By Siya Aggarwal
The brutal murder of Gorge Floyd sparked outrage, so much so that it inspired an entire movement. The Black Lives Matter movement, born in the USA seems to have taken the world by a storm. It signifies a united African American community, one that is weary of suffering beneath the cruel and inhuman hands of the white man. Not only are they fighting for change in America, but they are sending ripples all around the world making “BLM” a world-wide rally call. Be it London, Seoul, Sydney, or Rio de Janeiro, people are demanding justice.
When I first heard about the movement, like many others a sense of deja vu engulfed me, but I couldn’t quite place my finger upon it until it hit me, it was almost as if I was the audience for a live-action replay of events from hundreds of years ago.
From slavery to the Jim Crow laws, the African population of the United States has been subject to a vicious circle of hardship after hardship. Even after the noble efforts and sacrifices of people such as Abraham Lincon, Rosa Parks, and, notably, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr, the standard of living of black people is nowhere close to where it ideally should be.
The unjust discrimination, transparent biases, and white superiority are as prominent today as it was when Reverend Martin Luther King Jr had delivered his memorable “I have a dream,” speech.
While we like to think of ourselves as evolved, liberal creatures, we can not ignore the glaring implicit biases many possess. These biases are so deeply engraved into our psyche it makes us no better than the barbaric slave owners who saw black lives as nothing more than a commodity to be bought and sold. Nevertheless, one should generalize, after all, it is true that not everybody is an owner of these prejudices and to say that all whites believe that black lives are inferior would be stereotyping. In fact, during both movements, BLM and the Civil rights movements, specifically when The “I have a dream” speech was delivered, there were a considerable number of white participants and activities. This proves that we as humans are capable of becoming those aforementioned liberal beings, but also suggests that hundreds of years weren’t enough to evolve.
In the centuries between Abraham Lincoln’s efforts, the civil war and movement, and BLM, our appalling functioning as a society may not have progressed but there was one significant advancement. This was the establishment of human rights in 1948. One would think that, with this global declaration that the UN, an Intergovernmental organization along with all 192 member nations who are signatory, would be enough to put an end to the merciless racial segregation. After all, it does have clauses such as; Right to Equality, Freedom from Discrimination, Right to Life and liberty, Right to Equality before the Law, and numerous other rights that were intended to be the bare minimum supplements that came with being a human, regardless of one’s race. Be that as it may, almost every single one of these rights have been violated which provoked the civil rights movement decades ago and the “I have a dream” address and today, with the black lives matter movement.
Some argue that we have progressed and ‘at least it is better than what it was before’. After all, the Jim Crow laws were abolished. But were they really? The foundation of the Jim crow laws was “separate but equal” is that not what we live by even today? In fact, isn’t it worse today? The ‘equal’ component of that statement has also been proven void. Everywhere you look there is one group more privileged than another, the gap of wealth, status, and even treatment grow bigger by the day. Putting it into context, the white supremacy is prominent in every nook and corner and comes in the form of police brutality that targets black people, extended sentences for African American criminals, refusal of job and other opportunities, racial profiling, general hostility, and in other wrongful forms which, in turn, degrades and devalues all black lives. A black man and a white man may attend the same school, but when they turn away from a cop one would be shot in the back 7 times whereas the other would be allowed to walk on by. They may live in the same neighbourhood but they most definitely do not live the same lives.
Two movements, in the same place, standing up for the same message, fighting for the same rights just decades apart. As humans, we are thought of as intelligent creatures who learn from past mistakes and grow to never repeat them again. This claim can be heavily refuted by the sequence of events that have led up to the BLM. This is a war we have fought and won, we shouldn’t be so dysfunctional as a society that we are unable to prevent the reopening of old wounds. Being discriminated against, segregated, and judged on an inherent trait, skin color, which is something one can not and, should not change is not only horrifying but makes us reflect on the kind of immoral society we live in. Both the civil rights movement and the black lives matter movement are fighting for rights that should be a given, we shouldn’t have to take to the streets to reaffirm a message as rudimentary ‘life matters’. However disappointing the fact that a movement like this is required, and even though it diminishes the faith I have in humanity, we will not stop chanting until people understand. Black lives matter, they did when reverend MLK Jr said: “I have a dream” and they do today.
N.a. “Martin Luther King I Have a Dream Speech – American Rhetoric.” Americanrhetoric.com. 20 Aug. 2020. Web. 14 Oct. 2020. <https://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm>
History.com Editors. “Jim Crow Laws.” HISTORY. 28 Feb. 2018. Web. 14 Oct. 2020. <https://www.history.com/topics/early-20th-century-us/jim-crow-laws>
BBC News. “Jacob Blake and Kyle Rittenhouse: Should police have used different tactics?.” BBC News. 28 Aug. 2020. Web. 14 Oct. 2020. <https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-53954181>
Journalists. “Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” Un.org. 6 Oct. 2015. Web. 14 Oct. 2020. <https://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/>