ALFK – Black Lives Are (Still) Relevant

The Black Lives Matter movement hasnt gone away.  Nothing will stop it any time soonYou still need to fight.

By Claire Ward

There is a war waged on people of color in this country. Statistically, over 250 black people were killed by police in 2016, and while blacks only make up 13 percent of the US population, almost half of the incarcerated population is black. Institutionalized racism was brought to light during the 2016 Presidential Election, and our current president brings to light the power of racism as a joining force against humankind. African Americans were granted full freedom legally in 1890 under the 13th Amendment, then further protected from legal barriers by President Johnson in 1965. The fight for freedom has been a long one, and it’s no where close to over.

It’s hard to talk about race in a place as white as Dexter. It’s hard to talk about race being a white person with a lot of privilege (if you’re still confused about privilege, send me an email) who hasn’t really had a chance to experience racism firsthand. It’s hard for me to sit here and say black lives are tough when I don’t live one. Sometimes, the hardest things to say are what need to be said the most.

Living in a community like Dexter, we are guarded. Sure, we can read the news and stay caught up on current events, whether nationwide or worldwide, but we don’t experience a lot that others do. Those in a big city have more chances to see violence, racism, and discrimination; the list goes on as the population increases. Yet, at the same time we are almost more exposed to racism than those in big cities. Cities are accepting, filled with people of all genders and races and religions. Here in Dexter, we are divided into the accepting of all, and the accepting of some (with conditions for why you can’t accept certain groups). This division can be felt more strongly due to the size of the school. We split into groups with similar beliefs to us, and a smaller population means these groups seem smaller and smaller.

I have seen blatant racism countless times at DHS. I have seen it in students, in media, in parents. From slurs yelled out in anger, to discrimination from social groups because of the shade of someone’s skin. I have seen racism in Ann Arbor, in East Lansing, in Detroit, and probably every city I have ever been in. Maybe this is because of the groups I’m in, surrounded by white people and very underexposed to different cultures. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent my life working to acknowledge and fight racism, in turn making me more cognizant of the racism, using the privilege I hold to benefit others. Whatever the reason, the fact is it’s still there.

We have a system set up against people of color. Plea bargains are often offered to those who are faced with criminal charges, leading to 97 percent never reaching a trial. Innocent men and women fill penitentiaries simply because they cannot afford $40,000 bail, and may be faced with a longer sentence after going through the court process. It is easier for someone to spend three years in jail (where the government would rather have them) than anywhere else. Many people don’t know that companies like Victoria’s Secret, JCPenney, and Microsoft use prison labor to manufacture goods. Inmates can be paid to do work for less than a dollar, while prisons and the government make an $11 million profit on them. “Non-profit” companies, such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), lobby politicians to make laws (like the Federal Crime Bill in 1994 that doubled mass incarceration) that make it extremely challenging for the African American population to escape prison. These companies go on to profit off of the prisons.

Black lives are constantly viewed as worth less than white lives. It has been 398 years since the first African was brought to the US in slavery. It has been 155 years since the Emancipation Proclamation. It has been 147 years since the right to vote was granted, but only 52 years since their right to vote was protected by law (which still isn’t guaranteed through voter registration laws). The black population has been fighting constantly, and have never caught a break in their battle for equality.

So next time you go to purchase something from a department store, do a little research and see just who your money is going to. Check yourself before you join in on your friends banter about African American culture, or partake in a peaceful protest against injustice in your community.

Black lives still matter. Just because the mainstream media isn’t telling you that anymore doesn’t mean it isn’t relevant. This fight is far from over, and it’s time we all use our privilege to aid in the resistance.

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