During some of my undergraduate social work courses, I learned about Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Abraham Maslow was a psychologist who developed this theory about what people need, and in a particular order, to achieve self-actualization, or fulfillment. A great picture of this is below:
In case this picture is hard to read, the order (from the bottom to the top) is physiological needs, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization.
Maslow's theory was that self-actualization cannot be achieved if things from the lower levels of the pyramid have not yet been met. So for example, someone who is hungry (think: Someone starving, maybe living in a food desert, and not sure where or when they will eat again) will not find the needs higher up in the pyramid (let's say, confidence and respect) to be a priority.
Now that we understand Maslow's hierarchy of needs, let's talk about some of the oppression Black Americans still face today.
1. There is still a significant pay gap between white families and black families.
According to this Pew Research article, a 2014 study found the white net worth is 13x higher than the black net worth. That comes out to a median white net worth of $144,200 and a median black net worth of $11,200.
2. 27 percent of African Americans (men, women, and children) live below the poverty level.
Just to give some perspective, the poverty level for a family of four is $24,250.
3. Education and poverty.
This is a bit of a chain reaction here, so follow along. Children living in poverty tend to have a higher rate of absenteeism and are 7x more likely to drop out of school altogether in order to work and take care of their families. For those who do drop out of school, it is much more likely they will continue to live in poverty.
4. Drop out rates.
About 8 percent of African American children drop out of school, while only 4 percent of Caucasian children drop out. (All of these education statistics can be found here).
So, what does this have to do with #BlackLivesMatter?
I'm glad you asked. Currently, about 40 percent of white people express support for the Black Lives Matter movement. As exhibited in the statistics above, white people come from a place of privilege. There is nothing wrong with being privileged. The problem is when white people view this world through their privileged-glasses and undermine the reality of black oppression. Black Lives Matter is about black people having opportunities to not only have similar opportunities as white people, but to have their basic needs met on this hierarchy so they can function and contribute to society as a whole.
It's time for white people to acknowledge that yes, all lives matter, but black lives are hurting right now and need support. Please stand with me in solidarity of those who are suffering because of the color of their skin. They deserve for these statistics to be changed for the better.