Black Lives Matter and the American Dream

Wil McLaughlin, Contributing Columnist

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To start off, this is my fifth year at Galileo. I started school here in 2011 as a little-bitty 8th grader. I’ve had the privilege of working with diverse, intelligent students, and gained some of the best friends anyone could ask for. Many of these friends, long since graduated, still talk to me on a daily basis. They help shape my opinions, give me joy and laughter, and mold me into a better human being.

Two of those homies, one African American and male “Marack”, the other white and female “Samantha,” will help me tell a story, while remaining unnamed. Among other things, they introduced me to new music, endured my complaints in the early morning in the cafeteria, and brightened up the day of everyone they encountered. People like that are few and far between.

On July 13, 2013, George Zimmerman was acquitted of killing unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin. That night, “Samantha,” messaged me on Facebook. She was furious and upset, horrified that some vigilante could shoot and kill an unarmed person in this day and age. Before signing off, she said “That could have been ‘Marack.’” For some reason, my eighth-grade brain failed to recognize that this shooting wasn’t some anomaly in some far away place. It could happen to people I know and love too. There are plenty of people who are crazy and shouldn’t have access to weapons.

Fast-forward to the present day. Trayvon is just another unarmed shooting victim in the long line of tragedies across the United States. Sandra Bland, Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, Akai Gurley, John Crawford III, Eric Garner, and so many more, black and otherwise, were the unarmed victims of shootings and brutality. The entire, staggeringly long list can be read on Gawker.com.

In response to these events, and frustrated by a disgusting lack of action by state and federal governments, people banded together to make a difference. This movement became Black Lives Matter. A quick Google search led me to the Wikipedia page, where it classifies their aims as stopping “racial profiling, police brutality, mass incarceration of African-Americans, and the militarization of many U.S. police departments” Furthermore, from what I understand, the platform also includes making sure insane people aren’t allowed to buy weapons (i.e. Dylann Roof in South Carolina and Vester Flanagan in Virginia.)Pretty cool, right?

Among other issues, prison populations are almost always a vast majority nonwhite, and I fail to see why police need armored tanks and don’t wear body cameras. Witnesses are frequently wrong in their accounts and, the way I see it, cameras are unable to lie and would serve justice best. All of the aims of the campaign are focused on legitimate issues. I fail to see why people object to them. Sure, police are a crucial part of any community, but unfortunately some seem to be overstepping their bounds in the worst way possible. I guess it’s just us white people offended that they don’t appear to be included in the Black Lives Matter slogan. Furthermore, many take offense that the insane and disturbed shouldn’t have access to guns. Go figure.

I saw an apt comparison the other day. Black Lives Matter is like Save the Rainforests. It’s not saying that other forests aren’t important or irrelevant; it’s saying that rainforests are being cut down at a horrifying rate. Same applies here. Don’t give me this nonsense of All Lives Matter. That’s not the point. The Black Lives Matter activism is about reforming a justice system for all people, representing a very at-risk part of the U.S. population. Police malpractice affects everyone, black, white, Hispanic, Asian; you name it.

A criticism of Black Lives Matter is the perceived violence and rough tactics of their campaigns. Their language can be, and often is, rough and brutal. They’ve interrupted multiple presidential rallies of both Democrats and Republicans, and been criticized from the standpoints of Left, Right, Libertarian, and everyone else. Again, this isn’t the point. After interrupting Democratic Presidential Nomination Runner Bernie Sanders, Sanders soon changed his platform to include much of the reforms that Black Lives Matter has been campaigning for (and what many agree is needed.) On the other hand, after interrupting Republican Jeb Bush’s rally, Bush’s supporters started shouting White Lives Matter, completely missing the point and ignoring a very important issue that America is going to have to deal with sooner or later. Also completely missing the point, Donald Trump said he’d fight any Black Lives Matter protesters that came to his events.

The movement wants change and will continue working until people recognize this and change is reached. Despite being the “Land of the Free,” the United States has a pretty poor record on basic human rights, allowing voting, etc. Police misconduct is not a new issue. Hopefully, one day this will just be another page in history books, an embarrassing issue of a cruder past. That’s why I support Black Lives Matter.

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Black Lives Matter and the American Dream