As insistent and diligent as Black teachers taught and instilled in us that Black Lives Matter, it has taken years for the nation to come to grips with the realization that Black Lives Matter, which gave birth to the Black Lives Matter Movement in 2013. The Black Lives movement and recent marches against police brutality, the protests for justice and equality have catapulted an international movement where young black, white, brown and yellow citizens have taken to the streets, demanding and removing statutes of racist figures, U. S. slave holding Confederate generals, and they are calling for renaming military bases currently named for Confederate soldiers. Young, old and in between citizens are marching, chanting, hoisting banners and signs displaying a unified message, down with police brutality, up with justice and equality for all, end racism in America Black Lives Matter, chanting “no justice, no peace”.
Over the last one hundred years African Americans have felt the sting of the fact that their lives did not matter especially Black citizens who lived in southern states such as Alabama, the Carolina’s, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas where they suffered at the hands of mean and brutal white citizens. In these and in some northern states, citizens of color were and still are devalued, marginalized, considered inferior and unequal to their white counterparts and have been denied rights freely granted to white citizens.
Fast forward to 2020 America where it is becoming more and more difficult for one to vote, where once again states are using all kinds of schemes and tactics to suppress ones’ Constitutional right to vote. Southern states are now requiring a valid state ID to vote which many African Americans do not possess. It is an America where the late Congressman John R. Lewis’ fight to renew the 1965 Voting Rights Act for another ten years is purposefully being stalled in the U. S. Congress and is under immense scrutiny and attack by critics and voting rights adversaries. President Trump is threatening to try to derail and deny states the right to allow citizens to vote by mail in ballots, with Trump contending that the November election is rigged against him and that there will be massive voter fraud but more noticeable that his poll numbers are sagging and that he could possibly lose the election. The .US. Postmaster is attempting to streamline Postal Services by eliminating overtime and limiting work hours. It was reported that mail at some U.S. Post Offices is stacking up, which present optimal conditions for the coming of a disaster and are the conditions for a perfect storm during the November Presidential election.
Continue to fast forward to an America, where police officers have little or no regard nor remorse about putting their knees on the necks of Black men and holding them there until the last ounce of life is snuffed out of men like George Floyd and captured in real time. America tolerates white supremacy groups marching in the streets of Virginia chanting kill Jews and Blacks and look the other way when President Trump comments that “there were good and bad people on both sides” and in the Nation’s capital, the seat of power, in front of the White House where thousands of Black Lives Matter protesters who were peacefully gathered, were pushed out of the way, beaten, tear gassed so that Trump could pass on his way for a photo opportunity in front of a church holding a Bible upside down.
One cannot forget the time when a Black man was jogging through the streets of a Georgia neighborhood and was apprehended by three white vigilantes claiming that they perceived the young man to be a burglar. They shoot him not once, but three times with a shotgun killing him simply because he was Black and was not supposed to be jogging in a white neighborhood. What about the murder of a young African Amerian female (Breonna Taylor) sleeping in bed in Louisville Kentucky, being shot and killed because she did not respond to police officers kicking in the wrong door to her apartment under the belief and suspicion that she was hiding her ex-boyfriend. What about the lives of Sandra Bland who was killed while locked in a Texas jail cell, Michael Brown who was gunned down in the streets of Missouri, Trayvon Martin who was murdered in Florida by Zimmerman, Eric Garner’s life choked out in New York by a band of rogue police officers, Orlando Castile in Louisiana shot and killed by police officers, Black women being pulled from their vehicles in Colorado and Washington, DC, for suspicion of driving a stolen vehicle. (The Colorado incident involved four small children being handcuffed and forced to lay face down at gunpoint on hard concrete) with police officers contending that the women were believed or suspected to be driving a stolen vehicle.
The list of incidents of police brutality being heaped upon citizens of color is common, but totally unacceptable and must be addressed. That is the mission and objective of the Black Lives Matter Movement, to seek peaceful non-violent protests until the nation moves to address the matter. Many states are moving expeditiously to address police brutality. The amount of change that the protests have produced in such a short period of time is noteworthy. For example, in Minneapolis the site of George Floyd’s death, the City Council pledged to dismantle the police department. In New York, policy makers repealed a law that kept police disciplinary records secret. Across the nation towns and cities have enacted laws banning chokeholds. The state of Mississippi has retired the state flag which included a Confederate battle image. Many Confederate statutes have been removed from town and city squares across the nation. The protests with the support and insistence of Black Lives Matter has set in motion a period of significant change, nevertheless the battle for social, political, and economic justice, the battles for renewal of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, gun control, climate change, immigration, and quality healthcare for all are ongoing and we must never give up on achieving such gains.
Dr. Herbert Simmons, Jr. is an associate Professor, Department of Criminal Justice, Grambling State University, former President, Grambling State University Faculty Senate and former Chair, Department of Consumer Education and Resource Management, Howard University, Washington, D.C.