Black Lives Matter Movement by Martin Luther King Jr. – Emma Janak

Black Lives Matter Movement

         One hundred and fifty-eight years ago, in 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation was signed. One hundred years later, in 1964, the Civil Rights Act was passed. These significant documents were transformative for the livelihood of all African Americans residing in the United States. We were led to believe that these legal documents would extinguish and destroy the barriers that have held us back from being a functioning part of the American society. Yet, here we are, still being weighed down by the shackles of discrimination, racism, and oppression. We are still pushed into corners and belittled in a country that founds itself on equality and justice for all. Systematic racism is widely transpiring, and innocent black lives are being taken. These stereotypes that were existent 100’s of years ago, continue to plague our everyday lives. Fifty-eight years ago I said “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” (King) and yet, it is clear that black Americans are still being targeted and judged due to the color of our skin. It is obvious that the American society has not withheld the promises that black citizens were guaranteed one hundred and fifty-eight years ago. We are on a sinking ship and have been promised that there are lifeboats for everyone, yet the American government has not provided us with a lifeboat. We have suffered years of disrespect, disregard, and loneliness. But we refuse to believe that this ship does not have more lifeboats aboard. We refuse that there is not more room in a lifeboat with our white brothers and sisters. So, we must go and find our space on the lifeboats and in American society. And we will not stop searching until we find what we are looking for. We will not perish on this sinking ship fellow black citizens. Now is time to seize the day and get the lifeboats that we have promised. Now is the time to ensure that these promises are upheld and honored. Now is the time to promote democracy and lift ourselves out of the cave that we have been involuntarily pushed into. Now is our time. 

         I find it of upmost importance to address the real issue at hand and to pay our respects to the fallen. Eric Garner. Michael Brown. Akai Gurley. Tamir Rice. Freddie Gray. Philando Castile. Stephon Clark. Botham Jean. Atatiana Jefferson. Breonna Taylor. Ahmaud Arbery. George Floyd. These are not just names. These are living people who were murdered as a result of police brutality. They had friends and families and lives. These are the names that we remember. These are the names that we speak aloud. These are the names that motivate us. These are the names that sparked the Black Lives Matter Protests. We will not rest until racial justice is served. In 2014 and 2015, of people killed by police, “51 percent were white, 28.1 percent were black, 19.3 percent were Latino, and 1.7 percent were Asian.” (Strother, L., Menifield, C., & Shin, G.) While the number of white people killed by police brutality is higher, in 2014 and 2015, “white people made up about 62 percent of the U.S. population and are underrepresented in this group. Meanwhile, blacks made up 17.9 percent of the country and are dramatically overrepresented. In other words, African Americans are disproportionately more likely to be killed by police than white people.” Strother, L., Menifield, C., & Shin, G.). As of April 2021, “the rate of fatal police shootings among Black Americans was much higher than that for any other ethnicity, standing at 36 fatal shootings per million of the population” (Tate, J., Jenkins, J., & Rich, S.). The demonstrations are a force of change. While facing the COVID-19 pandemic, we are also facing another pandemic. The police brutality against black people is a health pandemic. Putting the wellbeing, safety, and lives of black Americans in danger. The police academy promises to protect and serve, but this motto is not being upheld concerning black Americans. But there is something I must say to my people who seek revenge. We are all angry. We all want justice. But I urge you to not satisfy this need by turning to violence and hatred. Violence has no place in this country. Violence deserves no place in our hearts. We must handle our sorrow with respect and control. We must not fight fire with fire. That will get us nowhere. We deserve justice. You may ask: How will we get this justice? The answer is that we need support and help from our white brothers and sisters. There is only so much that we can do. Real change can be made if we work together alongside white society, not against. 

         Those 9 minutes and 29 seconds that white police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck symbolizes the rest of our lives. We must seek justice. We cannot allow this system to attack and damage us any longer. That is why I have called you all here today. The Black Lives Matter Protests, The George Floyd Protests, will be a turning point in our society. We will no longer stand for police brutality and systematic racism in this country. A country that promised us our equality one hundred and fifty-three years ago with the passing of the 14th Amendment. We have long awaited the day for us to be seen as equal to our white counterparts. And now is the time to show them, through peaceful protest, that we will not tolerate this racist behavior any longer. We cannot turn back. We have come so far. We must continue our fight. Let us not flounder in the depths of hopelessness, my friends. I know it is a struggle. We have been rooted in this position for many years. But we must draw ourselves up. We will face violence in our resistance. We always have. Nowadays there is tear gas, rubber bullets, pepper spray, and tasers. Even if we are peaceful in our approach, we may face these forms of brutality. It is important that we keep our cool, recollect ourselves, and try again. As James Lawson said, “non-violence strips the segregationalist power structure of its major weapon: the manipulation of law or law enforcement to keep the Negro in his place” (Lawson). Listen to James Lawson’s words. Non-violence is the solution. But alas, we cannot make all of the necessary changes that need to be made through our nonviolent resistance. We must rely on our leaders, that they will do their best to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.  

There are solutions to police brutality. Now it is time for these solutions to be put into action. The state must require more police training, especially racial bias training. “Racially disparate use of force indicates that White supremacy—the systematic positive assessments of whiteness that go hand-in-hand with the devaluation of blackness—permeates the US law enforcement system” (Alang S., McAlpine D., McCreedy E., Hardeman R.). Now is the time that we call on our government and look for reform. Racial biases begin in youth. That is why it is important that we teach children against these biases at a young age, in and outside of the classroom. Teaching about topics like slavery, racism, and systematic opression, these children can become aware on the issues we are still facing today. The education of today’s youth, determines our future, as one day they will be the leaders of this country, able to make necessary changes. If we can prevent racial biases from forming at a young age, it can prevent these biases developing in adulthood. Additionally, the state must “demilitarize police, decriminalize behaviors such as loitering and minor traffic violations, end racialized stop and frisk, and invest in addressing root causes of instability among Black communities” (Alang S., McAlpine D., McCreedy E., Hardeman R.). According to the U.S. Census Bureau Data, “Between 1977 and 2017, police budgets grew from $42.3 billion to $114.5 billion.” These funds are spent on police protection and military weapons, the same weapons that are being used in police killings. In Long Beach, 43.9% of the city’s general fund goes toward policing, while 7.3% of these funds go towards public works. Government money would be much better spent by reallocating militant police funds towards the improvement of public services, communities, and the fight on poverty. If we can assure that police forces are properly trained on how to deal with situations that arise with people of color, we will find improvement in all areas of our lives.  With these actions I believe that we will find the systematic racism seen in the policing and educational systems will decrease significantly. In addressing police brutality, we will also be addressing many other issues that we face in our community. Police brutality draws us away from our lives and feelings of happiness. In our community, when someone dies as a result of police brutality, we spend more time “away from paid work to grieve, plan and attend funerals, and organize protests” (Alang S., McAlpine D., McCreedy E., Hardeman R.). As a result we are unable to work on the improvement of our community. This furthers the financial strain and poverty that we face, resulting in a lack of public resources available in our community. 

Police brutality has created a never-ending cycle of poverty in our communities. It makes us feel powerless and weak. But, I ask that if you take anything away from this, it is that you draw hope. Hope for a better future. Hope that one day we “will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood” (King). Hope that we will no longer see our brothers and sisters fall as a result of police brutality. Hope that we will truly be able to live out the American Dream. For the betterment of ourselves, and our communities, we must rise to the occasion, and work to banish police brutality all together. We must practice non-violence, and stay composed in our fight. It is a long fight, but for a worthy cause. It is important that we stand united in this battle. I urge you to find companionship in white allies and in each other. We will no longer stand for police brutality. Black Lives Matter, and we will not rest until everyone recognizes this as an universal truth. Freedom and equality will reign true. One day, soon, we “will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty, we are free at last” (King). 

Works Cited

Alang S., McAlpine D., McCreedy E., Hardeman R. Police brutality and black health: Setting the agenda for public health scholars. Am. J. Public Health. 2017;107(5):662–665. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2017.303691.

“’I Have A Dream’ Speech, In Its Entirety.” NPR, NPR, 18 Jan. 2010, www.npr.org/2010/01/18/122701268/i-have-a-dream-speech-in-its-entirety. 

“James Lawson: ‘From a Lunch-Counter Stool’ (1960).” The American Mosaic: The African American Experience, ABC-CLIO, 2021, africanamerican2.abc-clio.com/Search/Display/1510723. Accessed 18 May 2021.

Maschke, Alena, and Dennis Dean. “Activists Want to Cut Police Budgets; Here’s What the LBPD Spends Its Money On.” Long Beach Business Journal, 17 June 2020, lbbusinessjournal.com/activists-want-to-cut-police-budgets-heres-what-the-lbpd-spends-its-money-on. 

Strother, L., Menifield, C., & Shin, G. (2018). We gathered data on every confirmed, line-of-duty police killing of a civilian in 2014 and 2015. Here’s what we found.: Officers of all races disproportionately kill black and brown young men. what will it take for that to change?. Washington: WP Company LLC d/b/a The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www-proquest-com.sandiego.idm.oclc.org/blogs-podcasts-websites/we-gathered-data-on-every-confirmed-line-duty/docview/2097398593/se-2?accountid=14742

Tate, J., Jenkins, J., & Rich, S. (2021, May 3). Number of people shot to death by the police in the United States from 2017 to 2021, by race (1380421313 1008478129 D. Fallis & 1380421314 1008478129 D. Rindler, Eds.). Retrieved May 18, 2021, from https://www-statista-com.sandiego.idm.oclc.org/statistics/585152/people-shot-to-death-by-us-police-by-race/

 

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