Black Lives Still Matter

As a platform that uses our technology to advocate for real in-person interactions, a huge part of our community-building is listening. Listening is an integral part of the community, something that everyone in the world could do a little more every day. Here at Blue, we have a responsibility to ensure that everyone feels safe to express their true authentic self without fear of being treated unfairly because of their differences, that is why we stand with the Black Lives Matter movement.

For decades, successive movements have sought for real equality and social justice for the Black community in America, with cries for help often falling on deaf ears, and with progress in this area lacking at the hands of a government seemingly complicit in perpetuating widespread systemic racism. While we acknowledge social media’s role in helping build the movement worldwide, our platform’s emphasis on physical presence can play a role in strengthening in-person relationships, which can in turn help strengthen the community as a whole. Physical presence is important here because this movement will not bring about real change through online “slacktivism”, where it is easy to think and feel like one is making a difference when the real work comes from individuals making time in their day to actually show up for the cause. This crucial distinction of networking in person rather than online exposes individuals to new cultural experiences and intercultural contexts shared with them by those they come across in their everyday lives.

Experiences that do not come about as authentically through online exchanges, are because of anonymity, misinformation, bias, misconstruction, and the quintessential lack of the human element. “Proximity breeds empathy. Distance breeds suspicion.”–Dr. Eric Mason. Shedding light on the situation will help others to understand why people are saying “Enough”. We at Blue share the sentiments of many around the world in seeking justice for the horrifying deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless other lives taken by police brutality and acts of hate. We are outraged to see our communities in pain because of the deep injustices that affect our society as a whole. We stand with those protesting and want to address the issues of racism, as well as encourage you to take action by signing some petitions for a policy change that we have provided below, making a donation to organizations supporting Black Lives Matter, or taking some time to educate yourself on some of the contributing factors surrounding the movement that goes beyond just police brutality. We hope that this can be a turning point in our history that will bring about real change, and no more empty promises. Being a very complicated issue, the best we can do with the platform that we have is to not only offer our support but to also bring awareness to these issues, fight ignorance, and keep the movement alive until we find the most impactful solutions. Enough is enough.

History of Oppression

The history of oppression of the black community in this country is one that is known the world over for both its proliferation into many aspects of the Black American experience, but also for the great strides that the community has taken to create a real difference in the world not only for Black People in America but for the global community at large through their example. It is, however, oppression that has evolved into new forms since the nation’s inception. From slavery to the Civil War, Jim Crow and segregation to civil rights, and now mass incarceration, police brutality, and social injustice. The Constitution of the United States has for so long been exclusive in its verbiage and character, as it was designed initially by and for privileged, land-owning white males.  Translated to governance, it has taken progressive movements to create a more inclusive governing body that not only acknowledges the plight of Black Americans, but that sees in its assembly a more diverse electorate and a more true reflection of the American people and all of their voices. That being said, the history of black oppression is a story that is in part, one of fleeting freedom that must perpetually be fought to attain. At the height of the Civil Rights movement, in a letter penned from Birmingham Jail after having been arrested for his role in nonviolent protests, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed”. That is why these protests of today are just as important as those in the past, even though some may not see the importance of it right now.  Enough is enough.

Social

These conversations have real power because even though the most concrete change will come about through policy, it is in the compounded power of people’s voices and combined incremental changes everywhere that can have a huge effect. Brands and companies are already being dragged, called out, and are being held accountable for their malpractices and policies when it comes to topics such as discriminatory pay and lack of diversity, and they are adapting accordingly. Individuals are also being fired from their jobs, sometimes resulting in their lives being ruined from the scrutiny of proven and often unacceptable racist behavior. For some these acts serve as small wins in what is a much bigger fight to dismantle a flawed way of thinking, and that starts with making the conscious choice to not tolerate it in any way shape or form. MLK said, “People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other.” The Black Lives Matter movement is what started the conversation, but the uproar of the riots is what got people to listen. Now with the world at attention, we have a real opportunity to harness these social issues into a transformative political agenda and reformation.

Political

It was at the very moment of the riots where these social issues became political, harkening back to a long history of power politics between the oppressed and their oppressors. There is perhaps no group in the United States that has been the target of discriminatory policy quite like Black Americans have, with each generation of activists fighting subsequent battles from the Civil War, Jim Crow and segregation to Civil Rights, and now social injustice and systematic racism. Other political moves, such as a government intervention against the Black Panther Party, as well as the introduction of illicit substances into Black communities in the 80s and ’90s, we’re all deliberate and covert operations by the CIA and governing authorities, designed to tackle the leadership structures within the Black communities, to reassert power over them. In addition, Black men were disproportionately targeted by new laws in the criminal justice system, resulting in 1 in 4 Black males today being incarcerated, with the U.S having the highest rate of incarcerated individuals worldwide. While long withstanding political organizations like the NAACP have won landmark legislative battles on behalf of the community for decades, it has usually been the instances where the community themselves take to the streets and demand change that they exercise power in the greatest sense of the word. Almost 100 years ago in 1925, the Ku Klux Klan gathered 30,000 members in a march on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington DC in what are now haunting displays of the height of their power. Today, the Klu Klux Klan may soon be disbanded thanks to a petition that has already received more than 2.5 million signatures, and written on those same streets today are now the words “Black Lives Matter” in what has become the biggest movement in history. This movement is the true America embodied because of the changes that we want to see in our country to protect our communities we have taken into our own hands and demanded against one of the most stagnant and divisive administrations in recent memory. 

Economic

 It is important to also note that riots against black communities have also occurred such as the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 where a white mob was aided by the U.S Coastguard in effectively leveling what was once the wealthiest black community in the United States, leaving millions of black people homeless. More recently, an investigation into the 2008 financial crises found that racial predatory loans had partly caused the housing bubble and as a result, a resounding loss of modern Black Wealth. Part of the problem is how the history of the oppression of Black Americans has translated into two very different socioeconomic realities for different groups in the United States. White people for example are more likely to benefit from generational wealth passed down over decades, afford to get a degree, and are more likely to be paid more for the same positions as their Black counterparts. Today, the median wealth of white households is 20 times greater than of black households.

What needs to be seen, however, is how that has created a certain degree of privilege for White Americans who have never had the same economic struggles as a Black individual, but not only that, it is the false perceptions that have come about from the different socioeconomic realities of the two groups that do the most damage. What can you do to contribute to a solution? Support Black-owned businesses and enterprises! By doing so, you will help to not only change people’s perceptions, but also stimulate the economy, create more competition and jobs in your local area, and help close the racial wealth divide in America.

Violence as the Result of Oppression

This is not the first time we’ve seen violence as a result of oppression and nationwide protests against racial injustice and police brutality. Throughout history, we have seen the Watts Riots and the Detroit riots in the 1960s, and the LA riots in 1992. What do these riots have in common with the riots and protests of today? They all started from the tension between the Police and the Black community. In 1992, after numerous reports of abusive police practices with no accountability, the LA riots came about after a video surfaced of the LA county police force brutally beating Rodney King, a video that went viral before virality as we know it today, for the cruelty displayed by the multiple police officers who participated. Although these riots devastated LA communities and lives were lost, some in brutal fashion and broadcast on national television, what can be seen as an even greater tragedy is how little has changed since then. This should have been an opportunity for reflection and conversation surrounding change. When the justice system does not hold these officers accountable, their actions towards minorities will not change and it encourages other individuals to evoke violence towards them as well, which is why there is an uproar today.

A Movement Reborn- Black Lives Still Matter

After years of missed opportunities for reform, we would see a new movement reborn- Black Lives Matter. In 2013, the black community was hit with social injustice again, after George Zimmerman, who killed 17-year old Trayvon Martin was found not guilty. This prompted Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi to form the Black Lives Matter movement. Since Trayvon, we’ve lost the lives of Sandra Bland, Ezell Ford, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and countless others along the way who did not receive justice. Change was difficult to come by, no matter how many peaceful protests occurred to fight injustice. The difference between the 1992 LA riots and now, is that they did not have the technology to capture the brutality or the tools to project their voices onto a global community of listeners.

The world is speaking out, and for the first time in history, all 50 states conducted protests for the Black Lives Matter movement. The media has at times chosen to focus on some of the violence and looting, and has largely failed to show police being violent to protesters; but what is also often overlooked is how the peaceful protesters have worked to not only protect their rightful protests, but also the businesses most at risk, often clashing with looters to repel them, and even offering their time to clean up after violence has spilled over. In stark contrast, what has stood out amongst the chaos has been the beauty of diverse groups coming together to stand with the Black community in solidarity. These gestures of unity are what the world needs right now.

The Black Experience and the Black Culture Influence

Black culture has made such an influence on modern culture. The music, the art, and the style, but outside of pop culture, what can be difficult for other groups to understand is the experiences that black people go through because of racism. The Black Lives Matter movement has brought the world to attention, shedding light on the Black American experience and the hardships that are faced on several fronts from economic to social and political. Now the Black Lives Matter Movement organizers have been at the forefront of the protests, condemning the actions of the looters who are seeking to hi-jack their movement. Despite the violence, the people around the world have shown solidarity with the movement, with protests spreading all over the world to Germany, the U.K, Japan, France, New Zealand, and 18 other countries, making it the biggest Civil Rights Movement in world history.  We don’t know how these events will all play out, but the main difference between movements of the past and our current movement is that the Black community now has the world standing with them and the momentum needed to bring about justice in a real way.                            

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” – MLK

Support the Movement

At Blue, and like many people around the world, we want to be part of the solution and support the movement, and not be a part of the problem. We want to listen when our community needs us, and be there in any way we can. Education is a great tool that anyone can participate in and contribute to. To spread awareness, we are going to release special edition Black Lives Matter Smart Buttons which a percentage will go towards an organization fighting against injustice. President Obama has shared advice on how to make the murder of George Floyd a turning point, with a strategy of specificity that will hopefully translate to effective results, “the more specific we can make our demands for criminal justice and police reform, the harder it will be for elected officials to just offer lip service to the cause and then fall back into business as usual once the protests have gone away”. Below are some key takeaways and resources that you can take into consideration when educating yourself, supporting the movement, and furthering widespread systemic change. Enough is Enough.

Key Takeaways

  1. Vote. Take the protests to the polls this election year.
  2. Support policies that cater to the needs of the community. 
  3. Turn to all levels of policy making, from local to state and federal levels of government.
  4. You don’t have to change the world, but you can change your own backyard.
  5. Keep the protests going. There are lots of ways to protest whether that’s with your wallet, online or otherwise.

Safe protest practices

If you do decide to join in the protest, please keep some of these tips in mind. Even the most peaceful protests can turn into chaotic scenes and its best to be ready for any situation you may encounter. If you find yourself in a position where you may be a victim of police brutality, know your rights.

Do’s and Don’ts

  • DO plan in advance; be aware and recognize where you are at all times, with possible exit strategies identified in case of emergencies.
  • DO stay with people familiar to you, whether that is family, friends, or neighbors, never be alone if you can help it.
  • DO stay calm, panicking may exacerbate a situation. Maintain focus until you are in a secure location and are safe in the event of danger.
  • DO be cognizant of your surroundings, which includes reading the audience for signs of problematic behavior, violence, aggression, or panicking that may come from the crowds around you.
  • DO maintain social distancing and wear masks to minimize the spread of COVID19.
  • DO NOT incite violence, damage property, vandalize or physically assault others unless of course, you are defending yourself.
  • DO NOT panic! Panicking may exacerbate a situation for not only yourself but for others. If you find yourself in danger, maintain focus until you, as well as others in your party, are in a secure location and safe.
  • DO NOT rub in chemicals if you are sprayed with tear gas, avoid lotions and oils that will trap the chemicals in your skin. Avoid contact lenses if you can. If you are sprayed, “Blow your nose, rinse your mouth, cough, and spit. DO  NOT SWALLOW.”

Attire and Essentials

  • Essentials include food and water. Protests can sometimes include sit-ins, marches, and in rare cases, can go on overnight. Coldwater in particular is essential when com batting the effects of possible tear gas attacks. Medical supplies such as a first aid kit, prescription medications, and menstrual pads instead of tampons (in case of arrest), can be game-changers if peace goes out the door.
  • Be sure to have identification, medical information, and emergency contact information protected and secured within your belongings, but also easily accessible in an emergency.
  • Avoid Jewelry and loose clothing. Shoes should be both protective and comfortable.
  • Try to cover all of your skin to protect in case of chemicals. Helmets and other protective equipment can also be good supplements, just be sure they are easy to take off in case of an emergency involving chemicals.
  • Some organizations even recommend bringing extra clothes in case you have to dispose of clothing contaminated by chemical sprays.

Your Rights

  • You have the right to be out protesting thanks to the Freedom of Expression and Assembly Act. Laws such as the Protection of the Right to Freedom of Assembly hold police responsible for facilitating these assemblies, and they are to uphold them and not interfere. City and State curfews, however, have ironically led to police crackdowns on protests nationwide, superseding our freedom by using excessive police force. One freedom they can not take away though is our freedom to record. You have every right to record any and all police activity or brutality to defend your protest. This is a right ingrained in, and an extension of the First Amendment and your right to freedom of speech and of the press.
  • You cannot be denied medical care in the event of an emergency and healthcare institutions have to treat you. With the current pandemic, it is crucial that before and during your protesting activities, that you are familiar with the local healthcare resources available to you, as well as their respective routes and paths from designated protest areas. During this time, hospitals and medical facilities have been overcrowding so just keep that in mind to avoid overwhelming medical resources.
  • In the event you are detained, you have a right to be told the reason for your arrest according to the Freedom from Arbitrary Arrest and Detainment Act. This basically means that the officer has to have a reason to arrest you, and complaints can be filed against him in the event that you are wrongfully detained. Beware of police tactics during the protest, like officers offering to trash your disposable water bottles or drinks, as they may try to gather your DNA for a conviction.
  • You have the right to issue a complaint against law enforcement and any officer that engages in unlawful police brutality. Your local law enforcement agency is also obliged to provide information on how to go about issuing the complaint based on local city and state penal codes. However, you can be prosecuted if it is proven that you have falsely made a complaint against an officer, and may result in a possible misdemeanor charge. Having a recording or other concrete proof can bring justice against police brutality and reform at local and state levels.

Resources:

Healing toolkit from Black Lives Matter organizers: https://blacklivesmatter.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/BLM_HealingAction_r1.pdf

Chapter Conflict Resolution: https://blacklivesmatter.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/BLM_ChapterConflict_r1.pdf

Healing Justice Toolkit: https://blacklivesmatter.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/BLM_HealinginAction-1-1.pdf

Trayvon taught me toolkit for non black POC organizers: https://blacklivesmatter.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/BLM_Trayvon_toolkit_english.pdf

Talk about Trayvon: Toolkit for white people: https://blacklivesmatter.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Toolkit-WhitePpl-Trayvon.pdf https://blacklivesmatter.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Toolkit-WhitePpl-Trayvon.pdf

Donate

Other Organizations

Color Of Change: A racial justice organization working to move the decision makers of corporations and government to create a less hostile environment for Black Americans

Change.org: A platform where people can start campaigns, mobilize, and work with decision makers to drive solutions.

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund: A legal organization fighting racial injustice for the past 75 years.

Grassroots Law project: An organization working to reform the American legal system and fight to end abuses of authority used to unjustly injure, arrest, convict, and sentence.

 Know your rights camp: An organization, started by Colin Kaepernick, whose mission is to liberate and advance the well-being of Black and Brown communities through education, mass-mobilization, self-empowerment, and creating change leaders.

The Equal Justice Initiative: A non-profit specializes in providing legal representation for people who were illegally convicted, unfairly accused, or abused in prison.

American Civil Liberties Union: An organization fighting for equal rights since WW1.