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The Civil Rights Movement

The Civil Rights movement in The United States of America came to a closing around 50 years ago. While some may have thought that the United States would become less racially discriminating after the election of the first black president in 2008, there has been continued violence and oppression which has brought around a new movement of activism called Black Lives Matter, or BLM. This movement began to take off from a national outcry in 2012 after the murder of an unarmed African American man named Trayvon Martin. This murder called for a social revolution which was embraced by all social groups across the nation from African Americans, to Caucasians, to other minority groups. This movement came to be embodied through social media as the Black Lives Matter movement as a response to the multiple police and civilian killings of unarmed African Americans across the United States. Although this movement has been commonly criticized as too divisive and radical, it is still a strong example of America’s civil liberties to freedom of speech and right to assemble so that people to speak their mind for a cause. The rise of this movement has created negative connotations and hatred to police officers which has led to unintentional violent events like neighborhoods being vandalized and multiple assaults on police officers. Through social activism, this movement seeks to create a nonviolent notion that black lives matter and we are all equal.

Black Lives Matter is intended to be a nonviolent movement to create awareness and take action toward police brutality toward African Americans. Although all of the individuals who take part in this movement are granted freedom of speech and expression under the first amendment, coming out to spread violence and destruction should not be acceptable to get any message across, despite any emotional frustrations felt by the involved individuals. The type of language used by those who present themselves as involved in the movement often use powerful and strong words in order to be determined at taking action for this cause and making a change. With all of the controversy surrounding this issue, it is easily misrepresented and misunderstood by many since it can be a sensitive topic. This is one of the reasons for those who oppose the meaning of this movement.

The civil rights movement was an earlier social movement that can be compared and looked at to understand the Black Lives Matter movement with a better understanding. Aldon Morris is the author of the book, “The Origins of the Civil Rights Movement: Black Communities Organizing for Change”, and explains the beginning of the civil rights movement in great detail. The civil rights movement occured around the 1950s and 1960s and was a struggle for African Americans fighting for social justice. African Americans sought out to gain equal protection of rights under the law in order to be equal to all citizens (Morris XII). Although the civil war had gotten rid of slavery in the United States, discrimination and racism toward people of color did not stop. The civil rights movement finally came to an end after years of mass protests against segregation which brought up the passing of The Civil Rights Act of 1964. This act signed by Lyndon B. Johnson ended segregation in public places and banned all employment discrimination.

Similar to the civil rights movement, Black Lives Matter was brought up in response to racial injustices toward colored people and which is why the BLM movement and the Civil Rights movement can be easily compared. Dewey Clayton analyzes and compares these two movements in an academic journal published this year titled, “Black Lives Matter and the Civil Rights Movement: A Comparative Analysis of Two Social Movements in the United States.” The effect of Jim Crow laws and slavery in America has left the country with a history of racism which has ultimately belittled the lives of colored people over time. The Black Lives Matter social movement encourages activism and resistance to the continous devaluation of African American lives from racism. The movement has branched off of similar strategies used by the civil rights movement of the 1960s in the way that Black Lives Matter seeks to engage in action and protests to bring attention to the abuse of blacks in America (Clayton). Although this movement looks to engage in nonviolent direct action, some events have been unfortunately rooted with violence due to strong emotion. The violence and hatred toward all police officers that has been brought up from this movement is not intended by most BLM activists, but it has been done by the individuals who have been enraged at the continuous struggle for African Americans to gain equality in America. The BLM movement has covered similar issues that previous black liberation movements addressed such as the idea that black people are seen as little significance and are often seen as criminals. The Black Lives Matter movement has also been seen by many as the new civil rights movement. In contrast, however, the civil rights movement from the 1960s fought for basic equality for African Americans while Black Lives Matter has focused mainly on the police brutality and only partly on other racial injustices toward African Americans.

The Unite the Right rally, also known as the Charlottesville protests, greatly depicts a problem in our nation about the racial conflict. These violent riots began with the controversy of statues that stood in Charlottesville, Virginia. The one statue in particular that caused the controversy was a commemoration of Confederate soldier Robert E. Lee. While the statue can express the hardships of the Confederate soldiers, it fails to express the destitution that slavery brought to African Americans, especially in the south. Many Black Lives Matter activists took action and spoke on the issue against the white supremacists who rallied at the Charlottesville protests.

These protests raises the question of what is the current standing of the protest rights within the constitution? An article from titled “Does the First Amendment Protect Charlottesville Protesters?” discusses some of the issues regarding whether these protests were lawful or unlawful. The First Amendment explains it as “the right of people to peacefully assemble”, however the conflict brought forth by these protests left many injured and three dead. This can be seen as both a social and political issue within the United States because the rallies were far from peaceful ( Many looked to President Trump, as he responded to the violent acts by expressing “we condemn in the strongest possible terms …hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides.” President trump did not only ignore the acknowledgement of calling the killings in the protest an act of domestic terrorism, but he also failed to express that these protests were outright wrong. This is a reason which lead many white supremacists to believe that Trump is siding with them, which caused even more white supremacists to show up. The challenges faced within the constitutional rights of the violent protests of Charlottesville caused an increase of supporters of the Black Lives Matters movement who protested against racial injustices.

There are, however, multiple perspectives to the movement of black lives matter and the meaning it portrays. The first perspective include those who are supporters of the BLM movement. The supporters of this movement join protests to speak out against police brutality of African Americans, and some supporters often speak on other related issues such as racial inequality and racial profiling within the criminal justice system of America. Activists use strategies through internet, social media, and direct action to get their points across. The whole movement is directed at ending violence and systemic racism toward African Americans and although this movement is made with good intentions, there has been some criticisms toward it.

The slogan that has been going around social media called “All Lives Matter” is a phrase used to criticize the BLM Movement. David Weigel from the Washington Post describes some of the alternate views on BLM in his article titled, “Three Words That Republicans Wrestle with: Black Lives Matter.” Supporters that use this phrase often intend having their point to mean that everyone should be treated equally no matter what race or society they come from. Although this should be common knowledge, it may not be effective at recognizing the centuries of oppression in which people of color have faced in this country. This is why many BLM activists don’t agree with using the phrase “All Lives Matter” since it dismisses black lives and is easy to misunderstand (Weigel). President Donald Trump has spoken out his opinion on this topic and stated that “Black Lives Matter is a divisive term and that term is inherently racist.” The general consensus of people do believe that all lives matter and should be equal, however, it is the context in which the phrases are used which spark disagreement among the people and cause debate.

The Black Lives Matter movement implies that democracy is actively working in America. According to an article on this topic written by Barbara Ransby from The New York Times, “…the movement for Black Lives is radical democracy in action.” This is true because unlike previous movements of black activism, BLM is a movement with no specific leader. This movement has local organizers across the country who take up local issues that cover police brutality and even more (Ransby). The fact that the BLM movement has no traditional leader like events in the past makes it an even more powerful movement which shows how strong people do not need strong leaders.

In conclusion, I believe that the Black Lives Matter movement represents the diversity in our nation and shows how people are passionate about racial equality and justice. Although with all of the violence among races around the world right now, arguing whether which phrase between Black Lives Matter or All Lives Matter is politically correct, seems unimportant in my opinion. It is the fight for racial justice that allow these social movements to change society values and actually make a difference. Regardless of how controversial the topic can be, the phrase “Black Lives Matters” gives itself the power to be heard across the world for its cause and which is why I believe that this movement is a good thing for this country

Freelance Writer

I’m a freelance writer with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Boston University. My work has been featured in publications like the L.A. Times, U.S. News and World Report, Farther Finance, Teen Vogue, Grammarly, The Startup, Mashable, Insider, Forbes, Writer (formerly Qordoba), MarketWatch, CNBC, and USA Today, among others.