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Modern-Day Black Oppression

Brendan Pappas, Staff Writer

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Mid-19th Century: slavery in the United States is abolished. Mid-20th Century: Civil Rights are signed into effect. In America, African-American people are legally equal to Caucasian people. Yet here, in 2017, oppression of black people is still very relevant. People here about it every day on the news: police shootings, employment rates, etc.

There are many common examples of the ways that black oppression exists in society. For example, if a white man is pulled over for speeding, he will simply be given a ticket and sent on his way. But it is not the same for a black man. When he gets pulled over, he is harassed by the officer, often having his car searched and sometimes even being taken to jail for speaking about how he disagrees with what is happening. While this is very sad, it is true.

Black oppression is also frequently referenced in pop culture. Less than two years ago, the Academy Award-nominated biopic Straight Outta Compton was released in theaters, portraying the difficult lives of Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and the other members of N.W.A. Music like Beyonce’s “Lemonade” and Prince’s “Baltimore” also discusses modern-day racism.

Another interesting fact, and no one really notices this until someone tells them about it, is the lack of black protagonists in video games. Black videogame characters are usually muscular antagonists, sidekicks, or comic relief characters. For example, the game series Guitar Hero has had rarely any black characters, with some of the exceptions being minor character Xavier Stone in Legends of Rock and a cameo by guitarist Jimi Hendrix in “World Tour.”

One of the main discussions of today is that of police shootings. We’ve all heard about what has happened to Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Freddie Gray in the past five years. But these kinds of things were happening long before that. To many people, the names “Robert Davis”, “Frank Jude”, and “Sean Bell” are like a foreign language. Allow yourself to be enlightened.

Robert Davis was a teacher who lived in New Orleans. When Hurricane Katrina hit his hometown, he was forced to flee, leaving his family behind. Several months later, he returned to see them, stopping at a convenient store along the way to buy a pack of cigarettes. While there, someone recorded a video of Davis being severely beaten by two officers who claimed he was resisting arrest. These men were tried and found innocent, but luckily they received other punishments from the police department.

Frank Jude was attending a party in Milwaukee in 2004. While he was leaving, three off-duty police officers began beating him to an even worse extent than Davis, saying it was because Jude tried to steal one of their wallets and badges. Jude was punched in the face, stabbed with a knife, and thrown on the ground to have his head kicked in. These officers were at first found innocent, causing outrage, but they did eventually get convicted.

Sean Bell had it worse of all. He was at a club, celebrating his bachelor party. This particular club was being investigated for prostitution, so several officers were parked outside of it, doing an investigation. When Bell and his friends were leaving the party in a car, one of the officers tracked their conversation and heard them talking about stealing one of the officer’s guns. The officers told Bell and his friends to pull over, and in response they drove off. The officers gunned down the car, killing everyone inside. They received no punishments, court or police department-wise, for the murder.

Because of all these disturbing events, a movement has come about in the past few years, known as Black Lives Matter. Created in July 2013 (after the shooting of Trayvon Martin), this non-profit organization “campaigns against violence and systematic racism towards black people”. They protest police shootings/brutality and racial profiling/inequality. For those interested, their website is simply www.blacklivesmatter.com.

Many traditions and celebrations have been created by Black Lives Matter. For starters, they have a yearly march in Seattle. 18,000 people attend, and they have a dance party before walking for an hour and fifteen minutes. Furthermore, there is a yearly concert, which many award-winning celebrities attend. People come together at the concert to discuss what they can do to limit racism.

Now, how has Black Lives Matter impacted society? Well, in many ways. As of 2015, over 120 American communities have a civilian review board that studies and reviews complaints that people have about police officers. Plus, the police indictment rate has gone up five times. Also, two big rules were created in 2016, forbidding any police department from using weaponized drones and other military weapons (like tracked armored vehicles).

Laws don’t mean anything. Writing on a piece of paper isn’t going to make white people consider black people their equals. They have to be convinced to change. Peel away the skin, and everyone looks the same underneath. It’s time the entire world saw it that way. To quote the late, great Maya Angelou, “Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, I am the dream and the hope of the slave. I rise. I rise. I rise.”

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Modern-Day Black Oppression