p.p1 the criminal justice system (and the American

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These are not names of upcoming movie stars or a newfound boy band. These are names of sons, grandsons, and nephews who lost their lives by the hands that swore under an oath to protect them. Because these men were prejudiced for simply being black, another mother lost a son, another grandmother lost a grandson, and another aunt lost a nephew.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” The silence of these dead men has sparked the nation to stand up on the streets where they lied motionless, to speak out the voices they couldn’t utter, and to continue to fight the ongoing battle that they innocently died for.  The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement is an organization whose mission is to “build local power and to intervene when violence was inflicted on black communities by the state and vigilantes (cred). They are devoted to struggling together and to “creating a world free of anti-blackness,” where every black person has the social, economic, and political power to thrive. On the contrary, some are calling BLM “a hate group,” trying to rise above not only whites, but also other minorities (Marino).

Many have agreed to the statement “All Lives Matter,” convinced that people should not highlight that black lives matter because all lives matter. Yes, all lives do matter; however, this statement is “a way of dismissing the special burdens that African Americans have endured in the biased, harrowing machine of American justice” (Marino). Currently, black lives matter less than white lives to the criminal justice system (and the American government as a whole) and BLM is trying to promote the love of self and African-American rights to equal justice and fairness. Many BLM members has admired the work and followed the footsteps of their antecedents in the Civil Rights Movement that took place in the mid to late 1900s. BLM was inspired by the nonviolent civil disobedience led by Dr. Martin Luther King and moved by the “radical structural critique of institutional racism and economic injustice” developed by the Black Panther Movement (Joseph). The Civil Rights Movement has allowed blacks to gain access to the political system but that access did not make itself into a significant influence; more blacks are elected to office and appointed to various positions than at any other time but that has a very limited impact on the status of the black population.

An entire generation of social justice activists were called for action, placing the “fledgling movement on the cutting edge of civil rights activism for the twenty-first century (Joseph). Thus, the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter was created in 2013 by 3 black activists (Opal Tomato, Patrice Cullows, and Alecia Garza) who were outraged at the acquittal of the “neighborhood watch” volunteer, George Zimmerman, who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin (Joseph). Then, during the urban rebellions in Ferguson in 2014 (where Mike Brown got shot) and Baltimore (where Eric Garner died in a chokehold by a police officer) in 2015, BLM evolved into a full-grown social movement—a movement that is far more inclusive and democratic than either the Panthers or the civil rights activists ever imagined. They have merged the nonviolent civil disobedience of the civil rights movement with the radical structural critique of white supremacy and capitalist inequality.  According to the BLM’s mission statement: “#BlackLivesMatter is an ideological and political intervention; we are not controlled by the same political machine we are committed to holding all candidates for office accountable to the needs and dreams of black people” (Marino).

This political uprising represented a direct confrontation of institutional racism and economic justice. Because many of BLM’s most active leaders are queer women and feminists, its decentralized structure fosters participation and power-sharing. It also makes direct links between the struggles of black Americans and the marginalization and oppression of women, those in LGBTQ communities, and other people of color” (Joseph).

Living in the age of technology, BLM took advantage of the power and potential of social media. Thus, BLM activists and affiliated organizations published “A Movement for Black Lives,” to put forth demands for the national government to be aware of.   This policy agenda is divided into six parts which includes a host of interconnected demands: a shift of public resources away from policing and prisons and into jobs and health care, a progressive overhaul of the tax code to “ensure a radical and sustainable redistribution of wealth,” expanded rights to clean air and fair housing and union organizing, and greater community control over police and schools. It also offers a “remarkably pragmatic yet potentially revolutionary blueprint—one that it aims to implement through the concerted use of both protest” (Joseph). Embracing the intersectional nature of black identity, BLM is placing the lives of trans and queer women, young people, and the poor at the center of its policy agenda; therefore, the group has enlarged their collective vision of what constitutes membership in the black community. It has also expanded the terrain of what it means to be human in a society that has, since its inception as a democratic republic founded in racial slavery, insisted that black lives were disposable. In an article called “The Michael Brown Legacy: Police Brutality and Minority Prosecution” written by Ikedi O. Onyemaobin, he wrote, “While police are meant to protect and serve all United States citizens, for too many minority communities, police have become a source of fear, quick to resort to physical violence.

” As of 2001, one in six black men had been incarcerated. According to a 2013 Pew Research Poll, in 2010, black men were six times as likely to be incarcerated as white men. Thus, the face that blacks are disproportionately convicted and receive longer sentences than whites for similar crimes contributes to their overrepresentation among the penal population.

Since the police have become the more direct enforcer of the social control of blacks since the 1960s, their level of violence against blacks has skyrocketed. Between 1968 and 2011, black people were between two to eight times more likely to die at the hands of law enforcement than whites. Annually, over those 40 years, a black person was on average 4.2 times as likely to get shot and killed by a cop than a white person. The police usually claim that when they killed blacks it was “accidental” because they thought the victims were armed although in face the victims were unarmed 75 percent of the cases. These statistics show how racial stereotypes can influence the criminal justice system because racial profiling distorts how police officers views blacks.

BLM is fighting to change the system in order to be treated equally as their white counterparts. In response to the police brutality against blacks, many celebrities used their popularity as a pedal stool to bring awareness to racial inequality. For example, Philadelphia Eagle safety Malcom Jenkins said, “Last season, I raised my fist as a sign of solidarity to support people, especially people of color, who were and are still unjustly losing their lives at the hands of officers with little to no consequence.” By raising his fist during the national anthem before his NFL football game, he showed not only those in authority over him but his fans that racism still exists and he used his career as a standpoint to spread the message that black lives do matter. Another example is San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

In protest of racial injustice, Kaepernick bent down on one knee during the National Anthem of a football game.  Aware of the fact that he did not put his hand over his heart, his fans (and the whole nation) noticed his stance and the media began to go haywire. Critics claimed that he was disrespecting the American flag and our country. Many American veterans who were 49ers fans felt offended that he was exploiting his freedom of speech that they sacrificed their lives for. Many believed that he was protesting against police brutality; however, the issue lies far beneath it. “I’ve been very clear from the beginning that I’m against systematic oppression,” Kaepernick said. “Police violence is just one of the symptoms of that oppression. For me that is something that needs to be addressed but it’s not the whole issue.

” Kendrick Lamar, a rising hip-hop star and urban icon, used his impeccable talent to give rise to #BlackLivesMatter, performing the song “Alright” at the BET awards while “standing on top of a demolished police car—a contemporary symbol of state oppression that had been reappropriated as a sign of defiance and empowerment” (Lebron). The lyrics “We gonna be alright” in this song were chanted by BLM protesters in July 2015 as they faced down the Cleveland, Ohio police force, “almost as if to signal to the police lined up against them that their wills were indomitable.” He helped mobilize political activists with the power of art; he insisted that black lives matter on stage, while protestors, with renewed confidence, insisted on it on the streets. Police officers and the laws in the criminal justice system are not the only problems that blacks have faced in the name of racial inequality. At 8:59 p.

m. on June 17, 2015, congregants were inside the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. It is one of the oldest AME churches in America, built in 1891, and has long served the local southern black community as a place of sanctuary, peace and tolerance. At 9:01 p.m.

, the scene changed from humble worship to a massacre. At 9:00 p.m., Dylan Storm Roof, a self-proclaimed white supremacist with ties to at least one hate group website, The Last Rhodesian, had single-handedly stormed the church. He opened fire, killing eight black Americans on the scene; one more victim died on the way to the hospital. He was finally captured the next day, and he was brought face-to-face with those he had irrevocably harmed, having stolen the lives of their loved ones, and now, faced with a difficult choice—to forgive the white supremacist or give him the justice he deserves.

One by one, they took in public and extended forgiveness to a man who had murdered their friends and family in cold blood. One of the victim’s sister felt she needed to voice her own justified feelings about the matter, which in this case was anger. She then told the memory of the one she had lost and honored the ethos that love built the family. She then pointed out that there is no room for hate so they “had to forgive him.” The claim that black lives matter is not only a claim about fairness under the law, the cessation of police brutality, the elimination of vigilantes and all other manner of mortal threats to black lives. It is a claim of hope that if we allow ourselves to see how important it is that we love each other and ourselves, we will see that without this love, the fight for justice will be lost. Without love, any attempt to achieve either community or the friendship on which community depends will likely fail.  John Hope Franklin, a well-known black activist, explained that black youth should “use their scholarship to expose the hypocrisy underlying so much of American social and race relations” (Franklin).

Those who insist people should conduct themselves as if such a utopian state already exists have no interest in achieving it and, indeed, would be horrified if we even approached it.”  As a nation, we must confront our past and see it for what it is and not justify it. Without understanding our history, we can not understand how to solve our racial problems today. BLM advocates are willing to sacrifice everything they have to achieve equality, as seen from the examples of several celebrities. Despite the Civil Right Era giving blacks the ability to be in politics, there are still laws that supress blacks from being truly equal.

Because black lives  are being treated less than white lives in the criminal justice system and the American government, BLM is trying to promote the love of self and African-American rights to equal justice and fairness through symbolic actions and education of African-American history. Freedom for black Americans, the group reminds us, ultimately means a better nation for all. Until the most marginalized among us—the trans teenagers traumatized by dehumanizing legislation, the Latina and the youth with no access to HIV treatment, the single black women struggling to raise their children while holding down three jobs—are recognized as part of our collective American family, we all remain imprisoned.