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Why the Black Lives Matter Movement Matters

Updated on June 10, 2020
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An 18 year old, passionate about social issues and equality, with some knowledge of politics

First Words, and on Looting and Violence

I’ve been wanting to write something on the Black Lives Matter movement and protests for a little while now, but I wanted to first gather facts, and different arguments, that would be relevant. This ended up being much longer than I thought it would be, but here are my thoughts on the topic.

The first thing I want to say is I do not condone violence of any form, as I do not believe that society can progress through violence. But at the same time, there are so many different arguments which are opposing the protests and I wanted to provide some information to support the protests. Anyone who says that looting is uncalled for is completely right, but these people should not be held as examples of the movement on the whole. The movement is for further rights for black individuals, not an excuse to loot. Anyone truly protesting in favour of rights will likely hold this view; protests are a way of informing and calling for change. The Black Lives Matter movement is not based on looting. It is a response to police brutality and racism, not an excuse for petty crime.


Rioting and why it may be Necessary

That being said, much of the time it is seen that the protests evolve into riots (not always, for example the protest in Durham on Saturday was an example of how a protest can stay peaceful). However, the movement was not taken seriously when it was purely peaceful. After all, nearly four years after Colin Kaepernick kneeled to protest, there has not been a great deal of change in response to this form of protest.(1) It brought negative attention in the media, and many refused to kneel just days ago to show solidarity with the movement in the same manner. Since the protests after George Floyd’s death, we have already seen the start of police reform in cities such as Minneapolis and New York, and you can see more changes in source (2).

Historically, the way to achieve rights has been to riot – the Stonewall riots in 1969 led later to riots for LGBTQ+ persons to achieve some rights within society, riots in the 1960s were able to achieve important civil rights legislation (Malcolm X said himself that his radical form of protest was to make Martin Luther King’s attempts at legislation through non-violent means seem more reasonable to white Americans, and the March on Washington had little effect on Congress itself), suffragettes used radical means for women’s rights to vote, and anti-apartheid riots helped in South Africa. It is no surprise that riots are being used again for further rights for black individuals, and what is also noticeable is the impact it has had already in police reform (again, source (2) shows the changes it has already made). I will always prefer the option of peaceful protest. But in reality, it does not have the same impact. In a perfect world, people would be able to peacefully protest and police brutality and racism would be no more. Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world. The Black Lives Matter movement has illustrated this.

Violence Used Against Protesters

In response to those who condemn protesters as those who cause the violence in protests, on Twitter #bluefall shows a massive number of videos of protesters who have been attacked by the police, sometimes in full-scale riots and sometimes in peaceful protests.(3) Adding “UK” on the end shows instances of this in the UK. Be aware if you do choose to look at the hashtag however – it is very graphic, but necessary to show the reality of what is going on. Of course, there are examples of protesters who have initiated violence also. This is not a way of saying all cops are bad, just as not all protesters are bad. Both groups have mixed personalities, with good individuals and bad individuals. To all police officers who do their job in keeping the public safe and do their job because they want to truly help others, I say thank you. This movement is aimed at police officers who abuse their power to commit awful offences, not all officers. I think personally many protesters need to remember this.

In political news on the issue - recently in the US, Attorney General William Barr was shown to have endorsed the use of pepper balls in dispersing crowds outside of the White House to allow President Trump to have a photo opportunity outside of St John’s Episcopal Church.(4) The UK has ties to the riot weapons used in that the UK sells riot weapons such as tear gas, rubber bullets and riot shields to the US, which currently individuals (and the Labour Party) are calling attention to in order to show that the UK does not support the manner in which these weapons are being used.(5) The fact that politicians and the police have used these sorts of weapons on peaceful protests in particular is awful. Many people have been badly wounded from the misuse of rubber bullets, for example, and this violence should not be condoned in any way. The UK should also not support the use of these methods in any manner at all.

Is the UK Innocent? What About the Statues? Why Haven't There Been Protests for White People?

There is the argument that this is not as much a problem in the UK. Admittedly, police brutality is less of a problem here. But that does not mean it does not exist. Recent relatively high-profile cases illustrating this are those of Rashan Charles and Edson Da Costa who both died of choking while being restrained by police, and Sarah Reed and Sheku Bayoh who died while in police custody.(6) None of these cases led to officers being brought to justice. Branching out beyond this, in 2018/19, there were 103,379 hate crimes recorded by the police in England and Wales. 78,991 of these cases were race hate crimes.(7) This illustrates that police brutality and racism are still very much alive in our UK society, just as it exists in the US society we compare our own to. It cannot be claimed that the UK is innocent in any way, or that we do not have the same problems. We do. This is just on a lesser scale than on the US. Either way, however, it is inexcusable.

Some other complaints which I’ve seen include complaints about criminal damage in Bristol when the statue of Edward Colston was taken down during a protest. Of course criminal damage is a problem. However, the Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees has personally said he felt no “sense of loss” to the loss of the statue.(8) Many others agree. After all, in our society, we cannot commemorate someone whose life was dedicated to slave trading in any way. Our society is better than that. Perhaps there would have been a better way to remove the statue, however it likely will not be missed by many, and in the removal we remove a symbol commemorating our slave trading past, and in turn the removal of the statue can become a symbol in history that our country finally does not want to commemorate slave trading, but be educated on its reality and how the UK’s history is not always one to be celebrated.

Another complaint is that the death of Fusilier Lee Rigby did not cause the same uproar. The death of Lee Rigby will always be a horrific tragedy that we should all remember, but Lyn Rigby, Lee’s mother, has already stated that she does not wish for his death to be used against the current movement.(9) His murderers were brought to justice, and this is a different situation to the police brutality which occurs in the UK and US which we protest. Terrorism in all forms is unacceptable, and we bring those who commit these acts to justice. Yet in cases of police brutality, the police are often let off without charges, or with minimal charges. All are tragedies. All those who murder others, whether police or not, should be brought to justice as a result of them.

The Reality: Health Inequalities and the NHS

One more complaint is the hardships NHS staff may have to face if protests lead to a wide spread of COVID-19. I am extremely proud of our NHS. The British Medical Association has stated that they support the Black Lives Matter movement, which I am also extremely proud of. I would sincerely recommend that people read source (10) which includes much more than I am able to write on it. But it becomes clear that medical staff in the NHS do not wish for people to use the NHS as an argument against the movement. As they mention, racism breeds health inequalities, which in term can kill and can affect the NHS also. Medical professionals dedicate their lives to helping all people, regardless of what race they are. They should not be used in an argument against the movement.

As an extension of this, I also wanted to mention the fact that black males and females are at least 4 times more likely to die of a COVID-19-related death than their white counterparts. Taking account of age, socio-demographic characteristics, disabilities and health disorders, this is reduced to 1.9 times more likely. The difference in the mortality rate is a result partly of a socio-economic disadvantage.(11) This can show a form of white privilege itself: the fact that white individuals, in the current crisis, are much less likely to die due to COVID-19, partly as a result of our privileged history in comparison to the past which black individuals still have to live with today. The report mentions that “a substantial part of the difference … is explained by the different circumstances in which members of those groups are known to live”. Even in a pandemic, black individuals are disadvantaged as a result of the conditions in which they live in. The Marmot Review, a report led by Professor Michael Marmot, is a fantastic report on inequalities in England, and it mentions that “Intersections between socioeconomic status, ethnicity and racism intensify inequalities in health for ethnic groups.”(12) This is clearly demonstrated by the fact that COVID-19 disproportionately affects the black community. This is an issue far beyond the scope of police brutality, and black people in the UK, and indeed in the US also, must be given greater opportunities and chances in life, so that they do not have to live with more suffering in today’s age in any way. It is unacceptable that the black community still has to live with a great deal of inequality in our current society.

What the Movement is About, and how to Help

The Black Lives Matter movement seeks to create a society where black individuals are not disadvantaged as a result of their circumstances. No one can change the colour of their skin, and yet still so many people judge others based on a factor which should not at all divide individuals. Racism in any form should not be allowed in our society, and the movement and protests are ways in which we as a society can move towards this goal. We should not condemn protests or a movement which wants nothing more than equality which should not have to be fought for by black individuals in the first place.

Those are my thoughts on the matter. I support the movement and protests wholeheartedly, but if anyone decides to join a protest, please do not succumb to violence. Please wear a mask and gloves, and only attend if you would be able to cope with much higher chances of having COVID-19 passed on to you. If you live with close relatives, please ensure that you keep them safe, and please keep yourselves safe also. It is certainly not an ideal time to be protesting, but for a cause as important as this, we may not get any further chances soon if we do not act now. If you cannot attend protests, there are a huge amount of resources out there (books, shows, films, etc) to educate yourselves, and also many worthy causes for donations or support.

The final thing I wish to say is that I firmly believe that all lives can only matter when black lives matter. There is the analogy of the burning house: if you were in a neighbourhood and only one house was burning, would you try to hose down all of the houses, or would you focus on the house which was burning? By saying black lives matter, this is what we mean. In order to live in an equal society where all lives matter, we first need to campaign for the group which needs society’s help the most. That is what the Black Lives Matter movement is all about.

For resources if you wish to support the movement, one example of a list you can look at is https://www.dandad.org/en/d-ad-resources-black-lives-matter/

Sources Used

© 2020 Kieran Barry

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    • jman00001 profile image

      Jman 

      13 months ago from Texas

      Hi Kieran,

      Thank you for your perspective from the UK. I have a close friend living in England now . He and I used to work together in Texas at BP a few years ago.

      Many things are caught on video. That does not explain the " speed" of the protest and reactive violence. Mr Floyd was NOT a Martin Luther King Jr. However, he was typified to be such for weeks in America as was his funeral. Millions of people were AFRAID to speak out in any way against him or the BLM movement. It took courage to even push back against the open looting and violence shown for weeks on TV.

      I live in Texas. We simply rarely see "violent" discrimination against black people. We however DO SEE violence by black people...

      I challenge you to share a new clip by any reporter covering BLM violent protests that stated something like... " More than 80% of those we are witnessing looting businesses and attacking police are black..."

      The news media like the public was and is TERRIFIED to make comments about the multiple violent riots, protest and looting..

      I saw one news clip were police actually helped a van of looters still filling the van with stolen items guide and clear them out of an area. Police actually help direct them and traffic to let them leave. They were apparently not arrested or harassed in any way by police ..

      Simply watch the videos. count up yourself how many people of color versus other were engaged in violent crime during the BLM protests.

      -The news media cant on wont make such comments because stating such simple facts would result in harsh retribution .. THAT is a real issue.

      - Further, I understood that many of the protesters were pushed or forced to protest by BLM leadership. This included many teenagers.

      These tactic seems similar to Muslim radical anti-Christian and anti-Jewish extremists.

      The basis for protest appears to many in Houston Texas to be groundless and a " false flag" operation to serve as distraction and cover for something else more relevant. The something else appears to be COVID and its WIV source and lack of cure as the virus strain is mutating.

      There is no significant " remaining anti black discrimination in Houston Texas that we see. This according to my neighborhood, co workers - many of whom are black , Hispanic and Asian.. as we all work and live together in pretty good harmony.

      Why should we believe fake news and openly biased " manufactured" stories stating the opposite? it is far more likely they are false as stated above.

      PS: EXAMPLE STORY:

      Steve a Friend of mine is involved in a nasty divorce. HE and his wife are white, Jewish, well-educated and upper middle class. He was falsely accused by his mother in law of assaulting her in his home 5 years ago... He has home security camera footage of the incident in question. I have SEEN it. he was actually the one attacked and had to flee the house while being chased by the larger Jewish mom.. After 7 MONTHS he is still awaiting trial . he has NOT BEEN ALLOWED to show his video evidence to the court . His trial has been delayed since no jury is allowed due to COVID. At the same time many, many violent convicted criminals HAVE BEEN released also because of COVID from Houston jails according to his lawyer. Steve has lost over $300,000 on legal and other fees so far and is still waiting to see if he will be indicted by a grand jury.

      This Example Story is true.

      It is MORE LIKELY an example of incompetence by the legal system.

      It is LESS LIKELY a story about pro black and anti Jewish discrimination.

      Same logic should be applied to the BLM movement. The BLM organizers have connections and are making a fortune while aligned with government and social instruction.

    • profile imageAUTHOR

      Kieran Barry 

      13 months ago

      Hi Jman, thank you very much for reading my article, and for providing your comments (and your friends’ comments) on the matter. Unfortunately I don’t have a detailed knowledge of what is happening in US society as a person writing from the UK, so when I speak about the US I’m just using bits I’ve seen in the media. I really appreciate the insights, especially as you’ll know much more on the US reaction than I ever could.

      Some thoughts I had while I was reading your comment:

      The reason why the death of George Floyd got so much attention worldwide was the fact that it was caught on video, and it brought people to research more on the subject of police brutality. White individuals certainly are victims of police brutality, however the difference is that they aren’t targeted based on racial factors: black people, and indeed Hispanic people also, are. I’ve seen so many videos and reports of black individuals who have been stopped and had a gun aimed at them, and been shot and killed as an extension of this, all because the officers had some false sense of aggression because of negative stereotyping. In the same way, police are also much more present in black neighbourhoods. You’re less likely to see instances of what happened to George Floyd, and indeed other black individuals, to white individuals because a lot of crime can be missed because there are less police around to notice it. Floyd himself was not killed because of past convictions, but because of counterfeit currency. How is it fair that someone can, in today’s age, lose their life over that? I’m certainly not saying that Floyd is a martyr in any way: I’ve seen his criminal history and it gave me a reality check as to who the movement is actually martyring in some way. But regardless, he is a symbol of the movement because it was his death which finally made people realise that something needed to be done in order to change. Individuals such as Trayvon Martin, I think, are much more appropriate for the cause: after all, he was killed based on a false sense of suspicion and his killer was let off claiming self defence despite the fact that he was following him and Martin posed no danger.

      Certainly sex trafficking and drugs are issues, for example Jeffrey Epstein’s actions brought to light show this. But the thing is that these individuals have been brought to justice and the law is actively against these issues. Racism is different because of the fact that so many police officers have not been brought to justice after committing racist attacks and murders, and white individuals have also had a history of being let off after committing racist attacks and murders. We have privilege in the justice system: one only needs to look at how Brock Turner, for example, raped a girl behind a dumpster and only had six months in jail. This is unacceptable. To contrast, Willie Simmons robbed 9 dollars and is still serving a sentence 38 years later because of that. How can that be considered fair?

      I don’t do much for conspiracies, but I personally doubt that the media is using BLM as a cover up for COVID. Maybe it is different in the US, but in the UK I know the media is giving both instances a relatively balanced coverage. I certainly wouldn’t call BLM a terrorist movement, because it’s focused on giving the black community the fundamental set of rights they realistically should have had all along. Perhaps the media has different intentions, but people on social media are being so vocal because they realise it is unjust. The reason why it is being given so much attention is not because of COVID, but because people realise that it’s incredibly wrong in this day and age. The reason BLM is still ongoing is because we need to make sure that there are real changes made. President Trump is, for example, still condemning the protests (including Kaepernick’s peaceful protest which was 4 years ago now) and that makes you realise that if the government is not willing to make changes and simply wishes to demonise those who are protesting for equal rights, nothing will change. If the movement stops, then it’ll be incredibly hard to get it up and running again, and the current movement will have been for nothing. We want change, across the world, to combat racism in all different forms. Whether the movement has been fabricated or not, does it really matter? After all, the Montgomery Bus Boycott was planned and started with Rosa Parks: and it was a massive stepping stones in the steps towards civil rights. Perhaps the current movement can be further steps towards equal rights in the same way.

      COVID is a problem which will likely have gone away in a year’s time, however racism will linger on for so much longer than that. Steps to combat racism are always necessary because it will take so many different steps to change people’s minds and create a society where it is less of a problem (ideally not a problem, however this is unrealistic). The movement is not aiming to cover up an issue, it is aiming to give light to another issue which is present.

    • jman00001 profile image

      Jman 

      13 months ago from Texas

      Well researched article. However, it like the reference articles noted miss other perspectives. These other "perspectives " were shared with by by friends which include Hispanic and two of African american heritage not that it should matter. The notes Below are their comments. They will not share such directly do to fear of retaliation from media, govt and BLM retaliation.

      1. Socially Condoned Terrorism:

      - BLACK lives OBVIOUSLY MATTER.. If a white man or women was killed by police in the EXACT SAME MANNER as Mr Floyd, DOES ANYONE Believe for a moment than nationwide, city by city violent protests and defunding the police campaigns would erupt?? .. (Answer is NO. whites and women do not have socially sanctioned terrorist organizations supporting them)

      - Cover Up of FACTs: Mr Floyd's past criminal record was covered up and purposely not reported. Black Lives Matter yes as do All lives. However deifying and honoring a man with a long track record of violent crime, assault, theft , drug sale, and passing counterfeit money ONLY because he is Black and was murderously assaulted by 4 criminalized police officers is ridiculous and RACIST.

      - Manufactured Event: BLM and Mr Floyd tee shirt and movement were in place too quickly to be "legitimate". Folks it is 2020. How oppressed are Oprah, Wesley Snipes, most of the highly paid basketball and football players and millions of other successful blacks. Some of us watched "Roots" and realize the horrors of past slavery and anti black racism were real and terrible... long ago. Now a days however sex trafficking and drugs are FAR WORSE of an issue.

      2. Distraction & depressurization

      - Why is this huge , well funded , well organized, media darling , " false flag" racist/ terrorist movement called BLM still ongoing?

      - - Answer: distract and exhaust protest energy of the public.

      Real issue is COVID 19. Its true source and who is actually responsible for the multi trillion dollar pandemic... and the reminder that NO CURE or vaccine exists yet.. in spite of stock market and oil price recovery.

      Notice how the media can now avoid reporting on COVID related issue and the thousands of failed businesses and damaged families hurt by COVID... all the while the govt has been raising property taxes in 2020 in most areas..

      The public manipulation by media and government on the terrible and unfortunate death of Mr Floyd ( that had convenient timing for our government ) certainly "Trumps" ACA and other past government misdirects...

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