Q: What is Black Lives Matter?
A: Black Lives Matter is a US-based international movement co-founded by three black women: Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi. The #BlackLivesMatter movement began as a hashtag for Twitter, after George Zimmerman’s acquittal for the murder of Trayvon Martin in 2013. It gained momentum after the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown, the death of Eric Garner, and subsequent events that continue to this day.
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Q: What are the goals of “Black Lives Matter”?
A: The focus is an end to police brutality,mass incarceration, and demilitarization of US police departments. Other objectives from BlackLivesMatter1.org include:
- Full, living wage employment;
- Decent and affordable housing fit for the shelter of human beings;
- An end to the school-to-prison pipeline, and quality education for all;
- An aggressive attack against all laws, policies, and entities that disenfranchise anycommunity from expressing themselves at the ballot;
- A public education system that teaches the rich history of Black people and celebratescontributions made to this country and the world.Ultimately, this is about “an end to all forms of discrimination and the full recognition of our human rights.”
Q: But don’t “All Lives Matter”?
A: Our UU principles call us to recognize “the inherent worth & dignity of every person” (Principle 1), to promote “justice, equity and compassion in human relations” (Principle 2), and to work for “the goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all” (Principle 6). At this time, a spotlight is being projected onto serious issues of systemic injustice towards black people specifically. Our principles call us to support this cause, without negating the value of other causes.
As expressed by leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement, “We’re not saying Black lives are more important than other lives, or that other lives are not criminalized and oppressed in various ways. We remain in active solidarity with all oppressed people who are fighting for their liberation, and we know that our destinies are intertwined. Given the disproportionate impact state violence has on Black lives, we understand that when Black people in this country get free, the benefits will be wide reaching and transformative for society as a whole. When Black people get free, everybody gets free.”
Context to Consider: Institutional Racism in America
- At least 14 unarmed black people were killed by police officers last year. Only one ofthe officers was indicted.
- 84% of police officers interviewed from 100 departments across the country said they had seen colleagues use excessive force.
- In 2011-2012, the Montgomery County Police Department’s arrest rate per 1000 residents was 65.2 for black residents and 16.8 for non-black residents.
- Nationwide, even though blacks and whites have similar levels of drug use, blacks are ten times as likely to be incarcerated for drug crimes. In Maryland, African-Americans represent 90 percent of all those imprisoned for drug offenses.
- African-American youth are 9 times more likely than white youth to be sentenced as adults for the same crime. Prison sentences for black men are about 20% longer than for white men for the same crime.
- There are more blacks under correctional control today — in prison or jail, on probation or parole — than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began.
- Only 2 states in the U.S. allow people serving time, on parole, or with criminal records to vote. All other states deny one or more of these groups the right to vote.
- As of 2004, more African American men were disenfranchised (due to felon disenfranchisement laws) than in 1870, the year the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified prohibiting laws that explicitly deny the right to vote on the basis of race.
- A national study of more than 90,000 schools found that although black children made up only 18 percent of preschoolers, 42 percent of preschoolers who were suspended were black.
- In a study of employment discrimination, resumes with the names Lakesha and Jamal were 50% less likely to get call backs than identical resumes with the names Emily and Brendan.
- The wealth of white households was 13 times the median wealth of black households in 2013, compared with eight times the wealth in 2010. The current gap between wealth for blacks and whites has reached its highest point since 1989.