By: Adanna Smith – Junior
Recently there have been many cases of black men being killed by police officers. John Crawford in Beavercreek, Ohio, and Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy in Cleveland, were both shot and killed for having toy guns. Eric Garner was killed in New York City by a police officer who used an illegal chokehold.
Garner told the officer, “I can’t breathe” 11 times.
Perhaps the most famous of these cases is the case of Michael Brown — an unarmed teenager shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson. In three of these cases, the officers were not indicted by a grand jury. People in Ferguson, Missouri, began protesting shortly after Mike Brown was killed, and they continued to bring attention to the situation until the grand jury decision. Once the decision was released that officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted, rage, hopelessness and heartache swept through people across the world.
Many will argue that violence is not the answer. However, history shows us that when white people have wanted something, violence was a viable option. America was built on the genocide of one race and the enslavement of another. Many people praise the events of the Boston Tea Party, because those people were fighting injustice.
The destruction of property was permissible in that instance. The protests taking place around the nation are a response to injustice and violence. But in these instances, black people are labeled savages, criminals and animals.
Some people think black people are fighting for a cause that does not exist. Many people believe that we live in a society where race is not a factor. Statistics show that race does in fact play a major role in your life as an American. Black men are 21 times more likely to be killed by police based off of federal data from 1980-2012. The data shows that black teens ages 15-19 are killed at a rate of 31.17 per million, while their white counterparts are killed at a rate of just 1.47 per million. Although white people commit the majority of crimes, black people make up the majority of prisons.
According to the FBI, 69.3 percent of crimes and 58.7 percent of violent crimes are committed by white people, but whites are incarcerated at a rate of 380 per 100,000 while blacks are incarcerated at a rate of 2,207 per 100,000.
The inequality in the U.S. extends beyond black people and the law. Studies show that minorities were more likely to get denied a mortgage loan than white people with a similar credit score. A study published in the American Journal of Sociology found that a white person with a felony was more likely to get called back for a job than a black person with similar qualifications and a clean record.
I use these statistics to show that the protests and demonstrations going on are not about the killing of a single black teenager. The rage that black people feel goes beyond them getting shot and killed by police. The inequality in America touches every aspect of black lives, making it significantly more difficult for blacks to thrive in this country.
Martin Luther King Jr. stated, “Freedom is never given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” Right now black people are fighting for rights that were never meant for them. We are fighting to be a part of a system that was created with the mindset that black people were three-fifths of a person. Rights are worth fighting for. Being able to walk down the street without being fearful or racially profiled is worth fighting for. Making sure a black child receives the same education as a white child is worth fighting for. Black lives matter. We deserve justice, and fairness, and that is a reason to fight!
Instead of condemning black people for the stance they are taking, why not ask the question, “Why are people of all races angry enough to protest?” Everyone has something they are willing to go to the street and fight for. Black people are saying enough is enough.
We value our lives and we are demanding that this system, and this country that serves and protects its white citizens so well, serves and protects us too.