First, White Privilege.
It explains in simple terms what’s meant by systemic white privilege. It was one of those “copy and paste” Facebook posts, and so I don’t know who wrote it. I assume it originated with the Black Lives Matters folks. More on that in a moment.
“Four hundred years ago white people brought black people over here and enslaved them. And sold them. And treated them as less than human. For 250 years. While white men built the country and created its laws and its systems of government. While 10, 15 generations of white families got to grow and flourish and make choices that could make their lives better.
And then 150 years ago white people “freed” black people from slavery. But then angry white people created laws that made it impossible for them to vote. Or to own land. Or to have the same rights as white people. And even erected monuments glorifying people who actively had fought to keep them enslaved. All while another 5, 10 generations of white families got to grow and accumulate wealth and gain land and get an education.
And then 60 years ago we made it “legal” for black people to vote, and to be “free” from discrimination. But angry white people still fought to keep schools segregated. And closed off neighborhoods to white people only. And made it harder for black people to get bank loans, or get quality education or health care, or to (gasp) marry a white person. All while another 2-3 generations of white families got to grow and pass their wealth down to their children and their children’s children.
And then we entered an age where we had the technology to make public the things that were already happening in private– the beatings, the stop and frisk laws, the unequal distribution of justice, the police brutality (police began in America as slave patrols designed to catch runaway slaves). And only now, after 400+ years and 20+ generations of a white head start, are we starting to truly have a dialog about what it means to be black.
White privilege doesn’t mean you haven’t suffered or fought or worked hard. It doesn’t mean white people are responsible for the sins of our ancestors. It doesn’t mean you can’t be proud of who you are. But it does mean that we need to acknowledge that the system our ancestors created is built for white people. It does mean that we aren’t disadvantaged because of the color of our skin, and it does mean that we owe it to our neighbors — of all colors — to acknowledge that and work to make our world more equitable.
Black Lives Matter!”
Now, about Black Lives Matter.
The origins of BLM.
In 2012, 17 y.o.Trayvon Martin was fatally shot after an altercation with George Zimmerman, who was patrolling the townhouse community in Sanford, Florida where Martin was visiting. Zimmerman claimed to have shot the almost six-foot teenager in self-defense during a physical scuffle.
It took weeks before Zimmerman was eventually arrested and charged with Martin’s murder. Black Lives Matter was founded in 2013 in response to Zimmerman’s acquittal.
The global organization says its mission is to “eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. ”
The BLM project is now a member-led global network that includes more than 40 chapters.
A little more history.
To understand the power of a movement that began in 2013, we have to jump back a 100 years and grasp onto perhaps the same struggle the Black community fought then – the idea that all people should be treated fairly in the eyes of the law and in every institution.
Finnie Coleman, a prof at the U.of New Mexico, says the Black Lives Matter movement mirrors the ambitions of the NAACP in the 1920s. That’s when the NAACP started to lead the Black civil rights struggle to fight racial injustices. These included voting rights, racial violence, segregated public facilities, and discrimination in employment.
Coleman continues, “The idea that we [blacks] should have to ask certain groups for permission to exercise our rights that the Constitution already guarantees us; that’s a huge disconnect…”
Coleman explains that Black Lives Matter doesn’t want to be given anything. Instead, he says, what Black people want is to be able to live their lives, peaceably assemble, and address grievances without fearing for their lives.
A note about the phrase “Black Lives Matter.”
While the intention of the phrase “All Lives Matter” may be to put everyone’s life on equal footing and convey a sense of unity, responding with “All Lives Matter” to “Black Lives Matter” is actually more divisive than unifying.
Why it’s missing the point to say “All Lives Matter” – It’s because it discounts and diminishes the focus on the violence and discrimination Black individuals face every day.
It’s a natural reaction to respond to one group centering its experience with, “But what about all lives?” or “Isn’t my safety important, too?” But the truth is, Black Americans are disproportionately impacted by police violence and systematic racism in our nation.
Our entire social structure centers around whiteness as a default. Asserting that “All Lives Matter” just reaffirms — or at best ignores — that reality.
Of course every life is valuable, but not everyone’s lives are in danger due to their skin color. Saying “Black Lives Matter” isn’t equivalent to saying other lives don’t, but rather that Black lives should matter as much as white lives.
Alicia Garza, along with Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, is one of the founders of the BlackLivesMatter hashtag and movement. She explains how Black lives mattering is a precondition for all lives mattering:
“Think of it this way: If you get into a car crash and one person has a serious head injury but the others have a few bumps and bruises, the person whose life is at risk gets first priority when it comes to medical care.
That doesn’t mean paramedics won’t help the rest of the passengers, but that triage places the most dire situation first in line.
Or, to look at it another way, if someone keeps setting your house on fire, you’d want firefighters to do something about it. Wouldn’t it upset you if instead, people kept telling you that “all houses matter equally,” if yours was the one burning?”
For more info about BLM, go here.
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