The acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of Travon Martin sparked a wave of outrage within the Black Community. This outrage gave birth to the popular and now trendy hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. This hashtag turned into the well-known Black Lives Matter movement.
The Black Lives Matter movement has brought a considerable amount of media attention to the fact that many police officers do not value the lives of Blacks and other minorities, and that the same can be said for the U.S. justice system in general. The lack of value placed upon the lives of minorities has fueled a culture in which law enforcement can violate the Civil Rights of minorities and even murder them with little to no consequences.
Prior to this movement and the rise of social media, many outside of the Black Community refused to believe claims of police brutality and racial discrimination within the justice system. They would dismiss those who leveled such claims as simply playing the “race card”.
With such visible and high-profile incidents, however, many of those who once doubted now believe. Regardless of their newfound belief, none of this is new for the Black Community. In fact, it is something that has been endured for decades. It predates the Black Lives Matter movement. It came long before dash cams and cell phones began capturing law enforcement officers exhibiting tyrannical and violent behaviors when dealing with Blacks.
While many Blacks have been very vocal about these issues, little has been done or said within the community regarding Black on Black homicides. This is due in part to systematic racism that has existed for centuries. It is also influenced by subconscious feelings of self-hate that this racism has generated in some Blacks. These two issues are the proverbial elephants in the living room. They are often heavily ignored by Blacks and Whites alike. The Black Community has rarely addressed the issue of Black on Black homicides, and has certainly never given them the same amount of energy that has been poured into the Black Lives Matter movement.
This has spawned something very ironic. The Black Lives Matter movement hasn’t just exposed the incompetence of some of the law enforcement officers who operate within a justice system that is rife with racial inequality. It has also exposed a high level of hypocrisy within the Black Community.
There should have be just as much unrest, protest, and opposition towards the devaluing and destruction of Black lives within the Black Community as there is when Whites take and devalue Black lives. Blacks today should be just as upset about the rate of Black on Black violence as they are about the violence that comes to Blacks from other races.
On the rare occasion that this is mentioned, responses typically involve attempts to skirt around the issue and plenty of excuses. Phrases along the lines “We aren’t talking about that at the moment” and “That’s not the issue right now” are not uncommon.
Yet these responses beg the following questions: when was or is it ever the issue, and will there ever come a time when it is the issue? If one was to use social media to bring attention to the lack of regard for the loss of Black lives due to Black on Black homicide, it might be a good idea to follow up the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag with #ButOnlyWhenItsTakenByWhiteMenOrGovermentOfficials.
I am by no means insinuating that there isn’t just cause for the Black Lives Matter movement. Travon Martin was shot dead following a physical altercation and Michael Brown, who strong-armed an elderly store owner for some cigars, was later gunned down. Walter Scott was shot in the back like wild game. In a deeply disturbing incident that was caught on video, Laquan McDonald was shot sixteen times, with the last fourteen shots fired after he was already down. Worse yet, these are just four of several instances of this nature. It is true that each of these cases involved different circumstances, and not every man mentioned was innocent of some type of crime. Nevertheless, none of them should be dead right now. Their deaths should and could have been prevented. Their deaths warrant outrage and protest.
However, Black lives are taken within the Black Community on a daily basis, oftentimes for far more trivial reasons than a run-in with the police or an overzealous member of the Neighborhood Watch. Some of these lives are taken over a pair of shoes, gang violence, or mistaken identity. Yet references to these deaths are not given the #BlackLivesMatter hasthag. Instead, it is replaced simply with #RIP. Not only is there little to no major opposition to the majority of these senseless murders, but the high murder rates within many Black communities have become accepted and even expected in Black neighborhoods across the United States.
In many instances, the Whites who deny the existence of racism are often the ones who hold the most racist views. Similarly, it is often Blacks who are the most vocal within the Black Lives Matter movement that will deny the hypocrisy of paying little to no attention to Black on Black crime.
Nevertheless, it is obvious that there should be more opposition to the high rate of Black on Black homicide. Granted, there are a few influential people who will mention the issue here and there. There are also a few who will touch on the subject of internalized racism on occasion. Overall, however, there’s rarely more than a murmur following news coverage of a murder within the Black Community.
To me, each and every life is precious, regardless of race, religion, economic status, or any such factor. In 2012, there were approximately 500 homicides in Chicago, an alarming number of which involved Blacks murdered by other Blacks. In 2014, an estimated 353 Blacks were murdered. In 2015 alone, the amount of Chicago shootings surpassed 1,000.
If all lives are of value, the hundreds of Blacks murdered and the high rate of gun violence within their communities should have sparked at least the same amount of outrage as the dozen murders that the Black Lives Matter movement has passionately protested over the past few years.
If the Black Lives Movement wants to gain more credibility as champions of the concept that #BlackLivesMatter, then they should expand their focus on ways to prevent the plethora of deaths that occur within the Black Community. After having been systematically oppressed for hundreds of years, it does not make much sense to wait on descendants of slave owners to help alleviate the problems faced by the descendants of slaves.
This is not to say that Whites cannot and do not help or lend support in alleviating issues, but it is not a common occurrence. Furthermore, those within the Black Community still have an obligation to bring awareness of and consider solutions to the issues they are experiencing. It seems that fulfilling this obligation will be difficult for many Blacks, considering the first step to solving a problem is fully acknowledging it.
The Black Community is often quick to articulate frustration at and intolerance of the legalized, government-sanctioned oppression it has suffered. Yet the socioeconomic problems this has caused within the community itself are frequently ignored. These issues are real, however, as it is virtually impossible for a group to endure centuries of abuse and remain unscathed. Blacks must accept the fact that legalized racism has resulted in social ills that must be addressed within the Black Community.
In Iraq, the United States developed an exit strategy that was to be implemented once the people were “liberated.” This exit strategy was intended to prevent the country from ending up worse off than it was before they came. In fact, people in Iraq are receiving war reparations to offset the bombings and other war related damage that the country endured. Our country has spent billions building schools and infrastructure in the hope of ensuring that the country was stable before we withdrew. Many Americans thought this was a good idea and found it to be ethically sound.
When Blacks were freed from slavery, there was no real-exit plan established that allowed them to make the transition from human cattle to productive members of society. Likewise, when Blacks were granted basic Civil Rights in 1964, nothing was established to ensure that the Black Community was stable enough to survive and maintain self-sufficiency without imploding. In the 1960s, many White families had been benefiting from government programs such as the Fair Housing Act, the GI Bill, and Social Security for years. Yet they resented any program that would help the Black Community, and these programs were virtually inaccessible to Blacks until long after their initial creation.
Despite the fact that most laws passed in the Civil Rights Act didn’t become legally enforceable until various points between the late 70s and late 80s, “you don’t have an excuse anymore” became America’s mantra when it came to Blacks.
Unfortunately, this coincided with the assassinations of key leaders in the Black Community, such as Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. As is often the case when spearheads of movements are lost, a vacuum was created within the Black Community in regards to leadership.
Since that time, few leaders with national spotlights have spoken out against injustices faced by Blacks, let alone rebuked the Black Community for its detrimental behaviors. And even they have not fully addressed the issues of Black on Black violence.
With the loss of important leaders of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s ultimately left room for Black leaders who sold their people back into a new, psychological form of slavery. This mental bondage is led by Black pastors who place their personal and financial gains above the needs of their congregations and communities.
In the wake of solid leadership, many in the Black Community have been conditioned to accept negative things as part of their “culture.” Many BET programs and shows like Empire and Power encourage this. It is made even worse by reality TV shows that exemplify Blacks who abandon their dignity and self-respect in exchange for a paycheck. These programs typify the worst stereotypes about Blacks. They extol women whose sole claims to fame are marrying and/or having children with rappers or athletes. They glorify men whose biggest accomplishments are playing sports or creating rap songs that glorify violence, glamorize gangs, and promote the degradation of women.
If the Black Lives Matter movement values the lives of Blacks and wants to empower the Black Community, they need to make a few changes. They should redirect some of their protests towards those in the hip-hop world who espouse messages of violence, criminality, and thuggish behavior that are viewed as gospel by hundreds of thousands of parentless Black youths. However catchy their songs may be or however enticing their beats are, many of these rap stars are earning major, White-owned record labels millions upon millions of dollars by encouraging young Blacks to devalue the lives of one another.
And if Black lives really matter, many members of the movement would all protest the networks that air Empire, Basketball Wives, Love and Hip-Hop, and other shows that perpetuate a prevalent myth among Black youth that marrying, procreating with, or becoming a rapper, singer, or athlete are the only ways to make it.
The Black Lives Matter movement has brought a lot of attention to a legitimate issue. For optimal success, however, it must also tackle issues within the Black Community, including entertainment that is geared towards Black audiences and Black on Black homicide. Only time will tell if the Black Lives Matter movement will evolve into something that fully confronts these issues.