Today I wanted to bring my readers a guest post by my friend and fellow writer Josephine Mariea Moore. When I read her words on this matter on Facebook this morning I felt as if she was able to articulate so many of the things I have been feeling in my heart–and I wanted to share her thoughts. She graciously agreed to let me do so. Her piece appears below:
Yes, of course, all lives matter. And when we say that, we should be saying it in order to make a commitment to stand and protest when some people’s lives are being treated as though they don’t matter. And when that happens, we will name that group and point to the injustice, point to the blatant devaluation of their lives in particular and declare it wrong. We will say: Black Lives Matter. Because…
According to the 2014 U.S. Census Bureau ACS study, 27% of all African American men, women and children live below the poverty level, compared to just 11% of all Americans. An even higher percentage (38%) of Black children live in poverty, compared to 22% of all children in America.
Food deserts—areas in which affordable healthy food is largely unavailable—are more prevalent in poor black neighborhoods than they are in poor white neighborhoods.
People in poor black communities have a harder time accessing healthcare, and they receive worse healthcare than white people.
Students of color face harsher punishments in school than their white peers. And this harsher punishment starts early: “[B]lack children represent about 18 percent of children enrolled in preschool programs in schools, but almost half of the students suspended more than once.” And this is especially significant when understanding blacks in relationship to our criminal justice system because studies have found that harsh punishments in schools creates a school-to-prison pipeline.
And all of this, above and below, isn’t because of black people or black culture: it’s because of American culture. This is institutional racism that creates a vicious cycle in our society that systematically devalues, punishes, and destroys black lives and black communities. Let’s go on…
Black children and teenagers are more likely to be sentenced to adult prison than white young people facing similar charges.
Blacks and Hispanics are three times more likely to be searched during a traffic stop than white motorists.
Black Americans are twice as likely to be arrested as whites.
Once arrested, blacks are more likely to remain in prison awaiting trial than whites.
It’s harder for blacks to get a trial judged by their peers, as African Americans are frequently illegally excluded from criminal jury service.
Black people are four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession as whites (although blacks and whites use marijuana at relatively equal rates). And even though white people are more likely to deal drugs, black people are more likely to be arrested for it.
Black people are three times as likely to experience force during encounters with police as are whites.
Black people are twice as likely to be unarmed when killed by police as are whites.
Black offenders receive longer sentences than their white counterparts, on average 10% longer. African Americans are 21% more likely to receive mandatory minimum sentences than white defendants and 20% more likely to be sentenced to prison than white drug defendants. Two-thirds of the people in the US with life sentences are non-white.
One in three black men can expect to go to jail during his lifetime. (Let’s just take a moment to think about the impact that absence has on the communities they are taken from.)
Following release from prison, 17% of white job applicants with criminal records received callbacks from employers, while only 5% of black job applicants with criminal records received callbacks. And wages grow at a 21% slower rate for black former inmates compared to white ex-convicts.
So when I say “black lives matter,” I am saying this to refute the cultural and societal practice that says they don’t. The evidence that says black mothers who can’t get adequate prenatal care don’t matter, black fathers ripped from their communities don’t matter, black toddlers and children punished more frequently and more harshly and who have their local schools closed don’t matter, black communities who are ripped apart and don’t have access to good food or healthcare don’t matter, and, yes, black lives—whether they are wasted away in prison due to draconian sentencing laws that disproportionately affect and are applied to blacks or simply killed unjustly at the hands of law enforcement—don’t matter.
But they do matter. Because, yes, all lives matter. And because of this, combined with everything I found from a few simple Google searches (and much, much more is out there to be found), we must name it when our society treats one group of people—from the moment they are conceived until the moment they die—like they don’t matter.
Because they do matter.
Black lives matter.
Josephine Mariea Moore is a writer and editor in Upstate New York. She has two children, two dogs, two cats, only one husband (thank goodness), and a whole lotta opinions.