In the past few weeks, cases of police brutality and white supremacy have surged through the news. With names like Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd making national headlines, I have watched the cruelty that Black Americans endure at the hands of our supposed "criminal justice system." The sad thing is that this system was never wholly just, nor was it created to help minority groups.
Since the formation of the modern police force, people of color, especially Black people, have faced intense discrimination from law enforcement. They were beaten in the streets, wrongfully arrested, shot, and executed far more than other racial groups. People tend to believe that these are remnants of a bygone era, but the truth is that ignoring reality is not only willfully ignorant, but it contributes to a problem that still exists in 2020.
After hearing about these tragedies on social media, I stumbled across Mapping Police Violence (https://mappingpoliceviolence.org/ ), a nonprofit organization that serves as a sort of national database for these crimes. I scrolled through the page curiously but had to close my computer after a minute or two. I've done research on racism and violence before, but there was one particular statistic that sent chills down my spine: "99% of killings by the police from 2013-2019 have not resulted in officers being charged with a crime." Let that sink in.
When I have conversations about this with people, I'm often met with the response that "not all cops are like that and the ones that are get convicted." Not every police officers is a murderer, of course, but those who are only get convicted for their actions 1% of the time. ONE PERCENT. Meanwhile, 1 in 1,000 Black men will be killed by the police in their lifetime. I can't fully articulate how that makes me feel, so I can't imagine what it must feel like for Black men and women in this country. This is why responding that "All Lives Matter" when people talk about injustice is harmful and problematic.
It's not that the lives of other races do not matter, but Black Americans are not being treated in a way that reflects their inherent worth and value as human beings. Imagine if you told someone with cancer that other diseases mattered? No person with even the slightest bit of compassion or social grace would think of doing this; So why can't people understand that when you use "All Lives Matter" to criticize the Black Lives Matter movement, you're doing the same thing. Black Americans are killed by the police at a higher rate than any other race, and this disparity has disastrous effects for the Black community. The fact of the matter is that Black lives SHOULD matter, but they're not being treated as such.
We've seen the power of petitions and protest in the cases of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, but their cases are just two of many. As white people, we have the privilege to never feel the effects of racial bias and discrimination, so we have the responsibility to be allies for progress. We need to dismantle the structures our ancestors built because when people ignore their contributions (direct or indirect) to systemic racism, we are failing humanity.
So, embrace the discomfort because your passive neglect could cost lives. Be actively against racism. Talk about it with your friends and family. Say their names. Sign petitions. Read about ways you can help. Research corruption in your own community. Call your representatives. Make a change.
After all, liberty and justice is what America is supposed to be about.