by, Zoe DeFazio, Staff Writer
Black Lives Matter. This isn’t political. This is about human rights.
This past year has been a whirlwind, especially with the continuation of the civil rights movement following the gruesome death of George Floyd. Making matters even more interesting, the Derek Chauvin trial is over and Chauvin has been found guilty of his crime. As much as we should rejoice for the justice that has been served we must not forget why this trial was here in the first place.
On May 25, 2020 George Floyd, a Black man was murdered in daylight by a man whose job is to protect and serve. For eight minutes and forty six seconds George Floyd was motionless as he was held down by the knee of Chauvin, who was an officer in the Minneapolis Police Department.
The world was in awe of this action. However, I was un-phased.
As much as that sentence can seem disconcerting, I must say that racism and the murdering of Black men and women is something that I had to grow up with. Every year my mother and father had to sit my sister and I down to tell us that the world may not approve of the way we look and because of that our lives were constantly on the line.
I am a mixed-race woman. My mother is African-Brazilian while my father is Caucasian. I do have to take it upon myself to acknowledge the fact that due to colorism, I have certain privileges. However, I am Black. I always have been and I always will be. I didn’t choose my race, I didn’t get the option to pick out my complexion, the curl of my hair, and the prominence of certain facial features. I am a Black woman.
I will admit that I don’t quite face racism as much as other Black people, more specifically dark-skinned people. However, I understand oppression and have been a victim of racism throughout my life. I face oppression everyday, and no one can invalidate my feelings or race by saying that because I am mixed, I do not face certain issues. You cannot talk about oppression as if you face yourself when you do not. You can, however, take it upon yourself to do research and learn the history and stand with me as I fight for my right to live.
The premise of this piece is to break down Black Lives Matter, or BLM, and certain current events regarding it. The mass media constantly
pumps out information that can create a large misunderstanding of many things regarding BLM. According to social media, everyone is racist, but does anyone know what it means to be racist?
What is racism?
The topic of racism has been spreading around like wildfire, but what does it actually mean? Many have the misunderstanding that if a person doesn’t use racial slurs, such as the N-word, they are not racist. However, being racist isn’t just calling me a “half-breed” or using derogatory language against people who look like me.
The definition of racism is the discrimination, or antagonism directed against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalized.
When you project stereotypes onto Black people, believing that they are ghetto or uneducated or that they do or sell drugs indicates the fact that you are racist. When you believe that anyone of a middle eastern descent is part of a terrorist group such as Al-Qaeda or Isis you are in fact racist. If you have convinced yourself that anyone Asian, especially Chinese people, have the coronavirus, you are racist.
I stand for Black Lives Matter. Not just because I’m Black. I stand for it because of what it is.
What is Black Lives Matter?
Let’s get one thing straight – BLM is not a trend.
Black Lives Matter wasn’t created to be an aesthetic. This isn’t a trend or a moment. This is the continuation of the civil rights movement. 52 years have gone by since the passing of the Civil Rights Act and we have yet to see a significant change within our nation.
My struggle, along with the struggle of fellow Black people and mixed people is not to make anyones’ Instagram feed look “woke,” pretty or even aesthetic. George Floyd and the countless others’ names shall not be said or posted to make anyone perceive themselves as a patron saint or a social justice warrior. The people who have lost their lives are not accessories to a social media wardrobe.
The Black Lives Matter movement was not made to belittle any race. It wasn’t made to say that Black lives are the only lives that matter, but it was created to shed light upon certain problems black people face, such as gentrification, the use of slurs, blackface/blackfish and most importantly police brutality.
Black drivers are 23% more
likely to be pulled over than white drivers, between one and a half and five times more likely to be searched, while less likely than white people to turn up contraband and ticketed and arrested in those stops. This increase in stops and arrests also leads to a three and a half to four times higher probability that Black people will be killed by cops.
Because of the experience that a portion of Black people face regarding the police there has been a major uproar about how police are viewed and what actions should be taken to prevent issues such as these. This is where ACAB comes in.
What is ACAB?
The acronym ACAB/1312 means all cops are bad/bastards. This has been posted on multiple social media platforms and has been insinuating a wrongful definition. It is a broader term than others may suggest.
Although this acronym represents an entire system, it does not necessarily reflect upon each and every single individual police officer.
To bastardize something is to reduce anything or anyone from a higher to a lower state or condition, to debase it.
All cops are bastards because they serve a corrupt system. This has absolutely nothing to do with their own personal morals or quality of their character. Many officers enter the force to truly uphold justice and protect members of their community and other communities regardless of background, and they try their best to do so.
When the American policing system was built, it was intended to benefit solely white people. The police force originates from an organization called slave patrol, it was designed to capture, return and punish runaway slaves thanks to the fugitive slave act of 1850. From there on out, that organization was the cookie cutter that shaped the police force . These roots make it incredibly difficult for certain officers to serve and protect people of color. The system that employs them always takes the side of the oppressor.
So when many say “ACAB,” they aren’t saying that each and every cop has malicious intentions and that they, themselves are bad people. They are not saying that every officer projects an excessive amount of force upon communities of color. What they are saying is that the system in itself needs improvement. One way of improving this system is defunding the police and minimizing their weaponry.
We can’t defund the police – or can we?
Defund the police. These three words have taken the nation by storm in a significant way in such a short period of time. The country is torn down in the middle, debating whether or not this decision will have any positive effect on the United States and its citizens. However, many do not understand what exactly it means to defund the police.
To defund the police means to reallocate or redirect a certain amount of funding away from the police department and give that money to more meaningful actions, such as education and affordable housing. Each year, both state and local governments spend an upwards of $100 billion on law enforcement, and that doesn’t even include the billions of dollars more in federal grants and resources. To defund does not mean to abolish the police. Even when a person says “abolish the police,” it doesn’t mean to get rid of law enforcement altogether. Law enforcement is necessary, however, it needs a significant amount of improvement, which is where the defunding takes place.
Out of the ten million arrests made per year, only five percent are for the most serious offenses including murder, rape, and aggravated assault. These crimes are the ones that actually threaten public safety. The other ninety percent of arrests are more misdemeanors such as traffic violations, marijuana possession, and unlawful assembly and so on.
These are crimes that don’t necessarily threaten public safety. This means that police spend most of their resources and funding going after minor incidents that don’t really cause harm. Unfortunately, these behaviors lead to other problems, for example, mass incarceration.
Decreasing the police forces’ massive budget can end years of control from those of a corrupt and outdated system. The money used for police forces can then be used to help low-income families, and school districts across the nation and so much more. This is redistributing resources to those more deserving.
Did you watch the trial?
I felt a moral obligation to watch the trial, or at least the parts that wouldn’t make me cry hysterically. I sat on my bed shaking at the possibility that Chauvin could’ve been acquitted. This was history in the making. All those protests I went to, all those posts I made, every email, phone call and everything I and so many others did all lead up to the moment where the verdict was declared.
Tears streamed down my face until I heard what Judge Peter Cahill said.
“We, the Jury, in the above entitled matter as to count one, unintentional second degree murder while committing a felony, find the defendant guilty,” Cahill said. “We, the Jury, in the above entitled matter as to count two, third degree murder perpetrating an eminently dangerous act, find the defendant guilty.” and then “We, the jury, in the above entitled matter as to count three, second degree manslaughter, culpable negligence creating an unreasonable risk, find the defendant guilty.”
A Glimmer of Hope
As great as that news seems to be there still is a long way to go. New deaths of black men and women circulate the news every day. The same hashtag with a different name.
The fight isn’t over and wont be for a long time. That’s the sad part – knowing that it isn’t over for us. Who knows who will be next?
So what now?
It’s important to acknowledge the privilege you may have and use it to the appropriate advantage and be concise about your decisions and the words you use when advocating for Black Lives Matter. This is not a moment, it’s the movement.
This is a fight for my right to live, for my sisters’ right to live, my mother’s right, for my friends’ and family, and every other Black person regardless of gender, sexual orientation and socioeconomic background.