Black Lives Matter: why it’s so important and what you can do to make a difference

Black lives matter, better known as BLM is an international social activist movement that originated in the United States in 2013. This movement was created to fight against police brutality, racial profiling, and racial inequality in the United States criminal justice system. full-transcript-zimmerman-p2-normal

Dispatcher: Ok, we don’t need you to do that.

Jesus Christ, on line 14 of this transcript the dispatcher clearly told George Zimmerman that he didn’t need to follow Trayvon Benjamin Martin. But he felt above the law and entitled enough to make his own decision. I’m sure most of my readers can guess how this story ends – Zimmerman fatally shot and killed Trayvon Martin. What is it about a 17-year-old black boy that would cause a grown man to feel so unsafe. Trayvon wasn’t armed, he wasn’t heading toward Zimmerman, and he certainly wasn’t doing anything to pose a threat toward Zimmerman. SO WHAT IS IT ABOUT BLACK PEOPLE THAT MAKES INDIVIDUALS SO AFRAID?! This is rhetorical of course because we all know the answer.

I wanted to start with this story because this heinous act of murder that took place in Sanford, Florida in 2013 is what started the BLM movement. Every time I think about this story I can’t help but tear up. That could’ve been one of my brothers, one of my friends, or someone close to me that could’ve lost their life due to a society engulfed with media that portrays black people as dangerous, ruthless criminals. Trayvon was so young, he had so much of his life to live, and that was all taken away from him by George Zimmerman and a criminal justice system that believes his life didn’t matter.
travon martin

I’m sick of hearing “that could’ve happened to anyone,” “black people kill each other as well,” “you don’t see us having a protest when a white person gets killed,” or my all-time favorite, “ALL LIVES MATTER!”
Take a look at the below list and tell me all lives matter. 005

How is it possible to say “All lives matter” when one sees a list of ten black people killed by the police with no punishment, no justice, and no repercussions for their actions.  It’s not possible, it’s simply not possible to believe that our country stands for everyone. I mean if you think about it when the Declaration of Independence was written, Jefferson and the other authors weren’t including people of color or women when they said: “We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal.” The concept that all men are created equal was a key strategy to divide and conquer.

Also, this isn’t an updated list. Unfortunately, there has been a plethora of death’s due to police brutality since that list was published.

Yesterday, 24-6-17, I had the pleasure of attending my first BLM protest in Berlin, Germany.
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I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome. Back home in Minnesota, the number of attendees at BLM protests was smaller, but yet again Berlin’s population is roughly nine times larger than that of Minneapolis.

The focus of this article is to compare and contrast the differences between BLM protest in the States and in Europe. From my experience yesterday I’ve noticed three major differences; the atmosphere, the police, and safety.
1. Atmosphere
Racial injustice and police brutality are serious issues, but I don’t think protests need to be all serious. We’re there to stand in solidarity and celebrate the lives of black people. In Minneapolis, I felt so emotionally drained while attending BLM protests. I felt very uneasy and sad, which I think is normal in this situation, but I never felt happy that all these people were getting together and supporting what they believe in like I did yesterday in Berlin.
2. Police
For me, I think it’s quite understandable for a black person to be nervous and apprehensive toward police, even if one didn’t do anything wrong. So naturally, I try to avoid police officers at all costs, but once again I didn’t feel this strong sense of uneasiness around the police officers in Berlin. The main difference here is I felt that the police officers were doing their job, respecting the protesters, and not looking down on us for standing up for our beliefs. Who knows, I could be wrong, but for the most part I got a good vibe from the police officers at yesterday’s protest.
3. Safety
As I previously mentioned, I tend to feel worried and unsafe around police officers and BLM protests. Ironic, isn’t it? But at yesterday’s protest, I never felt worried or unsafe. Perhaps it was because I was with a white male instead of by myself like I normally am at protests in Minnesota.

I remember snap chatting before heading to a BLM protest in Minneapolis and getting messages from my friends and brother saying “don’t get shot.” It’s hard for me to fathom that innocent protesters have to worry about such a circumstance happening. It makes me feel like I’m marching in the ’50’s with Martin Luther King Jr. Of course, I’ll never be able to feel exactly the way protesters did while marching with MLK, but I can only imagine there was a certain level of fear that mirrors what I experienced while protesting in Minneapolis.

What I want to highlight is that I felt a sense of respect at the protest yesterday that I have never previously experienced. For example, there was a protest near my home in Fridley, Minnesota in the fall of 2015 for the murder of Jamar Clark by Minneapolis police officers Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze. Protests were held at the 4th precinct for 18 days post shooting, which happened on November 15, 2015. Unfortunately, I do not recall the specific date of the protest I went to, but what I do remember is a news journalist from a local Minneapolis news station asking to interview me. At first, I was apprehensive, but then I thought about how much of a difference my voice could possibly make, so I accepted the interview. The journalist asked me questions about how I felt, if I knew Jamar, and my background. Once we got on the topic of education I told her I had a bachelor’s in international business and she looked dumbfounded. Like God forbid an educated black woman is protesting racial injustice. Honestly, the woman looked as if she’d seen a ghost. When I think back to this situation I can’t help but imagine what she must have thought about me. Did she approach me because she assumed I was uneducated, that I went through teenage pregnancy, or perhaps that I was living off of the government – all of which are not true. It’s these types of situations that make me feel belittled and extremely disrespected as a black woman in America.

For an experiment, I am going to attend the next BLM protest alone to see if I have a different experience. Hopefully not, but I’ll keep you guys posted.
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My lovely friend Daniel out here support black lives matter.

Being black in America
Imagine waking up every day and being concerned about your race. Imagine fearing for the safety of your family and friends due to a system set up against you. Imagine raising your children differently than white children in order to keep them safe. Imagine worrying about racism in your personal, professional, and everyday life. To my white readers out there, I know you won’t be able to understand, but what I’m asking for here is empathy and an open mind. You may feel uncomfortable reading about the experiences of black people, but we feel uncomfortable every day of our lives.

I’ve never had the privilege of going to a job interview and knowing I will be judged solely off my credentials. I’ve never had the privilege of applying for a flat and knowing race won’t come into play in the decision-making process. I’ve had the privilege of walking down the street without people automatically thinking less of me because of my race. (Like I mentioned earlier with the journalist at the Jamar Clark protest.) When I apply for jobs I always select “other” in the section that asks about my race. Why? Simply because I know that despite all the anti-discrimination laws throughout the world, “black sounding names” are far less likely to be called back for an interview. Did you know there are BSU or black student unions groups on college campuses that teach black students how to de-black their resumes? There is real time spent learning how to hide your race in order to be considered for a certain position one’s applying to. Think I’m overexaggerating? Check out this link with statistics on the number of resumes that don’t get a call back simply because they have “black sounding names.”

“Every day, a black-name resume is 50 percent less likely to get responded to than a white-name resume,”

*drops mic*

Don’t get me wrong, I know I have a certain level of privilege as well. I’m privileged because English is my first language, I’m privileged to have a strong educational background, I’m privileged to be living in Europe. The interesting fact here is white Americans are born with these privileges, PLUS more.

I’m not the one to sit and sulk about how this world is fighting against my success. I don’t like to complain about how much harder my life is going to be compared to my white friends, I’m simply trying to make a difference in the way people of color are treated by creating awareness about racial discrimination.

Lastly, I want to share a personal story that almost made me give up hope in the fight against racism.

Two years ago, in the spring of 2015, my beautiful, intelligent, hard-working, sassy little sister was awarded an opportunity to be photographed for a billboard that advertised her school. This opportunity wasn’t awarded to just anybody, the school picked the top students based on academic achievements. And let me tell you, Patience is a genius. She attends a private Catholic school in Columbia Heights called Immaculate Conception, along with her twin, my amazing little brother Emanuel. Moral of the story is that just days before the photo shoot the school told Patience she was no longer allowed to be photographed because her skin was too dark. Can we just take a second to think about the negative implications this had on a 10-year-old? Can you just imagine growing up in a world where you’re perceived as unworthy due to the amount of melanin your skin is made up of? This is where the self-hate begins, this is where the skin bleaching begins, and this is where the division of humanity begins. I hate that she still attends that school, I hate that she feels not as pretty as her white friends, and I hate our society for deeming dark skin as an unattractive trait.

Patience if you’re reading this, you’re beautiful, you’re smarter than most people older than you, you’re loved, you’re respected, and you should never let what other people say get to you.

I’m not going to lie, I let society’s perception of beauty get to me. I bleached my skin, I wanted to be white, and I was ashamed of the fact that I was black. But you know what, forget that. I’ve come to love the person I am. And just in case there are people out there that didn’t know, people of color throughout the world face these insecurities. I had a friend study abroad in Bali, Indonesia who told me people bleach their skin there as well as in Mexico. Not to mention my black friends throughout the U.S that face these issues as well.

Facts like these are why I believe the BLM movement is SO important. If we’re living in a society that believes we’re less worthy because of our skin color, how can we expect our criminal justice system to think otherwise?

My recommendation to my readers out there throughout the world is to create awareness. It’s impossible to solve a problem if one is unaware that the problem exists. Go to protests, listen to the stories of your fellow black friends that have dealt with racism, DON’T appropriate our culture, and be a humanitarian. Care about what other people are going through and try to empathize.

3 thoughts on “Black Lives Matter: why it’s so important and what you can do to make a difference

  1. Thanks for these points- they need to be said over and over again (by everyone) until they become normalized, until justice and compassion and self-awareness become normalized. Beautiful post.

    Liked by 1 person

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