Staff Reporter: Matthew Stegman
When you say “Black Lives Matter” there seems to be a defensive switch that goes off almost immediately in people’s brains. There’s a group of people that often respond with “All Lives Matter.” But when we say “save the whales”, we’re not saying “forget about the other fish”, we’re focusing on the outstanding issue. If your neighbor’s house is on fire, but yours isn’t, you don’t say “doesn’t my house matter?”, you put out the fire! The metaphors could go on and on, but why do people get defensive? What does white privilege look like?
- inherent advantages possessed by a white person on the basis of their race in a society characterized by racial inequality and injustice.
White privilege is a term that some may react to in a hostile way. What this really is, is the lack of understanding. Ignorance breeds anger. White privilege is the fact that because of our racially biased system, a white man does not have to endure the same fears or difficulties that a person of color will face every day. It is why a young white boy can walk into a neighborhood lost and ask for directions without any problems. But Brennan Walker, who missed his school bus and just wanted to ask for help, was shot at. Most white Americans will not agree with you when told that they have advantages in this country by being white. They will get defensive. They will list multiple accounts of when life was unfair to them. What they are not considering though, is that it isn’t about what has happened or what has been unfair, it is about how they are perceived in this country. It is about a system that is unjust.
During this pandemic, certain regulations were introduced to help protect human lives: the Stay-At-Home order, and the shut down of bars, barbers, or any other services offered that would leave people in close contact. Some Americans took this rather personally. Being told what to do angered them. They felt that they were privileged enough to be outside when the CDC told them not to be. This is shown by them marching and protesting the right for them to receive a haircut or get their nails done. They demanded the right as American citizens to be outside of their home. The thing is, while protesting, most of them were carrying around their guns. Openly. Without hesitation, American citizens were flooding the streets with signs, with no masks, angry, and armed to the teeth. What I cannot fathom is how this was allowed by city police departments. That the police stood idly by and did nothing.
Now, on May 25th, 2020, George Floyd, a black man, was apprehended by officer Derek Chauvin over suspicion of a counterfeit $20 dollar bill. Chauvin had placed Floyd in handcuffs, on the ground, and proceeded to kneel his knee on his neck to restrain him for nine minutes resulting in his death. This is police brutality and systematic oppression. This is murder.
After news of this spread, it sparked outrage across the United States and gave way to the entire world engaging in simultaneous protest activity. It caused an uproar on social media and an overall increase in the Black Lives Matter movement. People of color are demanding their voices be heard.
These protests are to show that enough is enough. The people are tired of this system that holds officers to no accountability. These protests are to fight against the unjust murder of George Floyd and police brutality against countless other people of color. Unlike the protests about the lockdown though, the police have not been as neutral. Military tactics used to subdue and force submission were utilized on many of the publicly-broadcasted peaceful protests over Floyds’ murder. The way that police reacted and have treated those they are meant to serve and protect are examples of both police brutality, abuse of power, and a system formed around inequality and injustice. When white protesters were armed and asking for haircuts, it was; “Americans seeking the right to freedom of assembly, the right to freedom of association, and the right to freedom of speech.” But when the protests are over the brutal murders of black Americans, it is considered, by the President of the United States of America as; “Thugs, terrorists, bad people doing bad things who need to be stopped.”
When you see someone who does not understand the importance of Black Lives Matter, especially right now, it is usually someone older who is ignorant of what it means. This is a conditioning of the times that this person had grown up with. They are not responsible for what they were taught as children. However, they are accountable now for their own development and growth. They are 100% responsible for unlearning prejudiced mentalities. When it is someone who is younger, usually it is their family who has given them this prejudice or racial bias since they were children. Which again, the responsibility is on them to learn and unlearn. You are taught hate. You can unlearn this.
Ultimately, America is being brainwashed. Nearly every outlet has tried to paint the picture differently, from white nationalists infiltrating black lives matter protests and rioting, causing harm or enticing violence, to Trump tweeting “when the looting starts the shooting starts.” This has warped the perception of what the protests, the outrage, and the demand for justice were really about into nothing more than something for the public to fear.
The facts are that a man was murdered and no one was held accountable (until after the protests started) for this and it happens every day. These protests have paved the way for change. All four officers who were involved in the murder of George Floyd have been arrested and charged: Derek Chauvin, and those who stood idly by as a man was unjustly treated. Police are actually being held accountable for excessive force and being arrested for it. In Atlanta, Georgia, officers were seen dragging black students out of their cars and tasing them for no reason. They have been arrested and charged. In NYC, funding has been taken from departments and forwarded to helping communities of color. Two new bills are in progress for June to make sure that officers will be held accountable for their actions, even classifying chokeholds as a misdemeanor offense.
Change is happening. Understand that white privilege does exist and you can use it to aid those who do not have the advantages that you do. Stand up when you witness racial injustices. Record police interactions. Wake up and look around you at the flaws in those who are meant to protect us. Don’t let anyone warp the perspective or brainwash you, we are angry and protesting because of the murder of an innocent people, it is not random violence or rioting. George Floyds’ death will not be in vain or tolerated. Countless people of color have fallen to the system that has been built around us, and we will not forget them. We all need to stand now, dismantle and correct this incredibly flawed system. Black lives matter. No justice, no peace. No racist police.