Black Lives Matter (BLM) as a movement that aims to counter the criminal justice system's failure

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Junior (College 3rd year) ・Sociology ・APA ・6 Sources

Black Lives Matter (BLM) is a movement that aims to counter the criminal justice system's failure to protect African Americans' rights (Mauer, 2011). Due to the criminal justice system's inability to prosecute police officers who murder unarmed African Americans, the campaign has staged several street demonstrations (Chernega, 2016). Various empirical studies have shown that police brutality, racial discrimination, and other manifestations of racism toward people of color are the primary causes of the movement's rapid growth (Chernega, 2016). Furthermore, these surveys showed that there had been a variety of reactions to the movement's presence, which has resulted in the formation of other movements to counter BLM. These movements are such as All Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter. As a result, Black lives matter has raised a contentious debate on its validity. For that reason, this essay will answer the following question. Is the Black Lives Matter movement doing more harm than good?

Background of Black Lives Matter

The build-up to the Black Lives Matter started back in 2012 after the George Zimmerman, a police officer versus Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old boy. George Zimmerman gunned down Trayvon in Stanford as he was heading home from a gas station to buy snacks. Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter at the 18th Circuit Court of Florida (Chernega, 2016). In 2013, after a series of legal deliberations, Zimmerman was acquitted of both allegations. The move to acquit Zimmerman raised a contentious debate in many parts of the United States, and it led to the Black Lives Matter campaign on social media platforms (Chernega, 2016). As a result, Black Lives Matter campaign evolved into a movement, and it started to gain international recognition.

In 2014, Black Lives Matter protests were witnessed in Ferguson after two African American citizens were gunned down by the police (Mauer, 2011). Since then, the movement has organized various public protests to protest against police brutality and other forms of social injustices against African Americans (Jee-Lyn & Sharrif, 2015). The campaign has turned into an international network that is actively involved in fighting for black lives. Moreover, BLM runs a website and other platforms that recruit interested parties. Also, the website provides news and information about black lives and upcoming protests.

Justification of Black Lives Matter

According to various reports, more than half of victims of police brutality are people of color mainly African American and Latinos (Mauer, 2011). Law enforcement officers who are involved in the injustices are rarely indicted, and the response from the government has been lacking (Aymer, 2016). Therefore, the conflict between African American and the criminal justice system has created a vacuum that needs to be filled by a movement that demands freedom and rights of the black people. BLM according to Chernega (2016) is essential in addressing racial injustices and inequalities. Chernega (2016) noted that although America has consistently stated that it is color blind, racial discrimination has been neglected especially in the circles of law enforcement. Therefore, according to Chernega (2016), Black Lives Matter acts as a wake-up call to law enforcement officer to rationalize the mechanism of dealing with the people of color.

In addition to that, Chernega, (2016) stated that lack of inclusivity in the criminal justice system creates a ground to form a national movement to call for freedom of African Americans. Additionally, Aymer (2016) acknowledged that there is a legitimate problem of black men and women being gunned down for no apparent and perpetrators walking away without consequences or any form of punishment (Mauer, 2011). Law enforcement officers are required to protect Citizens, and once they do not, they create room for parties to demand them to play roles. In addition to that, Aymer (2016) stated that the United States must acknowledge that racism has been a major issue in the United States. Therefore, according to Aymer (2016), BLM is doing a good thing by demanding for inclusivity and equal treatment of all races by the state. Further, Chernega (2016) revealed that more than 80% African American say that black people in the United States face a lot of discrimination and only less than 50% White Americans said the same thing.

Chernega (2016) insisted that although the government and other interested parties have initiated various programs to mitigate the menace, racism against African Americans remains a prevalent issue in the American society. As a result, Chernega (2016) said that Black Lives Matter is essential because it highlights the above issues and creates awareness about racism in the United States. Jee-Lyn & Sharrif (2015) added that Black Lives Matter movement had played a significant in pushing for Black people to be treated with dignity and respect. Jee-Lyn & Sharrif (2015) highlighted that Black Lives matter is uniquely positioned in the current political context to build substantial freedom and power for African American. Jee-Lyn & Sharrif (2015) logic is that Black Live Matter has raised a platform that allows African American citizens to air their concerns and it is vital in enhancing black faith and identity.

Black Lives Matter leadership has continuously stated that Black Lives Matter movement is not only about protesting in the streets but also have other activities such as mentorship programs (Paterbaugh, 2016). For instance, BLM has nine months mentorship programs for African American young adults aged between 11-17 years (Paterbaugh, 2016). The mentorship programs are aimed at empowering African Youth by equipping them with skills that will help them to fit in the professional life. Furthermore, according to Black Live Matter website, the movement has to earn trust from the future generations, and it can only be achieved by preparing the current generation to face the obstacles posed by the future (Paterbaugh, 2016). Therefore, the mentorship programs are aimed at protecting and enhancing the social, political and economic power of young African Americans.

Moreover, the movement wants to improve lives of black single parents who have to support their families by working in more than two jobs. In this case, Patrisse Cullors one of the co-founders of the movement and Dr. Robert K. Ross a pediatrician have formed a partnership that is aimed at improving health and cognitive wellbeing of African Americans (Paterbaugh, 2016). According to Cullors and Dr. Ross, the movement does not only concerned with police brutality but also has a responsibility to fight other battles in the society.

According to Prager (2017), the media has been focusing on street protest and other forms of public activities. However, Prager (2017) insisted that BLM is beyond street protests because it is actively involved in other campaigns such as change of legislation. In this case, Prager (2017) revealed that BLM had presented legislation recommendations that are intended to reform the criminal justice system. Moreover, the movement was actively involved in the 2016 general issues with many of its leaders expressing their concerns during the presidential campaigns. Black Lives Matter used the presidential election to spur a national conversation about racial discrimination and other forms of injustices. In fact, the movement made the problem of black lives one of the major issues of the 2016 presidential election. In addition to that, BLM has a civilian oversight board that listens to citizens’ concerns and complaints. The civilian oversight board is aimed at increasing civilian oversight of the police.

Furthermore, the movement does only fight for rights of the black community alone but also for other marginalized segments of the population (Paterbaugh, 2016). For instance, the movement rallies for support for other people of color and the LGBTQ community. The movement’s leadership has continuously stated that it represents every marginalized person in the United States from LGBTQ people who are traumatized by discrimination to Latino Americans who cannot access decent healthcare. Chernega (2016) noted that Black Lives Matter movement is using its platform to advocate for a broader political agenda. Chernega (2016) added that the leadership of the movement understands that to change the racial narrative it is essential to change the society as a whole.

According to Prager (2017), Black Lives Matter movement is picking where civil movements in the 20th century left off. In fact, Prager (2017) stated that BLM is reinventing the whole process of activism by including all black people that were left by civil movement in the 20th century. Additionally, Van & Mayes (2015) stated that BLM is a unique way of addressing the concept of colorblind racism. Colorblindness is a common form of response to racism that many people use to overwrite racism. Those who subscribe to the colorblindness school of thought say that they do not see color; they see people. However, the colorblind response has been criticized because it assumes that everyone has equal experiences in the United States (Van & Mayes, 2015). For example, Van & Mayes (2015) compared colorblindness as seeing people through a white lens that alienated the reality that people of color face. Van & Mayes (2015) insisted that when people fail to see color, they fail to see and recognize oppression against people of color. In this case, the most significant goal of Black Lives Matter is to make people to become color conscious and to see how their actions affect people of other races. Therefore, according to Van & Mayes (2015), BLM is doing goof in America because it offers an empirical framework to change the narrative of colorblind racism. In other words, the movement offers a platform to craft a long-term solution that will end racial oppression.

The other justification of why BLM is doing good more than harm is that it has gone beyond the United States borders. The movement has sparked other black activists all over the world to form campaigns that have been used to fight various social injustices (Paterbaugh, 2016). For instance, Black Lives Matter protests have been witnessed in Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom. For example, in Australia black activists have consistently organized campaigns and protests against discrimination (Paterbaugh, 2016). Like the United States chapter, the Australian movement has focused on peaceful demonstrations that have made it receive various accolades such as the Sydney peace prize. According to Chernega (2016), the Black Lives Matter cannot be ignored because it has invoked an international debate of how different laws, policies and criminal justice systems affect different races.

According to Chernega (2016), Black Lives Matter movement calls for a response to the problem of racism that has crippled the nation since the days of colonialism. Chernega (2016) stated that if criminal and social injustices are not solved they will continue causing trauma and pain and the nation will never heal. Chernega (2016) insisted that Black Lives Matter comes a time that requires individuals to demand criminal justice and other social reforms because if the situation is unresolved racial division in the country will exist forever.

Impact of Black Lives Matter Movement

Since its inception after the Zimmerman versus Trayvon case, the movement has made remarkable steps in reforming criminal justice systems. Although the movement’s existence has raised a contentious debate, it has generated concrete policy changes around the country. Empirical reports have indicated that BLM has won in many areas, especially in criminal justice systems. The reports have revealed that the movement has brought about the concept of grand juries on cases that involve police brutality (Prager, 2017). In addition to that, the Nation Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement report has indicated that there are more than 100 civilian oversight boards all over the country. The association has consistently stated that the civilian boards have been instrumental in initiating reforms in various police departments. For instance, Cleveland Police department of internal affairs is headed by a civilian as part of changes in the law enforcement (Prager, 2017).

According to Prager (2017) in the last two years, the number of police officers being indicted because of crimes related to using of excessive has increased. According to data collected by various agencies, the number of police officers being charged with their crimes has increased by five times in the last two years (Prager, 2017). Further, reports by criminal experts have indicated that since the inception of the movement the state has enhanced the use of body cameras by law enforcement officers. The move by the government has been critical in ensuring accountability by the police. In fact, according to the reports since federal funds were set aside to expand body cameras program more than 100 police departments have adopted the policy of body cameras (Paterbaugh, 2016). Further, the movement has managed to challenge massive militarization of the police. The change was highlighted by Obama’s administration banning police department from purchasing some military equipment. The substantial enacted as a result of the movement according to Prager (2017) are an example of concrete changes that are about to be witnessed in social, political and economic systems.

Arguments against Black Lives Matter

The existence of Black Lives Matter has a raised a contentious debate in the United States and the rest of the world. In the last few years, there has been a consistent rise of negative ideas about the existence of the movement. The discussion of the validity of the organization was evident in the 2016 general election, especially during the presidential campaigns. Primarily, Prager (2017) stated that the movement had been widely condemned by a rising number of Americans because of its philosophies. In this case, some people have termed BLM as controversial and dominated by anti-police ideas. Therefore, those people who are against the movement have said that it is doing more harm than good. One of the reasons behind these arguments is that the protests have been violent and have resulted in the destruction of both public and private property (Paterbaugh, 2016).

According to Paterbaugh (2016), Black Lives Matter tactics are not right, and they are betraying their cause. In fact, (Paterbaugh, 2016) insisted that the movement is using detrimental methods to air their grievances and they are causing more harm than good. In addition to that, to counter the profound rise of Black Lives Matter some individuals have argued that the movement is escalating racial divisions through their anti-white philosophies. A section of mainstream citizen has publicly stated that BLM is against white people and has evil intentions against the criminal justice system. Furthermore, there are speculations that people who are associated with movement say hateful things about white people. In fact, some section of the American population has requested relevant authorities to add the group to the list of hate groups (Van & Mayes, 2015).

The other argument against Black Lives Matter movement is that it wants to put lives of black citizens above others. As a result, parallel movements such as Blue Lives Matter and All Lives Matter were formed to counter the operations of BLM. For instance, supporters of All Live Matter say that efforts of Black Lives Matter are overwriting the existence and importance of other races (Van & Mayes, 2015). In this case, followers of All Lives Matter have accused their counterparts of singling out black lives over other races and lives. Blue Lives Matter, on the other hand, was formed to air grievances of law enforcement officers. The Blue Lives Matter subscribers say that lives of police officers are unjustly targeted by the devotees of Black Lives Matter. Blue Lives Matter movement has accused BLM of targeting the police, and they have consistently stated that the BLM organization makes the criminal justice look bad (Van & Mayes, 2015).

However, the arguments against Black Live Matter are efforts to silence legitimate concerns of African American Citizens. BLM has presented valid reasons to demand reforms in criminal justice system. The movement ideologies are backed by empirical data that show racial discrimination in political, social and economic systems (Van & Mayes, 2015). Primarily, BLM has been accused of violent methods of airing grievances accusations that were slammed by former president Obama who said that efforts of peaceful individuals cannot be judged from actions of a few individual who want to paint a lousy image of the movement. In addition to that, the All lives Matter response is a depiction of colorblind racism that has existed for many years. The existence of opposing movements shows the failure to accept that the state does not treat all races equally. Criticism of the campaign is an effort to depict African American as aggressors (Van & Mayes, 2015). In this case, from the above facts, it is clear that Black Lives Matter movement is doing more good than harm.

Conclusion

In light of the above facts, we can conclude that Black Lives Matter movement is doing more good than harm. The campaign was started as a result of police brutality against African American, and since then it has enacted various programs to demand reforms in the criminal justice system. The movement objective is to make law enforcement accountable for their action and to improve lives of African Americans. In this case, BLM has made substantial efforts to address the problem of racial discrimination through protests, mentorship programs and the introduction of policy changes. Also, the efforts of BLM have been peaceful to the point of being adopted by other countries such as Australia and Canada. Arguments against the movement are efforts to silence legitimate concerns of African American Citizens. Therefore, the existence of opposing movements shows the failure to accept that the state does not treat all races equally.

References

Aymer, S. R. (January 20, 2016). “I can’t breathe”: A case study—Helping Black men cope with race-related trauma stemming from police killing and brutality.Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment,26,367-376.

Chernega, J. (October 01, 2016). Black Lives Matter: Racialised Policing in the United States.Comparative American Studies an International Journal,14,234-245.

Jee-Lyn G. J., & Sharif, M. Z. (2015). Black Lives Matter: A Commentary on Racism and Public Health.American Journal of Public Health,105(8), e27–e30. http://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2015.302706.

Mauer, M. (August 19, 2011). Addressing Racial Disparities in Incarceration.The Prison Journal,91. (3suppl), 87S–101S.

Prager, J. (August 01, 2017). <i>Do</i> Black Lives Matter? A Psychoanalytic Exploration of Racism and American Resistance to Reparations.Political Psychology,38,4, 637-651.

Puterbaugh, D. T. (January 01, 2016). Parting Thoughts Black Lives Mater, Sometimes.Usa Today,144,2848, 82-82.

Van, C. N. G., & Mayes, L. (March 26, 2015). Criminal Justice Through “Colorblind” Lenses: A Call to Examine the Mutual Constitution of Race and Criminal Justice.Law & Social Inquiry,40,2, 406-432.

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