By: KADEN SCHARNOW
#Black Lives Matter. By today, it’s a phrase familiar to the American public and government. A phrase that unified America against a well known problem that has been in America for many, many years: Racism. Especially towards the African-American communities, racism has been targeting several of the communities in America that were people of color. There have been many movements to put an end to it, but nothing compares to the past year.
But how did it all start? Where did this inspiring phrase originate? While the fight to end racism dates back to the abolishing of white and black American segregation in the 1960s, the phrase itself dates back to 7 years ago, 2013. The phrase “Black Lives Matter” was used in a Facebook post made by civil rights organizer Alicia Garza from Oakland, California. The post was made after 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was murdered by 36-year-old George Zimmerman. “7 years ago, we were treated like we were too radical, too out of bounds of what is possible” Alicia Garza told the New York Times. But now that the country has reached its “Boiling Point”, the rallying cry of “Black Lives Matter” is more powerful than ever.
When America was thrust into quarantine from Covid-19, all new tensions among Americans emerged. Worry and panic broke out as state governors didn’t know what to tell their people. The death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer popped the tension bubble that slowly grew larger among the public. In the 10 days that followed, Americans of all races gathered together to protest in cities all over the states. Not only the people of America, Europe, and New Zealand all gathered to protest Black Lives Matter. Different franchises posted their support on social media. It was the biggest demonstration of civil unrest around state violence in this generation’s memory. The cruelty of the officer who murdered George Floyd “that captivated the country” said Rashad Robinson, president of “Color Of Change”, is what started the entire movement. George Floyd was seen as one of the symbols of Black Lives Matter.
But Floyd’s death wasn’t the only police brutality murder these past 7 years. Philando Castile was murdered by an officer at a 15-minute drive from Floyd’s death spot at a suburb of St.Paul, Minnesota, in 2016. Also during the pandemic, black men and women like Ahmaud Arbery (2/23), Breonna Taylor (3/13), Nina Pop (5/3), and Tony Mcdade (5/27) were murdered by police officers. These murders really opened people’s eyes to the racist police brutality in our nation. So not only were people protesting Black Lives Matter, they were angry at the police force as well for acting so unnecessarily cruel against black men and women. Seeing the gruesome parade of deaths in their social media feeds angered people to the point where lootings, and vandalism erupted in the protests. “The reason this got so big is because it’s been happening” stated Junauda Petrus-Nash an author and organizer of the “Black Lives Matter” movement from Minneapolis, Minnesota They increasingly became more violent, the police had to do something, but what?
The video recordings and news reports of the actions of police at protests were brutal. Philadelphia police tear gassing trapped protesters on a highway, two police vehicles plowing into a crowd in New York City, and police officers breaking into a car and tasering two black college students in Atlanta (all from The New York Times “Black Lives Matter May be the Largest Movement in US History”), is just the start of harsh police reaction to the protests. Even though protestors made unacceptable choices of threatening or even attempting to attack police, to tear gas, taser, and plow through protestors is an act of unnecessary violence. And it was all caught on tape, revealing what was happening with our police forces. “This kind of distribution and documentation is unveiling the sadism that black Americans regularly face” stated Thenjiwe McHarms, a strategist for the Black Lives Matter movement.
And now that America’s attention is slowly moving away from the protests and the movement, organizers and activists aren’t looking away so easily. Alicia Garza and her fellow activists are “working to become more savvier and more strategic.” “We can go one of two ways: the ‘law and order route’, or the route where we make Black Lives Matter because we all want them to matter, and have access to the things we deserve, and peace and justice in our communities” says Alicia Garza. The Black Lives Matter movement was the most diverse demonstration in 7 years, got 8 million tweets tagged with #BLM, and united all races against racism. Should there have been a better way to handle it? Yes, definitely. There was too much violence associated with the protests. Though the protests and violence may be over, the term “Black Lives Matter” will go down far in this world’s history.