Black Lives Matter

Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Eric Garner. All of these men have 3 things in common. They were all African-Americans, they were all tragically killed at the hands of police officers and ultimately no justice was served with any one of these cases as no arrests were made.

In 2015, 1,134 black men were killed by US police. Black men aged 15 to 34 only make up 2% of the population but they took up 15% of all deaths by the use of the deadly hands of the US law enforcement. The rates of black men dying by police is five times higher than for white at the same age. The black lives being thrown away aren’t only men, but also young boys. Some as young as 12, for example Tamir Rice. A 12 year old boy who was fatally shot on November 22nd 2014 in Cleveland, Ohio for playing with a fake gun. The police officer, Timothy Loehmann, who killed the young boy said he thought he was armed with a real gun, however the ‘weapon’ was orange-tipped implying it was a nonlethal, toy gun but the officer shot Tamir Rice twice, once in his torso, resulting in him dying the following day. Tamir Rice was part of the 69% of unarmed, African-American victims subject to police brutality. Timothy Loehmann was not charged with the boy’s death and has recently been hired by a rural Ohio police force as the department’s chief believed, “he was cleared of any wrongdoing so it would be unfair to crucify him” adding, “it’s over and done with”. This sparked even more outrage amongst the black community as although an innocent, 12 year old boy was wrongfully murdered, nothing has been done about it demonstrating how little black lives do matter in the eyes of the justice system in America. Police officers are indicted in fewer than 1% of killings.

It’s not just black boys and men dying due to police brutality, but also women and young girls who are extremely vulnerable to police violence. Campaigns such as #SayHerName has been pushing for more awareness on the police brutality black females have been facing. In 2017, pregnant mother of soon-to-be 4, Charleena Lyles was shot and killed by police officers responding to her call of a burglary happening in her home because the two white police officers thought she was armed with a knife. Her 3 children were with her in their apartment when they watched their mother get murdered. In May 2010, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, a 7 year old girl, was sleeping peacefully on her sofa at her home in Detroit when white police officers barged into her house in search of a murder suspect and shot her dead. Her death was recorded as it was for a television show called the ‘The First 48’ which showed first 2 days of murder investigations from the Detroit Police Department. This may have affected how the police executed their search warrant.

The corrupt US justice system has once again failed another person of colour as Officer Weekley, the man who killed the sleeping 7 year old girl, still walks free. Weekley returned back to his job in 2015 yet Aaliyah’s parents will never be free of the grief and suffering after losing their only child. “This was essentially a military assault on a private dwelling,” said Ron Scott, a spokesman for the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality. Police brutality and sexual abuse go hand in hand for African American women and young girls. A prolific case of sexual abuse involved former Officer Daniel Holtzclaw who was found guilty of rape, and indecent exposure, and stalking. Holtzclaw did this to 13 black women, whom prosecutors thought he deliberately chose as he felt black women with criminal records from poverty-stricken neighbourhoods wouldn’t be believed. Holtzclaw was only charged with 18 out of his 36 charges, convicted by an all-white jury, on December 10th 2015. However, fortunately, he was sentenced to 263 years in state prison. This is a big difference to the majority of cases involving members of black community being brutalised and assaulted by white police officers as these officers are very rarely held accountable for their crimes. For every 1,000 people killed by police, only one officer is convicted of a crime, a shocking and depressing statistic.

Black Lives Matter is an international activist movement arising from the African-American Community which started four years ago. BLM challenges the repeated violence, prejudice and institutionalised racism towards black people. It fights against police brutality, racial profiling and racial inequality within the American Justice System. The movement’s members are “unapologetically black in their positioning” and “are guided by the fact that all Black lives matter, regardless of actual or perceived sexual identity, gender identity, gender expression, economic status, ability, disability, religious beliefs or disbeliefs, immigration status, or location”.

The world needs to practice more empathy and provide the Black community with the peace, freedom and justice they deserve. They need space and time to not only grief, but also heal after so many innocent, beautiful lives have been lost.

– Saffron McLeod-Nwobu, year 13