It’s definitely safe to say that America would not have happened without African American slaves. By being forced to do labor for no payment, their owners made more of a profit while their slaves had poor living conditions and were treated horribly. During the American Revolution, African American men fought for the colonies, often given false hope that they would be freed after the colonies won the war. The majority of them remained enslaved. The same thing happened during the Civil War. But the Civil War freed the slaves, didn’t it Christianne?
No! Not exactly. And that is what Juneteenth is celebrating: the ACTUAL day that African Americans became free in the Southern United States. What am I talking about, you ask? Juneteenth commemorates the day (June 19th, 1865) that Union soldiers told slaves in Texas that the war had ended and all slaves were now free. Sounds nice, until you learn that this was TWO years after Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. But they were free after this right? Maybe on paper, but former slave owners and other corrupt land and business owners often kept the slaves working for them. They continued to exploit black labor and slowed the development of the newly “freed” African Americans.
Laws in the South continued to persecute African Americans by not allowing them to vote, to serve on juries or public office, and from working in the justice sector as a whole. They were still using forced labor as well, and this happens to this day all over the United States, by forcing convicts in prison to do labor as part of their sentence.
These examples are just a small percentage of the injustices that have occurred since Africans were brought to America (not just America either, might I add) hundreds of years ago. The U.S. Justice system continues to fail minorities while giving white people a slap on the wrist. If you’re still denying that, please go educate yourself. If you’re offended by me saying that, I’m not sorry!
Alright, so this all brings us to the beginning of the protests that started after May 25th, 2020, the day of George Floyd’s murder. Black Lives Matter protests have been occurring after murders of black men and women for years now, but these were different in that the protests are still occurring to this day. George Floyd was murdered by Derek Chauvin, a Minneapolis Police Officer. Chauvin was with three other officers; J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas K. Lane, and Tou Thao, who were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
Let’s go into talking about how important it is that these protests are happening. Protests have historical significance in getting the outcome wanted by protestors. Some examples: the Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence, the French Revolution (which set the premise for France’s people to be able to protest their government whenever and for whatever), the Protestant Reformation, Tiananmen Square, and many, MANY more. Think of what we wouldn’t have without protests. Here in the U.S., we would be British citizens, women wouldn’t be able to vote, women wouldn’t have many rights in general, and African Americans and other minorities would also have few rights.
Unfortunately, many Americans are truly ignorant of the fact that although the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s was successful in multiple ways, it’s sixty years later and we still have a long way to go. On average African Americans make less on the dollar than white men and women who are working the same jobs. African American women have higher rates of mortality in childbirth, and people of color have higher rates of health issues (such as COVID-19).
As I briefly mentioned earlier, the U.S. justice system protects white people while POC face harsher punishments. Out of the diverse numbers of people who have been arrested while protesting for BLM, POC have received a harsher punishment than white protesters. And not only this but as marijuana has been decriminalized and legal in several states, white dispensary owners are thriving and being respected for their craft, while many African Americans are in jail for selling or possessing marijuana in the past. If it’s being federally decriminalized, anyone in prison for marijuana-related charges should be released.
According to The Sentencing Project, 1 in every 10 black men in his thirties is in prison or jail on any given day. And according to Nazgol Ghandnoosh, Ph.D., who wrote an article featured on The Sentencing Project; “Disadvantage accumulating at each step of the process contributes to blacks and Latinos comprising 56% of the incarcerated population, yet only 30% of the U.S. population.” He’s referring to the Criminal Justice System with that statement, and this article was posted in 2015.
These reasons are just some reasons why I think that although the situations that have caused the protests and demands for human rights are extremely heartbreaking, the protests that follow are entirely necessary in order to reform our justice system and to punish those who have committed injustices to POC and gotten away with it. For hundreds of years, POC have endured extreme hardships in this country to even get to where we are today. As allies, we need to help the fight in order to rebuild society and the government.
Protesting will work, voting will work. We need to work together to make this country a safer place for everyone.