By Randy Norman
After graduating from BGSU in the fall of 2018, Randy accepted an internship with the Marcus Graham Project, where he helped launch a pop-up advertising agency for the summer and worked as a brand manager on accounts such as Apple and Trailer Park. He currently works as an Assistant Account Manager at Rhea + Kaiser, a marketing communications agency.
June 20, 2020
While the Black Lives Matter movement was first started in 2013 in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman, who murdered Trayvon Martin, black lives haven’t mattered to America since the birth of the country. Systemic racism and the oppression of people of color have plagued America since the 17th century and the blatant inequality that exists is seemingly inconsequential to the majority, as we have yet to see true progress. “All lives matter” has been a common phrase used in response to the Black Lives Matter protests, and in an ideal world that statement would be true. However, it is impossible for all lives to matter until black lives do.
When will black lives matter to America?
I found myself asking this question in light of the recent murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, amongst others. As I began to reflect on the current state of the country, I became angered at the fact that innocent people who look just like me are continuously being killed for no reason, other than being black. But I became even more enraged at the fact that in 2020, we are still having the same conversations that have been had for the past century. This isn’t a new phenomenon; police brutality, racial violence and social injustice have beset the black community since the abolishment of slavery. In the past 100 years alone, we have witnessed the cyclical nature of history time and time again, as the outcries for help and justice by people of color have been essentially disregarded.
1921-Tulsa Race Riots
On May 31, 1921 Dick Rowland, a black teenager, was arrested in Tulsa, Oklahoma after being falsely accused of sexually assaulting a white woman on an elevator (Ellsworth, 2001). Rumors quickly spread of the allegations against Rowland and within less than 24 hours, white citizens burned over 1,000 houses and a number of black-owned businesses in the flourishing African-American community of Greenwood, also known as Black Wall Street. In addition to the destroying of property, over 100 people were killed as a result of the racially charged riot.
1930 – Thomas Shipp & Abram Smith
Thomas Shipp & Abram Smith were publicly lynched after being accused of murder, rape, and robbery. The two men were hung from a tree in front of a crowd of people after being brutally beaten (Kentake, 2015). A photo that captured the lynching was later sold as a postcard. No charges were ever brought against anyone who participated in the murders of Shipp and Smith.
1940 – Austin Callaway
In September of 1940, Austin Callaway was forcibly removed from his jail cell by a group of armed men. Callaway’s body was found the next morning in the middle of the road, where he died of multiple gunshot wounds (“Austin Callaway,” 2020). No one was ever arrested for Callaway’s murder. In fact, the police didn’t even investigate his death.
1955 – Lamar Smith
On August 13, 1955 Lamar Smith was gunned down on the steps of Lincoln County Courthouse in Brookhaven, Mississippi in front of nearly 40 people. The shooter was initially detained, but was later released and no charges were brought against him, even though there were multiple witnesses (Cortes, 2017).
1963 – Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley, Virgil Lamar Ware
Shortly after the integration of public schools in Alabama, there were several bombings in Birmingham within less than two weeks that targeted African-Americans in the community. The third and most notorious bombing of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, left four young girls dead (“Birmingham bombing,” 2020). Following the church bombing, riots and violence broke out across the city. After leaving a segregationist rally, a group of white teenagers shot and killed 13-year-old Virgil Lamar Ware in cold blood, as he was riding his bike down the street.
1970 – Phillip Gibbs & James Earl Green
In an attempt to disperse student protesters at Jackson State University, a historically black college, police officers fired over 100 rounds of ammunition into a crowd, killing Phillip Gibbs and James Earl Green. There were no arrests made in connection to the murders (Wyckoff, 2010).
1983 – Michael Jerome Stewart
On September 15, 1983, Michael Stewart was arrested for drawing graffiti in a New York subway. Within less than an hour of his arrest, police brought Stewart to the hospital. Upon his arrival, Stewart had no pulse and had been severely beaten; he died 13 days later from his injuries (Nielson, 2013).
1991 – Rodney King
In 1991, a video captured four police officers brutally beating black motorist Rodney King for over 10 minutes after pulling him over. King suffered broken bones, brain damage, and other injuries as a result of the beating (Sastry & Bates, 2017). Although the video clearly showed a use of excessive force, all four officers were found not guilty.
2006 – Sean Bell
Sean Bell was killed by five undercover police officers as he was leaving his bachelor party. The officers fired a total of 50 shots at Bell and his friends, even though they were unarmed. All police officers involved in the shooting were acquitted of all charges (Johnson, 2019).
…Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Laquan McDonald, Walter Scott, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Philando Castile, Terence Crutcher, Alton Sterling, Antwon Rose, Jordan Edwards, Jayson Negron, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks…
Do you see the trend here?
This is only a small list of black men and women who have been subject to police brutality and/or racial violence, and unfortunately that list is continuing to grow. Over the years there have been a countless number of black people who have been harassed, beaten, and killed simply because of their skin color, and often times the people responsible for committing these horrendous acts are not even held accountable.
Change is long overdue. Its unfathomable that we have to fight just to matter in America. We shouldn’t have to fight for equal opportunities. We are not animals; we are human beings and are deserving of the same rights as everyone else.
When will black lives matter to America?
The time for change is now. This isn’t just a black problem; this is a human problem. No matter your race, gender, age or sexual orientation, you have a voice and you have the power to make a difference. If you genuinely believe that all lives matter, don’t sit back and ignore the racism and social injustices that are ever-present in our society. Additionally, once the protests and media coverage cease, let’s not forget that these problems exist. Just because the headlines stop, that doesn’t mean the issues have been resolved. Persistence is imperative.
It’s impossible for all lives to matter until black lives do. Together, we can end the cycle and change the narrative.
Austin Callaway: A lynching in LaGrange. (2020, June 7). Troup Together. Retrieved from https://trouptogether.wordpress.com/austin-callaway/
Birmingham bombing (Sixteenth Street Baptist Church). (2020, June 5). Civil Rights Digital Library. Retrieved from http://crdl.usg.edu/events/birmingham_bombing/?Welcome&Welcome
Cortes, D. (2017, July 16) Lamar Smith (1892-1955). BlackPast. Retrieved from https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/smith-lamar-1892-1955/
Ellsworth, S. (2001) Tulsa race massacre. Oklahoma Historical Society. Retrieved from https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=TU013
Johnson, S. (2019, November 27) Sean Bell died at the hands of police 13 years ago. Amsterdam News. Retrieved from http://amsterdamnews.com/news/2019/nov/27/sean-bell-died-hands-police-13-years-ago/
Kentake, M. (2015, August 7) Strange Fruit: The lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Shipp. Kentake Page. Retrieved from https://kentakepage.com/strange-fruit-the-lynching-of-thomas-shipp-and-abram-smith/
Nielson, E. (2013, September 16) ‘It could have been me:’ The 1983 death of a NYC graffiti artist. NPR. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2013/09/16/221821224/it-could-have-been-me-the-1983-death-of-a-nyc-graffiti-artist
Sastry, A., & Bates, K.G. (2017, April 26) When LA erupted in anger: A look back at the Rodney King riots. NPR. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2017/04/26/524744989/when-la-erupted-in-anger-a-look-back-at-the-rodney-king-riots
Wyckoff, W.B. (2010, May 3) Jackson State: A tragedy widely forgotten. NPR. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126426361\