EDITOR’S NOTE: Four percent of students at Clark College identify as African-American/Black. News editor Nathan Taylor shares his perspective about being a member of this minority and about the Black Lives Matter movement.
One cold night in November, year before last, the city of Ferguson, Missouri was set ablaze.
Protests turned violent after a grand jury decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the killing of black teenager Michael Brown. Buildings were looted and lit on fire while tear gas was fired into crowds and bricks were thrown at police, all under a banner that read: “Season’s Greetings.”
It was a scene that belonged in 1964, during the height of the civil rights movement, rather than 2014. The event helped the controversial Black Lives Matter activist movement gain national recognition.
Fifty-one years after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led the historic march on Washington and gave one of the most famous speeches of all time, racism is still very much alive in America.
In 2013, almost twice as many recent black graduates were unemployed as their white counterparts, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research. People with “black-sounding names” had to send out 50 percent more resumes than people with “white-sounding names” in order to get a call back, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.
White households were 13 times wealthier than black households in 2013, according to the Pew Research Center.
Despite all of this, my mother was able to graduate from college, go to nursing school and earn her license as a nurse practitioner. She was able to find a job in her field of training and own her own home where she raised three black children. Growing up in Vancouver, I have always been surrounded by an overwhelming majority of white peers, most of whom have no problem with having a black classmate.
But sometimes someone comments on how I should sit at the back of the bus, or that I should be amazing at basketball, or that I probably can’t swim or that I should be obsessed with watermelon. These comments are usually made in jest, but occasionally it gets more serious. I was called обезьяна, the Russian word for monkey, throughout high school. My step-father will get the occasional odd glance or rude comment for being married to a black woman and having a black son. I have stood on street corners and been told to “Get out of here, you stupid nigger,” or that I should “Go die.”
But I know that this is nothing compared with what black people my age endured in the ‘50s and ‘60s. They withstood firehoses blasted at them, they were attacked by police dogs and they were lynched throughout the south. All so I could have the same chance at happiness that every other child has.
When Dr. King stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, he spoke not just to the hopes and dreams of black people, but of all people. He dreamed of a world where his children would be judged by the content of their character, rather than the color of their skin. He dreamed of a world where the words of the Declaration Of Independence ring true: that all men are created equal.
In 2016, Dr. King’s dream is yet to come to fruition. Of course, things have improved greatly and America has taken many steps forward, including electing its first black president. However, I think we can all agree there is still work to be done.
When protesters chant “No justice, no peace, no rest until we are free,” they are not trying to elicit a race war. They are crying out for help. Black Lives Matter does not mean to say black lives are more important than anyone else’s life. It is not a choice between black lives mattering or all lives mattering. Of course all lives matter. The Black Lives Matter movement is a plea for help from a community in desperate need. Above all, I believe it is about all people being treated equally.
Dr. King best described the day when equality is finally achieved. “When we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”