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Why the “Black Lives Matter” Movement Should Matter to Cambridge Students

Sydni Brantley

Sydni Brantley

Halle Larson

Sydni Brantley

Halle Larson

Halle Larson

Sydni Brantley

Why the “Black Lives Matter” Movement Should Matter to Cambridge Students


It is a saying that has caused plenty of controversy since its creation in 2013 after the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin.

Some people call the saying “racist,” “unfair” or “insensitive” toward other races because it does not represent all people.

But what some people do not understand is black lives must be in a category of their own for the world to see the injustice going on.

Of course, all lives matter, but the lives of whites are not being systematically oppressed. The lives of whites are not being targeted by law enforcement. The lives of whites are not being taken because of the color of their skin and the stereotypes that go along with it.

These things are happening to the lives of blacks.

Just by looking at numbers, it could be argued that more whites than blacks are actually killed by police.

In 2015, The Washington Post launched a database that tracks fatal police shootings.

From January 1, 2015, to July 10, 2016, 732 of the 1,502 people killed by police were white, while only 381 were black.

However, these raw numbers alone do not reflect the reality that black Americans face. The size of the population and the racial makeup of the country must be taken into consideration.

Based on data taken from the most recent census, 77 percent of the population is white and about 13 percent is black. This means that even if 49 percent of people killed by cops are white, and only 24 percent of people killed by cops are black with the proportion of blacks being killed is still higher.

According to the Washington Post, these numbers mean blacks are 2.5 times more likely than whites to be shot and killed by police officers.

Black lives must be singled out because they’re being taken more often than the lives of other races. White people are killed by cops, too, but have such incidents become an epidemic?

“In the white community, it’s like, for black people, their house is on fire right now and the white people’s house is not on fire. Therefore, it’s not prevalent to them to put the fire out. They don’t care about the matter because it’s not affecting them,” said senior Shaloma McDonald, who is black.

Maybe that is the issue. Maybe people of other races do not understand how serious the matter is for the black community.

“I think that it is a problem with how people are raised, and I think that now in our generation what our responsibility should be is to raise our kids differently, and raise them the right way to be more compassionate and to have empathy and to just not be ignorant to different things,” said senior Sam Hardy, who is white.

Police brutality seems to have always been a problem for blacks and some people may feel like they are blowing these incidents out of proportion. But they are not blowing these incidents out of proportion.

‘Why does it always have to be about race?,” people ask. It has to be about race because it has been for decades.

During the Civil Rights Movement, it was entirely about race. Blacks were beaten and harassed by cops just for being black and trying to be in the presence of whites.

“No Coloreds Allowed” signs littered the windows of businesses and shops in the South. Sit-ins, where blacks attempted to sit at whites-only lunch counters, caused riots.

The Little Rock Nine, a group of nine black kids who attempted to be integrated into an all-white high school in Arkansas in 1957, had to be protected and led into the school by the army to avoid being beaten and attacked by crowds of white protesters.

All because they were black kids who wanted to get an education in the same school as white kids.

People often look back on these type of events when acknowledging Black History Month. Marches and sit-ins from the ’60s are brought up repeatedly in social studies classes.

But what people often don’t see is that the racial issues happening these days are just as important as the ones of the past. What’s happening right now will one day be history.

It’s just as important to see the significance of modern day events as it is to remember what happened decades ago. Our children and our children’s children will look back one day and reference the tragedies of today in order to study history and find ways to help it not repeat itself.

The Black Lives Matter movement is shaping Black History. It was about race in the past and it is about race now.

These days, it has to be about race because of people like Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, two unarmed black men killed by the police within one day of each other in July, two unarmed black men now part of a list of at least 136 black Americans killed by law enforcement in 2016, according to a British newspaper, The Guardian.

To make matters worse, these shootings were publicized and plastered all over social media.

The video of Castile bleeding out in his car after being shot — while his daughter sat in the backseat — circulated through the internet almost immediately after it happened.

Sadly, this wasn’t the first instance of there being a video of this kind of incident, and it has almost certainly not been the last.

“When that was happening, the first day, I was shook, “ senior Nandi Morris on the Castile killing.

“And then the day after that, it was again. And then the day after that, it was another one, so it came to the point where I was just like numb to it and was like, ‘alright that’s normal,’ and that’s really messed up, the fact that it’s like normal now,” said Morris, who is black.  

“For people to be getting killed for having a tail light be out. None of that makes any sense to me,” she said.

The killing of African Americans is an epidemic. Black Lives Matter has become a popular hashtag because it’s a cry for help. It’s a cry out to the world to see a change must be made.

It has to be about race.

“Black people constantly have to think about everything and we have to always be aware because we don’t want to offend people. We don’t want to seem too intimidating, too scary,” said McDonald. “My dad was telling my brothers, he called them, and he was like, ‘you guys be careful, any time you encounter someone, be the least intimidating you can be, make sure that you are as submissive as you can be because it’s so scary’.”

My own brother goes to school in St. Paul, Minnesota at the University of St. Thomas. The university is only 15 minutes away from where Castile was shot seven months ago after being pulled over for having a taillight out.

My mom had to have a talk with him about not being “suspicious.”

“Don’t attract attention to yourself,” she said. “Don’t drive 47 miles per hour in a 45-speed limit zone,” she said. “Don’t give them any reason to pull you over or stop you on the street,” she said.

“You never know what they may do,” she said.  

It is disturbing to think parents are being forced to tell their sons to be submissive — telling them to not disturb police or give them a reason to be targeted — instead of encouraging them to feel secure because the law will keep them safe.

But society has shown them too many times that the law won’t keep them safe.

The law did not keep Rodney King safe in 1991 when he was beaten savagely by four police officers until he had permanent brain damage, 11 skull fractures and kidney failure.

The law did not keep Eric Garner safe in 2014 when he was held in a chokehold until he died, despite the 11 times, he said “I can’t breathe” to police, all because he was selling cigarettes on the street.

And the law did not keep Trayvon Martin safe in 2012 when he was killed by George Zimmerman, who felt uncomfortable when he saw the 17-year-old walking down the street with the hood of his sweatshirt up.

And that is the real issue here. These scenarios are all real.

In a place like Milton, it is easy to pretend these issues don’t affect society.

When a city has a population of almost 40,000 people and nearly 80 percent of them are white, problems involving race do not stand out.

But that does not mean these issues do not hit close to home. For the 11 percent of black students that attend the school, race is an aspect of everyday life.

For me, trying to convince people that black lives matter is something I deal with all the time. The fear that they will not understand is something I have to face more often than I want to.

Black Lives Matter was not created to undermine the importance of other lives.

Saying Black Lives Matter does not mean white lives are not important. It does not mean Hispanic lives, Asian lives or even the lives of police officers are not important.

The phrase is a reminder that black lives are being treated like they are worth nothing and that something must be done with the help of all people.

“Black lives are disregarded as if they are nothing and once we try to speak out, we are silenced by people saying we are ignorant to think we are the only ones being singled out. The statement ‘all lives matter’ won’t be true until black lives are truly valued,” said freshman Muthoni Thumbi who is black.

Fighting back against the movement with sayings like “All Lives Matter” is like going to a cancer walk and saying, “all diseases matter.”

Yes, all diseases do matter. But awareness for cancer is important, too. Raising awareness and money for cancer research does not mean that awareness for diseases like Alzheimer’s or lupus isn’t important.

So what sense does it make to treat the Black Lives Matter movement that way?

People need to be sensitive. People should stand up for blacks for the sake of our society.  People need to help make Black Lives Matter one less thing that’s tearing our country apart.

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