By: Kyle Williams
Civils rights leader and activist Martin Luther King Jr once said “A social movement that only moves people is merely a revolt. A movement that changes both people and institutions is a revolution.” In referencing the impact of a movement and the changes it can bring in making a more equal and equitable society, the quote resonates more than ever in the 21st century society as a whole, with many Canadians and people around the world confronting and attempting to challenge the conformations and barriers presented to multiple minorities due to years of complacency and institutional suppression.
One social movement synonymous with change and the push for equality and justice is the #BlackLivesMatter Movement.
Since 2013, the Black Lives Matter movement has seen mainstream influence around the world with its fight to confront systemic inequalities, to the urgent need to end police brutality faced among Black people today. BLM began after the death of African American Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, white, in 2012 after reporting to the police of a suspicious person. Ignoring instructions by the police not to follow Trayvon, Zimmerman shot Martin, killing him, and later claiming self defense. Despite admitting to such crimes, it took weeks for him to be arrested, forced by national media attention and a petition signed by over 1 million people, but was still found not guilty by a jury of 6 women, 5 of them being white. After hearing Zimmerman’s acquittal, activist Alicia Garza wrote on Facebook “Black people. I love you. I love us. Our Lives Matter, Black Lives Matter” in which her friend Patrisse Cullors shared the final words as a hashtag on Twitter and writer Opal Tometi built social platforms allowing new conversations to be created among activists who share the same ideas: Equality and Justice.
The movement gained even more popularity in 2014 with the death of Eric Garner, his last words being “I can’t breathe”. Under suspicion of illegally selling cigarettes, Garner died being placed in a chokehold by officer Daniel Pantaleo who was fired 5 years later with the State Grand Jury refusing to press criminal charges. Two months later, another victim, Micheal Brown, would be shot down after being suspected of being involved in a robbery. After, #Black Lives Matter was used over 50,000 times a day and gained momentum as multitudes of black people continued to die at the hands of white people and police brutality, some not even garnering media attention.
But with the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, more and more countries are acknowledging failures and prejudices within the system as the rallying cry for change and justice continues.
From what seems to be a never ending wave of racial profiling in an ever evolving society, we are unable to tackle the problems of racism and its deep psychological cause of it. As such, it’s only fit to say that we are only at the tip of the iceberg to actually dismantling racism, for the real question is what our governments and even school administrations are doing of systematic importance without the trained speeches and unwinding promises to truly tackle racism.
But despite this, it is required of everyone’s own willingness to approach the issues differently and to recognize long-held biases within the field wholeheartedly.
You cannot stop a police officer from assuming a black person is a threat despite obvious signs they are not, it is up to them to remove that conformational bias within themselves whether they want to or not, not the institution. This is because racism is a behavior, not just a word.