Turn on the news today and you will likely hear the story of an innocent and unarmed African-American gunned down by police. In 2015 and 2016, African-American males died at the hands of police, at a rate of 7.2 per one million people (The Lives). The average age of the victim, 35 years old. Unfortunately, this demographic is at risk for genocide. There is no magic number of deaths to warrant use of the term genocide. When there is intent to destroy, even in part, a racial group, intervention is necessary. Thanks to the help of the media, these horrific acts of violence are being exposed.
In 2013, the #BlackLivesMatter movement began in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murdered, George Zimmerman. Travyon Martin was a 17 year old African-American male, who was walking back home after purchasing skittles and tea at a 7-Eleven. George Zimmerman was on “neighborhood watch” in his vehicle. Zimmerman was not a police officer, but he was pretending to be. Zimmerman purposefully followed Martin, even after police dispatch told him not to. Zimmerman willfully exited his vehicle and pursued Martin, once Martin began to run after realizing a strange vehicle was following him. At no point did Martin present a threat to Zimmerman. However, Zimmerman manipulated Florida’s “stand your ground” law and used self-defense as justifiable homicide (Follman).
In 2016, Philando Castile, was murdered during a routine traffic stop. Castile was a registered gun owner, who had a valid permit to conceal carry a firearm. The officer asked for Castile’s license and Castile informed the officer that he had a gun in the vehicle. As Castile was reaching for his license (with his girlfriend in the passenger seat and his 4 year old daughter in the backseat), the officer shot Castile seven times. The unnecessary use of excess force by police officers is plaguing the African-American community at unprecedented numbers and it is hard to believe that it is a mere coincidence.
Just this past weekend, an African-American security guard was fatally shot while on the job. An incident broke out at the bar where Jemel Roberson worked and Roberson was holding the suspect on the ground, with a gun to his back, waiting for officers to arrive at the scene. Despite witnesses screaming at the officers that Roberson was a security guard, the officer encountered and shot “a subject with a gun.” An investigation is underway into the shooting, but if history is any indication, justice will not be served and this officer will not face any consequences.
Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. The movement continues as a platform and organizing tool, now operating over 18 separate chapters across America. The shooting of unarmed African-Americans in the United States is becoming an epidemic and could very well be this Country’s next genocide. Thanks to organizations such as Black Lives Matter, celebrities using their platform for activism, along with a new wave of progressive voters, there is renewed hope that these crimes can be stopped, thus preventing a future genocide.
Colin Kaepernick, a former National Football League quarterback, began his activism during preseason 2016. Kaepernick sat during the National Anthem, stating he could not stand and respect a flag that has a long standing history of oppressing black people. He went on to say that the issue was bigger than football and if he was banned from playing, or stripped of his endorsements, at least he knew he stood on the right side of history (Wells). After meeting with a former Green Beret veteran, who acknowledged Kaepernick’s reasons for protesting, Kaepernick was given advice to perhaps kneel during the anthem, out of respect for the soldiers, yet still continue to shine light on the injustices currently happening around the country. Kaepernick’s willingness to risk everything he worked so hard for to empower a movement, makes him a hero in his own right. Hopefully Kaepernick’s activism inspires others to stand on the right side of history.
Can the killing of African-American males be genocide? Perhaps not yet, but it is clearly an area that I perceive as at risk for genocide, especially when the perpetrators are people we are supposed to trust and look up to. When these perpetrators walk away without being convicted and our government just turns a blind eye to the entire situation, or even mocks the victims of police brutality, one can only be but so optimistic.
“The Lives of People of Color Are More Likely to Be Cut Short by Police.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/police-killings-hit-people-color-hardest-study-finds-n872086.
Follman, Mark. “The Trayvon Martin Killing, Explained.” Mother Jones, 25 June 2017, www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/03/what-happened-trayvon-martin-explained
Wells, Adam. “Colin Kaepernick Sits During National Anthem Before Packers vs. 49ers.” Bleacher Report, Bleacher Report, 3 Oct. 2017, bleacherreport.com/articles/2660085-colin-kaepernick-sits-during-national-anthem-before-packers-vs-49ers.
Angie St. John is currently a junior, attending ODU part time. She is majoring in English with a concentration in Professional Writing. Angie has a strong passion for human rights and hopes to contribute towards meaningful discussions this semester. Her full time gig is working for Anthem as a Legal Specialist, but in her spare time, you can find her raising good humans (12 year old fraternal twins to be exact). When Angie gets a break from parenting, you can find her singing karaoke or watching some sort of sporting event, depending upon the season.