When you hear “Civil Rights Movement,” it’s easy to think of the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, which stated that segregation in publics schools is unconstitutional. I think of Emmett Till who in 1955 was shot and dumped in the Tallahatchie River for allegedly whistling at a white woman, of the student sit-ins in 1960 where college African American students would go into segregated parks, swimming pools, theaters, & libraries and sit in protest of segregation, or the 24th Amendment which abolished the poll tax that made it difficult for poor blacks to vote. Malcom X, Rosa Parks, Stokely Carmichael, and of course, the legendary Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were also prominent figures we think of who allow us to look back at the Civil Rights Movement in awe.
But what about when you hear “Black Lives Matter?” What do you think of?
“When I hear it I think about people of color who are fighting for equality in America,” said Jeremiah Harris, a sophomore communications major.
#BlackLivesMatter started in 2012 as a hashtag after Trayvon Martin, a 17-year old African American boy, was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, who was acquitted for his crime. The founders of BlackLivesMatter are Alicia Garcia, Opal Tometi, and Patrisse Cullors. According to their website, BlackLivesMatter is, “a call to action and a response to the virulent anti-Black racism that permeates our society.”
The controversy of BLM is astounding and has become one of the biggest topics of debate in our nation. But if we were to compare it to The Civil Rights Movement, how would it stand?
According to Mic.com, 42% of young white Americans today say they don’t support BLM and in 1964, 63% of Americans said civil rights leaders pushed “too fast”. Despite this, I think it is a lot more complicated than this statistic puts forward.
Let’s look at three areas of comparison between the two movements.
During the Civil Right Movement the fight was against literal institutional racism that plagued our country. There were actual laws that oppressed blacks and other minorities during this time.
Segregation was a great example of this. Brown v. Board of Education found segregation unconstitutional and everyone could see what the issue was whether they agreed of disagreed because it was tangible evidence. Millions of black people were effected by laws like Jim Crow that allowed segregation or the poll tax that prevented poor blacks from voting.
With BLM and the rhetoric going on in our nation today, there is no tangible enemy to protest.
There is a heavy rhetoric in the general conversation that there is racism out there, but I have yet to see a law that is actually racist. Yes, there is inequality, specifically with blacks in our nation, but calling out institutional racism without real evidence does nothing for anybody.
When I compare BLM to the Civil Rights Movement, I see the evidence of disparity blacks faced in the U.S. 60-70 years ago, but it is extremely hard to say that for blacks today. There may be disparity that blacks face today, I believe there is, but the evidence is not being put forward like it should.
On Aug. 28, 1973, over 250,000 people came together for the March on Washington For Jobs and Freedom in Washington D.C. It rallied thousands of Americans to come together and peacefully protest the injustices that blacks and minorities were facing at the time. For the event, internal Marshalls were trained to keep order within the event due to security reasons, but the marchers chose peace instead of violence. This day was most memorable for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
Previous protest to this included the Montgomery bus boycotts, and the “freedom riders.” These were student volunteers that decided to test out the new laws that prohibited segregation, and were attacked by angry mobs while traveling across the country.
Today we see the destruction of private property, setting things on fire, throwing rocks at innocent bystanders, and much more.
Riots and violence did happen later in the Civil Rights Movement with The Black Panthers and other protest events in the late 60s, until that point the protests were very peaceful. After Dr.King’s death, there was much more violent sides of protests.
Today, it began with violence and continues with it.
The start of the Civil Rights Movement formed off the death of Emmett Till and the stubbornness of Rosa Parks. It is a huge step down from Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin, in my opinion. We know without a shadow of a doubt that Emmett Till was killed due to blatant racism. We do not know that with Trayvon Martin. Rosa Parks literally fought against an institutionally racist law, but we don’t know what the founders of BLM have fought against.
“When I hear Civil Rights Movement I think of MLK, Malcolm X and the Black Panthers,”Harris said. “It’s very hard for me to think of anyone prominent nowadays.”
There is also no figure anywhere close to the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. today. The leadership of today’s black movement is horrendous and lacking in integrity among other factors.
“I think Dr. King was great, and I think the fact that he was a pastor played a huge role in his involvement,” said Isaac Mowbray, an undeclared sophomore. I firmly believe that a major lack in todays fight for minorities is in the realm of faith. Faith in Christ and what He can do for those oppressed is not taken into strong consideration. The black church, which had been a staple since the times of the black slave, has dwindled into a poor excuse of what we now call the black church when compared to the historical practices of black christians back then, but that is another comparison for another time.