In this day and age, it seems like there has been no change on the issue of brutality against black Americans since the Civil Rights era. With the deaths of Trayvonn Martin and Michael Brown, there has been a rise in what is now known as the “Black Lives Matter” movement. This first came about as a hashtag on social media as a way to protest the injustice of the young black men that were murdered. But it has now become a symbol of the violent injustice that black Americans face on a daily basis. According to the New York Times, the demonstrators that are protesting in the streets “…are not asserting that black lives are more precious of white lives. They are underlying the fact that the lives of black citizens in this country historically have not mattered and have been discounted and devalued”.
In April of 2015, a man by the name of Freddie Gray was arrested in Baltimore. He was perfectly healthy at the time of his arrest but sustained injuries to his neck and spine while being transported. He was left in a coma and then died a week later. Violent but organized protests broke out on the streets of Baltimore when it became publicly known the cause of Gray’s death. This created civil unrest and the riots took over the city. This is an example of breakdown theory. Useem states that breakdown theory is “the classic sociological explanation of contentious forms of collective action such as riots, rebellions and civil violence and these events occur when the mechanisms of social control lose their restraining power” (217). Simply put, breakdown theory is the breakdown of social control. It’s spurred by emotion when injustice occurs. The residents of Baltimore were thinking that “there is no legitimate way I can act and I’ve gotten to a breaking point so I get on the streets and act in emotion”.
The media and government officials portray the same violent acts among whites and blacks as exact opposites. A quote by Juan Thompson explains this well by stating that “when white people spread chaos in the streets, they are drunks that make drunken mistakes; when black people act in justifiable rage after decades of oppression, they are depicted as violent and imitating agitators”. The mayor of Baltimore, who is a black female, called the residents that were protesting in the street as “hooligans”.
The Black Lives Matter movement has become very similar to the Civil Rights movement. We still have not achieved racial equality when it comes to the black community. There has been an increasing number of police brutality against young black people. Just recently, there was a video circulating online of a police officer dragging and beating a young black girl out of her seat in a classroom and arresting her on the charge of resisting arrest. A black UVA student was recently beaten to death by police outside of a bar that was off campus. This is an epidemic that needs to stop. We almost always judge a book by its cover and we shouldn’t sterotype someone based on the color of their skin.