Originally written for MaseTV Feb 2016
The Black Lives Matter movement has taken America by storm.
After centuries of oppression and mistreatment from a systematically racist government agenda, African Americans across the country have joined forces in a movement that is making their voices heard to a government and society that has long ignored the concerns of their community.
However, despite the success of the Black Lives Matter movement, many still equate the social party with only the concerns of police misconduct against Black people. Many outside of the Black community remain clueless as to the many reasons why Black Lives Matter in America.
When considering the many reasons why Black Lives Matter rightfully deserves to be a part of the conversation, Jeroslyn Johnson (@JeroslynDiva), decided to break down 10 of the most important factors that further explain just why the Black Lives Matter movement is of great importance within modern issues in America.
Racism in Education
For decades studies have shown the great divide between education for Black children in comparison to white children.
According to HuffingtonPost Black students are suspended or expelled at triple the rate of their white peers, with many minority students having less access to experienced school teachers. Most minority students and English language learners are stuck in schools with the more new and least experienced teachers on staff. Seven percent of black students attend schools where as many as 20 percent of teachers fail to meet license and certification requirements. And one in four school districts pay teachers in less-diverse high schools $5,000 more than teachers in schools with higher black and Latino student enrollment. Studies show that discrimination within the education system results in lower academic performances for minority students and puts them at a much greater risk of dropping out of school.
So it’s clear that the odds are against us when it comes to education for Black and minority students. This is one of the more important reasons as to why #BlackLivesMatter, or should we say #BlackEducationMatters.
Racism in Corporate America
Racism in corporate America has been an existing issue for decades. Many African-Americans suffer from grave feelings of discrimination and inferiority at their place of work due to racial discrimination. According to a recent study by UC Hastings, Columbia and Emory University professors,women, and especially women of color, might be leaving STEM fields because of pervasive gender and racial bias. A few findings from the study found that:
- 100% of the women interviewed reported gender bias.
- Black women are more likely than other women to report having to prove themselves over and over again.
A 2015 study found that college-educated Black women often feel like “unicorns” in the workplace —invisible, yet “painfully conspicuous.” According to a Harvard Business Review report, Black women are 2.8 times as likely than White women to pursue leadership roles such as running a school board, heading a youth initiative, or leading a community organization. Despite throwing their hats in the ring, 46 percent of qualified Black women said their ideas are often ignored.
These stats are reflective of racial discrimination issues for Black women, so that’s not even including the millions of Black men who also feel ignored or under-appreciated at work. Many reputable companies have suffered lawsuits in recent times over racial discrimination in their hiring and promotion process. Facebook, Twitter, Google, Bank of America, and the list goes on of reputable American companies who fail at diversifying their staff and corporate culture.
Lack of feeling valued within the workplace often leads to depression, anxiety, and lack of motivation while on the job. These depressed feelings often times are taken home to be shared with family and loved ones, resulting in a destructive recurring cycle of pain.
This makes racism in corporate America another key factor within the Black Lives Matter movement. I guess we can add #BlackJobsMatter to the list of new hashtags.
Natural Hair Still Considered “Unruly” in Professional Settings
Many don’t think twice about the discrimination many ethnic minorities still face based on hair texture. Cases of discriminatory acts or comments against hair texture stems from a long existing stigma that straight hair is a more professional and kept look while natural hair is bypassed as unruly and unprofessional. The social stigma surrounding curly hair has created an entire economy around hair care products and treatments to straighten naturally curly hair.
With the natural hair movement in full force today, many ethnic women are now facing a new dilemma when entering and thriving in today’s workforce on whether or not they should wear their natural hair to work.
African-Americans who choose to wear their hair natural often do so in order to avoid chemically straightened hair, which often times leads to hair breakage and thinning, chemical burns, and overall hair loss. Instead of chemically straightened hair, there are afros, braids, or dreadlocks that many African-Americans opt to wear instead of perms.
During a 2013 panel at Georgia State University, “Black Women, Their Hair & The Work Place–A Dialogue,” the biggest concern among the 100 women polled was that prospective employers might be turned off by their natural hair and not hire or promote them. Glamour magazine also caused controversy when their editors told a group of female lawyers at a New York firm that natural hair in the office was a “no-go.”
Historically, black people have used the afro to serve as an expression of self, and a major political statement. Hence why many corporate environments often rule against allowing this look in the workplace. As African Americans continue to speak out against the ongoing black struggle, America is becoming more accepting of the natural hair look. But, we still have a long way to go.
Mass Incarceration of Black Men
The mass incarceration of Black men in America is at an all-time high. With more than 25% of the demographic currently behind bars, it reflects an alarming rate of Black males becoming victims to a justice system that is often criticized for having corruption deep rooted in its history.
According to HuffingtonPost the Census estimates that approximately 18,508,926 people in the U.S. population are black males of all ages. The Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Prisoner Statistics Program reports that in that same year, 526,000 were in state or federal prisons, and, as of mid-year 2013, 219,660 were in local jails, making for a total of about 745,000 behind bars.
Huffpost goes on to reveal how India is a country of 1.2 Billion people, the country in total only has around 380,000 prisoners. In fact, there are more African American men incarcerated in the U.S. than thetotal prison populations in India, Argentina, Canada, Lebanon, Japan, Germany, Finland, Israel and England combined.
As stated by Nicole Porter in the piece “Politics of Black Lives Matter”
…countries have the policies and prison populations they choose. Between 1965 and 1990, a period during which overall and violent crime rates tripled in Germany, Finland, and the United States, German politicians chose to hold the imprisonment rate flat, Finnish politicians chose to substantially reduce theirs, and American politicians generally enacted policies that sent more people to prison, along with lengthened prison terms.
When considering the amount of Black men in college, there are about 1.4 million black men enrolled in higher education, while over 745,000 remain behind bars, with another large sum on probation and parole.
With numbers like these, its surprising mainstream media and the American government haven’t given these statistics more attention given the funding all prisons receive from our hard earned tax dollars.
With the Obama Administration recently taking action towards prison reform, and celebrities like Alicia Keys jumping on board with her “We Are Here” campaign, it could only be a matter of time before more support is gained for ending mass incarceration in America.
Be sure to check out Ava Duvernay’s new documentary “13TH” on Netflix that aims to highlight the issue of mass incarceration and it’s direct link to modern day slavery in America.
Stereotyping of all Things Black Culture
As human beings, we naturally evaluate everything we come into contact with. When meeting or seeing new people, we try to gain insight and direction from others that often times leads to stereotyping. Stereotypes are “cognitive structures that contain the perceiver’s knowledge, beliefs, and expectations about human groups” (Peffley et al., 1997, p. 31). Racial stereotypes are made up beliefs by those who believe that all members of a particular race share given characteristics. Often times these characteristics provide negative portrayals of the race in question.
The early blackface minstrel shows of the 19th century portrayed black people as happy naive dancing-infused characters who’s pride and joy were to entertain and please their white superiors. These stereotypes stemmed from what slaveowners of the time perceived black people to be.
The stereotypes of African Americans today are often portrayed as violent, lazy, overly aggressive people who wear flamboyant styled clothing while smoking and drinking their worries away. Not to leave out the longtime stereotypes of Black people loving fried chicken, watermelon, cornbread, Kool-Aid, waffles, sweet tea, and grape or orange soda.
When considering America’s long history of stereotyping black culture, it is worth noting the modern day stereotyping of all things Black culture. If someone chooses to name their child a more ethnic sounding name, it is automatically considered a “ghetto” name. Dressing in more urban styled fashion is seen as “ghetto”. Wearing your hair in more ethnically-influenced styles is seen as “ghetto”, talking “Black” is considered “ghetto” in many communities, and the list goes on. Many rural and suburban communities in America still suffer from a great lack of diversity that often times leaves the people within the community gaining an extremely skewed viewpoint of black people and black culture.
When looking into the many reasons why Black Lives Matter, the stereotyping of all things Black culture is worth being added to the list. It is everyone’s responsibility to help get rid of this ancient issue. Not just against Blacks, but against all people who are different from you.
Lack of Black People in Tech Industry
Currently, STEM careers are dominating the list of top revenue generators in America. However, the industry is still struggling with diversifying its work culture to match America’s diverse culture and people.
According to Forbes tech companies are experiencing increased pressure to diversify their staff which usually consist of white & Asian males. With the tech industry facing increased criticism from the general public, many companies are now being forced to make public their diversity count in staff size. However, these public diversity reports still reflect great need for change.
A USA Today study recently revealed that top universities graduate black and Hispanic computer science and computer engineering students at twice the rate that leading technology companies hire them. The sad reality is that racial (and gender) bias is so deep-rooted in the tech industry that it often times forces talented female and minority employees to leave. A Twitter employee recently went viral after making his resignation public when he left the tech giant due to their great lack of diversity and disinterest in changing the diversity gap.
The USA Today study also found that nearly half of the Black and Latina scientists reported they had been mistaken for administrative or custodial staff, and the majority of Black, Latina, and Asian-American women stated they felt compelled to provide more proof to co-workers that they were as competent as their male peers. While more than half of the participants reported receiving a backlash from coworkers and management when they expressed anger or assertiveness at work.
Now more than ever tech companies need to address their cultural bias and create initiatives to retain adequate women and minority employees. With the tech industry dominating the world, having more qualified tech employees, who feel supported within their work environments, will have a positive impact on diversity and further place America as one of the major tech leaders of the world.
Until tech leaders address the diversity issue within the STEM industry, the great lack of Black people within the tech workforce is another reason why Black Lives Matter.
Black People Are Legally Allowed to be Charged More for Bank & Auto Loans
It was recently reported that progressive Democrats were working to prevent their colleagues (Democrats included) from supporting a bill that would allow for further racial discrimination at car dealerships.
According to HuffingtonPost racial discrimination often creeps into the process when a person of color tries to obtain a bank or auto loan. Banks currently manage car dealerships who issue car loans to their customers. A dealer sends a buyer’s credit information to the bank, and the bank then tells the dealer the appropriate interest rate for a borrower with that particular financial profile. But dealers are allowed to charge higher rates at their own discretion — and the dealers themselves receive a cut of that higher lending price.
This pretty illegal agreement between banks and auto dealers creates incentives for both the dealership and the bank to inflate interest rates. Lawsuits dating back to the 1990s show that customers of color are more likely to be charged additional interest rates, referred to as “markups,” that gives them markup rates that tend to be higher than those charged to white borrowers.
The CFPB issued formal regulatory guidance in 2013 encouraging banks to get rid of the markup interest rate system as a way of compensating dealerships for issuing car loans. The CFPB said that banks could continue the markup practice if they took steps to ensure that they would not regularly overcharge borrowers based on race or national origin. The CFPB has returned hundreds of millions of dollars to customers who paid higher rates due to no other factor than their race or national origin.
Despite the CFPB’s interference on bankers and auto salesman illegal agreement, a bill is still in the process of possibly being passed that would allow these illegal practices to continue within the auto and banking industries. The fact that overcharging people of color for bank and auto loans is considered a lawful practice in America, is further proof as to why police brutality isn’t the only reason why Black Lives Matter.
Lack of Substantial Healthcare Within Black Communities
Unequal healthcare continues to be a serious problem for black Americans and another reason why Black Lives Matter. According to HuffingtonPost more than a decade after the Institute of Medicine issued a landmark report showing that minority patients were less likely to receive the same quality health care as white patients, racial and ethnic disparities continue to plague the U.S. health care system. The report that was originally published in 2002, revealed that even when both white and Black people had similar insurance or the same ability to pay for care, Black patients still received inferior health treatment when compared to white patients.
These startling facts still hold true even for today. More than any other single group in America, the black community is most likely to have negative health outcomes, including higher rates of breast and prostate cancer, high incidence of HIV/AIDS, higher rates of infant morality — along with high rates of childhood obesity and asthma in young adults. Poverty and socioeconomic inequality are the reason behind the health differences between whites and blacks. Twenty-seven percent of people living in poverty are black, and studies consistently show that the least educated and lowest income people are the most likely to be unhealthy.
The main source of the problem is that people in poverty need more education and information in order to make better health decisions. But these are two resources that economically disadvantaged individuals are less likely to have, as mentioned earlier in this article. Education is also a major factor in making better health decisions on a community level. It would take a community being better educated and having political connections to successfully lobby local grocery stores to carry more fresh fruits and vegetables, or fight to prohibit corner stores from selling tobacco to neighborhood youth. But these are resources that many within the Black community are left without.
Whitewashing and Cultural Appropriation
Cultural appropriation has become a popular topic of discussion within the last year in American culture. With celebrities like Amandla Sternberg calling out major celebrities like Kylie Jenner for their cultural appropriating ways, it has helped create more conscious awareness of how many people care more for Black culture than they actually do for Black people. Cultural appropriation by definition is the adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of a different culture.
Cultural appropriation is seen by some as controversial, as the use of elements of a minority culture by a cultural majority are seen as wrongfully oppressing the minority culture or stripping it of its group identity or intellectual property rights. An example of this would be when Miley Cyrus popularized the twerking dance that Black women had already been doing for decades, Kylie Jenner wearing cornrows while quoting Beyonce, and Iggy Azalea dismissing her authentic Australian accent for a Southern Black twang on her mainstream pop rap songs. These examples are all by white celebrities who have yet to express any public support of the Black Lives Matter movement, but can publicly embrace Black culture.
The main issue many Black people have with cultural appropriation is the way many white people can comfortably identify with Black culture when it comes to forms of entertainment or being “cool”, but when topics of real value (like Black Lives Matter) spring up, these are the same people who remain completely silent out of fear of being politically incorrect. Cultural appropriation is what many turn to when they ask “what if America cared about Black people as much as they care about Black culture”. Don’t do the nae nae and whip dance with us at the club, but then refuse to retweet a truthful Black Lives Matter post on Facebook out of fear of actually looking like you care about Black people.
“Whitewashing” in popular media is an issue that has plagued African Americans for centuries. Whitewashing is a metaphor used to explain how the achievements and cultural milestones made by people of color have historically been erased and appropriated by the white population. Since as early as the 1930s, Hollywood has made white actors portray people of color in films, such as “Cleopatra” (1963), in which Elizabeth Taylor, a white actress, played the Egyptian queen Cleopatra, and even as recent as2014’s “Exodus: Gods and Kings” when the entire Egyptian cast was played by white actors.
According to a study conducted by The University of California, whites eclipse minority groups in every aspect of film and media, ranging from acting to directing films. The current debate over the Oscars and their lack of diversity in the nominees is only a testament to the whitewashing that has gone on in Hollywood since the beginning.
Whitewashing and cultural appropriation are manmade attempts to make Black people disassociate beauty, success, and importance from their lives. They have been long existing forms of institutionalized racism that work to dig deep into the mind of a Black person and make them forget how powerful, wise, and important they truly are. A lion is only able to be tamed by the tamer after forgetting who he truly is. Whitewashing and cultural appropriation are another reason why Black Lives Matter.
Black History Has Been Hidden
Since the time of slavery, Black people have been prevented from learning about their true history. Readings and books on African history and royalty were replaced with teachings on European and colonial history. Slaves were prevented from learning how to read, and once slavery ended and Blacks were allowed to attend schools, the former slaves were now forced to learn about history that never made mention of their actual story or where they really came from.
Due to the many families that were broken up during the slavery period, most African American families were unable to pass down their family’s generational history. Its hard to know where you’re going unless you know from whence you came, and the same holds true for knowing your ethnic and cultural history.
According to CityData, American and European schools teach that Egyptians were Caucasian rather than African. Numerous Egyptian monuments have been altered throughout history by Europeans in order to make them appear more white in their appearance. Notably, the Sphinx has been vandalized to hide the African features on the face of the historical landmark. The whitewashing of Ancient Egypt is the perfect example of the great strides Europeans and Americans took to hide the true identity and history of the African race. This was all done in an attempt to make the African people look inferior to whites, as if they could’ve never created an advanced society with Black people having true knowledge of their powerful history.
Ancient Greek and Roman civilizations have likewise been whitewashed throughout history. African features in ancient art have been erased by the Greeks who hide the fact that Greece’s society was the offspring of Sub-Saharan African civilizations from centuries prior.
In addition, Biblical figures were all African in origin but made to look white by European civilizations. Jesus Christ himself was a Black man as the Bible says that Jesus had “thick, hair like wool and brass skin.” Even the Prophet Muhammad was described as having “frizzy” hair and a skin color “as black as night.” However, these factual details have long been ignored when teaching religion. Many Christians and Muslims of today have no idea that their entire belief system was originated from African ideology.
As much as it has been attempted to be hidden from us, Africa is the reason we have paper, the alphabet, Chemistry, algebra, geometry, trigonometry and just about every other form of mathematics, including “Arabic” numerals. It would be crazy not to ask yourself just where would the world be without these elements of our society? But hell if a Black person got the credit for it!
For centuries Europeans have completely ignored Africans while taking credit for their many accomplishments from early history. From Jazz to Rock and Roll to dance to fashion to body image to food and even Hip Hop. Each of these, and thousands more, have been completely stolen from Black culture over the past 100 years in ways that make many young members of the Black community lack awareness of their cultural and ethnic history.
Take a look at this powerful video below. It was recorded by a white male who is very well educated on how much of an impact African culture had on early civilization and how Black history is still hidden in modern society.
This post isn’t meant to discourage or offend anyone. It is only here to help create awareness and conversation around the many reasons why Black Lives Matter is a necessary movement in our society.
We hope more people outside of the Black community continue to speak out and align themselves with the BLM Movement in hopes of creating a stronger America for future generations to come.
#AllLivesMatter but #BlackLivesMatter and we’re not afraid to say it.
Follow me @JeroslynDiva on Instagram & @JeroslynDiva08 on Twitter