For a majority of American school children, the shortest month of the year is dedicated to remembering the struggles of black Americans during a time when signs such as “ separate but equal” and “ no blacks allowed” were a normal and accepted practice in white America.
That is no longer the case as more and more black teens are celebrating their black roots.That can be said for many teens in Atlanta, many of whom know what is going on in their community, particularly in relation to racism and social injustice.
In 2012, Black Lives Matter (BLM) formed after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting of Trayvon Martin. The group used the #blacklivesmatter hashtag on social media posts and eventually received mainstream recognition. The group’s staged, peaceful, non-violent protests echo that of the 1950 and 1960s American Civil Rights movement.
While the American Civil Rights Movements is often remembered for changing racially discriminatory laws, it was more than that. When February comes around each year we are bombarded with social media post about Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King and how much they did for the African–American community, but very rarely do we hear about how the Civil Rights Movement laid the groundwork for other minority groups to raise their voices and be heard.
“What the movement worked so hard to do was to recognize African-Americans as human beings, because what was happening was anything but humane,”Carol Anderson, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor and Chair of African American Studies at Emory University said. “Aside from accomplishing the goal being treated equally, they [civil rights activists] added back into our society the human element.”
For African-Americans who lived in America, particularly in the South, before and even during the Civil Rights Movement, to be alive was to live in fear. “What was happening was anything but humane. The lynchings, the systematic denial of education to babies [children], the forced sterilization, the medical experimentation, all that spoke to incredible inhumanity.” Anderson said.
So what does this mean to someone that is not black, such as myself? It’s hard to say what we would be like as a society if the Civil Rights Movement had not been successful, but I believe it would favor white Americans. As a Mexican-American, at first glance the Civil Rights Movement seems to have nothing to do with me, but it has everything to do with me.
Before the Civil Rights Movement most, if not all non-white Americans were treated inhumanly. If it was not for for Dr.King and other activists taking the first steps in reforming this country, we would all be under constant stress of systemic oppression and segregation.
So next time you see a minority group’s rights being challenged, take a step and support them, because in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”