Dear America, Black Lives Matter.
As an African-American woman, when I first heard of the murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, I was more than “hurt.” I was broken. I was devastated. I was upset that once again, someone who could have been my brother or father was taken away from our community. Alton Sterling was killed by the hands of Baton Rouge police officers on July 5, 2016. and Philando Castile was killed by an officer representing the St. Anthony police department on July 6, 2016. The killings of Sterling and Castile are not reflective of some new trend that has suddenly occurred in the past couple months, nor do they reflect two separate isolated events that are not related to each other. Instead, there names are added to a long list of African-American men and women who have been murdered by the excessive force of law enforcement.
While there has been a countless amount of lives taken within this same context, the dates of the murders have forced many African- Americans (like myself,) to question their freedom. On July 4th of every year, millions of Americans gather around to celebrate the nation’s Independence Day holiday. A holiday meant to represent liberty, freedom, and justice for all. A holiday meant to embody unity and celebrate a nation built on the foundation of all men* being equal. However, with the recent killings of Sterling and Castile, it is not hard to argue that not all men are free and given justice. What should have been just a conversation for Alton Sterling, and a routine traffic stop for Philando Castile, ended up with both men being denied a future and taken away from their families. This not only adds to the systematic separation of black men from the African-American household (a separation that has been practiced since slavery,) it reflects a very real prejudice that is not experienced by white men in the United States.
According to an interactive database launched by the Guardian U.S., 147 African-Americans have been killed by the police compared to 294 Whites as of July 19, 2016. On the surface, there appears to be a discrepancy in the murders of African-Americans and Whites that would promote the narrative of police not racially targeting African-Americans. However, data scientist and policing experts are quick to note that one must account for population sizes when analyzing these statistics. Based on the most recent U.S. census there are 160 million more white people in the U.S. than there are African-Americans. A recent Washington Post article pointed to the fact that “White people make up roughly 62 percent of the U.S. population but only about 49 percent of those who are killed by police officers. African Americans, however, account for 24 percent of those fatally shot and killed by the police despite being just 13 percent of the U.S. population.” This means that African-Americans are 2.5 more times as likely to be killed by the hands of law enforcement compared to Whites. The article also supports the statistical fact that unarmed Black men are 5 times more likely to be killed by police than white Americans.
This is the reason why movements like Black Lives Matter exist. Not to increase the gap between races, but instead to shine a light on the mistreatment of minorities in hopes of fostering equality. While others view the movement as targeting other races–specifically the White race–the movement does not exist to denounce other races. Yes, it is important to note that “All Lives Matter,” but it is also important to recognize the systematic biases in place that prevent the progression of Blacks in America. Black Lives Matters forces this country to reexamine the fundamental principles in which it was built on, to provide a better future for America. While opponents may try to deny what has been a long standing war between law enforcement and minorities, in order to not “stir the pot,” it is important to note that a problem can not be fixed, until it is addressed. Dear America, it is time for a change. You have ignored the cries of my ancestors who were transported to this country by force, labeled my activist as domestic terrorists, and have killed my brothers time after time, without justification. Please listen to my voice. Please listen to the activist apart of the Black Lives Movement. The time for change is now. In the words of Langston Hughes, “ I, too, am America.”
In Remembrance of Oscar Grant, Amadou Diallo, Ezell Ford, Akai Gurley, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the countless amount of others who have lost their life to violence by way of law enforcement.