By Kelsey Corley, Student Editor of The Kayseean
Over the summer, we saw massive public outcry to put an end to police brutality. These demonstrations across the country, and the globe, were, on the surface, in response to the murder of George Floyd, an African American man who was killed by white police officer Derek Chauvin in Minnesota. But really, these demonstrations were a response to the systematic mistreatment and abuse of Black Americans and people of color in general by individuals who are appointed to protect and serve but instead are doing the exact opposite.
The Black Lives Matter organization was founded in 2013 and has spread globally to combat violence towards Black communities. “The best way to describe it is a mirror,” says Isis Smith, President of the Black Student Union here at King University, “Black Lives Matter is just mirroring what normally happens and using that to educate, and start speaking up and speaking out.”
To the students of the BSU, the BLM movement signifies a much-needed change to the narrative of race relations. It highlights the issues and abuses that African Americans regularly face that are often swept under the rug. They believe that it stands up for a myriad of problems, not just against Police Brutality, but the overall social injustices faced by all minorities. “It’s a community that came together and recognized that we aren’t treated the same as White Americans,” says Jada Owens, vice-president of the BSU, “And it’s working to educate people on all kinds of issues.”
Recent studies have shown that being killed by police is now the 6th leading cause of death for African American men1. The BSU defined police brutality as any use of force that goes above and beyond what is necessary for the given situation. It isn’t just the physical violence but verbal antagonization as well. “You know it’s a problem when a Black person gets pulled over, and they’re automatically scared; white people don’t have to go through that,” says Lexi Campos, a junior in the BSU. Any encounter with police officers incites fear because they never know if it will be their last.
“I feel like I don’t have any rights. I’m an American; I was born in America, I’ve done the pledge, I’m supposed to have rights. But they were stripped away from me the moment I was born because of the color of my skin,” Owens says. Indeed, many African Americans have been killed by police for such offenses as going for a jog (Ahmaud Arbery), carrying a toy gun (Tamir Rice), standing in their backyard (Stephen Clark), and sleeping in their own home (Breonna Taylor).
Many BLM protests have continued throughout the country over the past several months, even as media coverage has waned. The student of the BSU explained that it was the decreasing violence surrounding these demonstrations that have contributed to the lack of attention. A peaceful protest for justice doesn’t make as interesting a headline as “riots.”
And while many institutions chose to speak out in support of the BLM protests, King University has remained quiet. Dr. Mongold criticized the politicization of the movement for this and for why many other companies and organizations have refused their support, “It should be straightforward for institutions to take a position on it, but unfortunately it’s really sticky.” The students of the BSU, however, said they do not expect a statement of support for the movement, only for King to stand behind their students. “They don’t have to take a position, but we need to know that as minorities on campus, we aren’t alone,” says Owens.
It is also important to remember that the BLM organization was not founded after the murder of Trayvon Martin, a young African American man, but after the acquittal of his murderer. It is not only the abuse that the movement brings attention to but also the lack of justice. Time and again, those who commit these atrocities are met with little more than a slap on the wrist as backlash. “The drywall that the bullets hit got more justice than Breonna Taylor,” Dr. Mongold pointed out.
The individuals that lost their lives to police brutality did not set out to become martyrs. They died senselessly, without reason. Their potential, the lives they could have lead and the accomplishments they could have made, erased by the actions of police who acted as judge, jury, and executioner. Families have been shattered. Police officers killed Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Michael Brown, Philando Castille, Botham Jean, Elijah McClaine, and far too many more to list, and this fact is not up for debate. “It didn’t start with George Floyd,” says Owens, and unfortunately, it didn’t end with him either.
But by continuing a conversation, by refusing to ignore these injustices, and by merely believing Black Americans when they speak out about their experiences, we can all work to make progress. According to the BSU, one of the best things other students could do to support BLM is educating themselves. Smith explains, “All allies for BLM just have to be educated, and before that just be engaged. If you see a post shining a light on something going on, repost it. Then your friends and family will ask about it, and it sparks a conversation.” Word of mouth is a powerful tool, and amplifying the already present voices can go a long way.
The Black Lives Matter movement symbolizes complex social issues that I can only begin to cover in one article. Still, the BSU here at King has already given us the first step, education. Visit https://blacklivesmatter.com/about/ and https://www.nfg.org/news/black-lives-matter-we-say-their-names to get started. Find more information on the Black Student Union here at King University, on their Instagram by going here: https://www.instagram.com/ku_bsu/