Black Lives Matter

Headlines from Ferguson to Cleveland to New York are being made by people who have taken up the cry that “Black Lives Matter.” Their non-violent protests are raising national awareness that inequality and racism still stain our democracy and challenge us to come together as a nation.   All people of good conscience must once again take to the streets, the editorial pages and the legislatures to continue the march towards protecting the civil liberties of all Americans regardless of race or creed.

America was conceived with high ideals that are reflected in our Bill of Rights and Constitution. Every school child knows that “All men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights.” In practice, however, it has been an arduous road to bring those ideals into reality. When the constitution was framed, “all men” really meant male, white property owners. It did not include women or people of African-American descent – to name just two groups. For African-Americans the march from slavery to Jim Crow to Civil Rights is not over. Racism, imprinted by the atrocity of slavery, still lingers. Instead of disappearing, racism has morphed from outright intimidation to covert and subtle disempowerment. As Americans, we cannot condone covert racism whether it is expressed at the polls or in law enforcement and the judicial system.

Black lives did not matter in 1964. That’s why Andrew Goodman joined Freedom Summer. When the FBI searched for the three missing Civil Rights workers, they uncovered the bodies of scores of black men whose death did not make the news or trigger legal investigations. As Maya Angelou expressed so eloquently, “it was as if they had a license to kill black men.”

Many people think that those days are gone, even though unarmed black men are statistically more likely to be killed than unarmed white men. According to an FBI report, black men are not only disproportionately killed by law enforcement, but also while they are not attacking or acting threateningly. This is a deplorable situation.

As Ella Baker said in 1964, “Until the killing of black men, black mothers’ sons, becomes as important to the rest of the country as the killing of a white mother’s sons, we who believe in freedom cannot rest.” Black lives matter and it is up to all citizens who believe the words of the US Constitution and Bill of Rights to stand with our black sisters and brothers as they challenge the conscience of America to move towards a more just society.

About the Author

Sylvia Golbin-Goodman is the Executive Director of The Andrew Goodman Foundation and a member of its Board of Trustees. She leads the Foundation’s programming and developed the Hidden Heroes Awards.