Picture Courtesy: www.sigmasreedharan.com
This isn’t strictly COVID-19 related, but it needs to be said.
There have been protests occurring in every state in the USA and in countries around the world to speak out against the systemic racism that has been occurring.
The Black Lives Matter movement is an important one and it is necessary that we, whether black or not, are educated about the movement.
The Black Lives Mater movement has been around for 7 years, created initially by Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, and Patrisse Cullors to protest the acquittal of the murderer of a black boy, Trayvon Martin.
The 17 year old was killed because he wore a hoodie and apparently “looked suspicious” while going out to a convenience store.
The movement started there, but the oppression of black people in our society has dated back hundreds of years.
The recent protests were sparked by the murder of a man named George Floyd.
The protests, however, are not "just for one man", but rather for the multitudinous people that have been subject to pain at the hands of people who make judgments based purely on the color of a person's skin.
The four policemen linked with the murder have since been charged.
That doesn’t mean that these protests should stop.
It is a subject that many seem to disagree with, saying that now is not the right time for protests such as these because of the pandemic, that the violence and looting taking place is something they do not stand by.
For those saying that during a pandemic is the wrong time to start protests, I understand. It is a risky thing, getting this close to other people in a time where social distancing is what doctors are recommending people do to stay clear of the virus.
For those saying they are against the violence of the protests, I hear that. The destruction of people’s hard earned property is sad to see.
That all being said, there is no better time for such protests.
Let me explain:
“A riot is the language of the unheard.”
This is a quote by Martin Luther King Jr. in his speech, The Other America. That is essentially what is happening. African Americans, and black people in general, have been neglected and oppressed for years upon years. They tried so many things to raise awareness, to bring people’s attention to the injustices being enacted upon them, but not enough people listened.
When Colin Kaepernick, an American football player, kneeled during the national anthem in 2016 to protest the unjust treatment of minorities, specifically black people, in America. Many people were against this movement, offended by the players kneeling during the anthem. Kaepernick went unsigned the next season and has not been hired back to the NFL since.
That protest was peaceful.
No one listened.
Martin Luther King Jr. protested peacefully.
He ended up dead. When he was assassinated, he was hated among many Americans for nothing more than asking for equal rights.
Since many of us are stuck at home, on social media, these protests are able to get the recognition they need, the recognition they were never able to receive when we were not all on lockdown.
I am not saying that violence is good or the right answer to this.
But let me ask you this: if you have not experienced the pain of watching your children, your siblings, your parents, your friends, your people suffer or die for no reason other than the color of their skin for hundreds of years and no matter what you say or do, no one seems to make any actions to change the mindset that causes those injustices to occur, then should you have a say in what the “right answer” is?
Should you be able to say “this is not the way they should do things, if only they did ________, then I would agree with them” if you do not know what those people feel?
We can empathize with black people, but we should not tell them how they should go about protesting.
As the loud chant that rang through states and countries around the world goes:
“No justice, no peace.”
The looting started because stores did not release supplies to protesters for healing people who were shot or teargassed by the police. Later, it was opportunists and white supremacists aiming to drag the name of the movement.
There is also another aspect to the looting. Several people get touchy about the looting and the destruction that comes with the riots. This is because so many people are more focused on the economic aspects. People seem more worried about the destruction to property than the oppression against the black people.
Property can be replaced. Lives cannot.
Innumerable people are so centered on the materialistic aspects in life that those aspects somehow overtake the need for equity and basic human rights.
Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old black boy, was fatally shot for having a toy gun.
Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old man, was fatally shot while jogging in broad daylight.
Atatiana Jefferson, a 28-year-old woman, was fatally shot while playing video games with her 8-year-old nephew late at night.
These are only a small few of the inhumane murders that have occurred due to the oppression of black people.
We cannot stay silent about this. The spark has started to die down now that the officers guilty for murdering and allowing the murder of George Floyd to occur have been charged, but we need to keep the movement going.
Things need to change if society is to improve. We cannot allow the murder of innocent people to keep happening for no other reason than the darkness of their skin. We need to dispel racism, not only in our authorities, but in our daily lives—ourselves, our families, our friends. If you hear someone around you say something racist, call them out on it. It is in these small ways that we can change the narrative and rid society, slowly, of the racism that is innately a part of it. Voting is also a great way to further this country in a more positive direction. More than just the president or vice president, local governors and mayors are important to the direction the police force takes. I am not of voting age, but if you are, please educate yourself on the candidates for such positions and vote wisely, for the better of yourself and the people around you.
And if you excuse the actions of police who kill innocent black people, then I would like to remind you that the denial of racism is inherently racism.
Do what you can. Do not stay silent. Fight back.
To learn more about BLM’s past: https://blacklivesmatter.com/herstory/
To help the movement from home (petitions, donations, etc.): https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/#
If you are a South Asian American, I suggest you watch this video (explicit language): https://www.instagram.com/tv/CA_-WbRJmpZ/?igshid=s1myimvbqgbk
To learn more about the cases I listed above:
Tamir Rice - https://www.cleveland.com/opinion/2020/06/tamir-rice-and-i-were-the-same-age-we-lived-30-minutes-apart-and-both-played-with-toy-guns-but-im-still-alive-heres-why-connor-marrott.html & https://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/23/us/in-tamir-rice-shooting-in-cleveland-many-errors-by-police-then-a-fatal-one.html
Atatiana Jefferson – https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/15/us/aaron-dean-atatiana-jefferson.html
Movies to watch to educate yourself more on systemic racism:
The Hate U Give
More (books, movies, and TV shows): https://www.cnet.com/news/black-lives-matter-movies-tv-shows-and-books-on-systemic-racism/#tvshows
Thumbnail courtesy of Sigma Sreedharan (www.sigmasreedharan.com)