin may not have been shot in the first place had he been of a different race. Still others felt that the true travesty was the manner in which the police dealt with the entire incident. Had Martin been a part of a different racial group, some felt that police would have treated the incident with more seriousness instead of simply assuming that the African American individual must have been acting criminally in nature. These individuals were pointing to the problem of institutional racism (Lopez, 2000). Indeed, there are overt times in which minorities are treated differently because of their race in a fundamental way. Black Lives Matter encourages people to consider these forms of institutional racism and remain educated about their own rights so that they are protected in similar instances. This does not mean sitting back and complaining about the government’s treatment of minorities, but instead requires people to engage in activism and build a strong community of like minded people (Moyers, 2008). This is the only way to address instances of racism with a strong background and it creates a framework with which to think and talk about these issues. In many ways, racial theories are in part an understanding of history, philosophy and even spirituality.
Racism has existed for as long as society has been around in true form. There will always be some individuals who continue to judge others for their race. However, the Black Rights Matter movement seeks to publically present a different viewpoint of minority individuals. Not simply a catchy phrase, the group stands for exactly as the name reads. When really boiling it down to the essence, it is shameful to think that some people need to be told that Black Lives Matter. In many ways, however, it is true that not everyone understands the rights people have at their core. Some people need to be reminded that they have an inherent right to respect others and until this message is fully learned, it is extremely important that groups such as Black Lives Matter continue to exist. Open-mindedness, active participation in politics and education about racial disparity are all essential components of Black Lives Matter.
- Human Rights Watch (June 5, 2008). Blacks Hardest Hit by Incarceration Policy. Human Rights Watch.
- Hunt, Jazelle (January 13, 2015). “Black Lives Still Matters to Grassroots and Black Media”. Black Voice News.
- Ruffin, Herbert. “Black Lives Matter: The Growth of a New Social Justice Movement”. blackpast.org.
- Zarya, Valentina (July 19, 2015). “Founders of #BlackLivesMatter: Getting credit for your work matters”. Fortune Magazine.