By Jennifer Carter
I believe we are still in a civil rights movement.
Images from peaceful protests in the fifties and sixties have an eerie similarity to those of today. I vividly recall the show of force displayed at the Capitol during a Black Lives Matter protest last summer. It was captured in pictures, videos, social media, and on the news. The sight was jarring. A peaceful black protest was met with shields, tear gas, and bulletproof vests—the National Guard was even called.
And yet on January 6, 2021, the scene was strikingly different. White insurrectionists clad in combat clothes took over the Capitol. They were swathed in Trump flags and MAGA hats. There was no shortage of the Confederate flag on display either. But there was no National Guard. There was no show of force. In fact, some Capitol police didn’t even have guns. They relied only upon batons to protect themselves.
Anger boiled inside of me. White privilege, ignorance, lies, and selfishness had been allowed to violently prevail. Had the protestors been black they would have faced a different fate. I believe many would have been shot, possibly killed. I believe there would have been more arrests the day of the protest. There was no way they would have been allowed to overrun the Capitol. If the protestors were black there would be no claims that they were ”patriots.” They would not be glorified for trying to eradicate democracy at its fundamental core.
It’s the 21st century. We have had our first black president, Barack Obama. We have ushered in a new President, Joe Biden, and our first female and woman of color Vice President, Kamala Harris. While there has been some strides of progress made towards equality, it seems at times that African Americans don’t have the basic rights that are afforded to the majority. Such as the right to enter your own home—Casey Goodson. The right to play outside—Tamir Rice. The right to go for a jog—Ahmaud Arbery. The right to receive help when in mental distress—Patrick Warren. The right to simply walk away—Jacob Blake. The right not to be tried, found guilty, and killed by an off-duty police officer—Desmond Franklin. There are so many more names, too many more disturbing stories.
According to a recent study originally published by the national nonprofit news organization, ProPublica, 90% of traffic citations issued by University Circle police since 2015 were to black people. According to a study done by Dr. Ronnie Dunn in 2009, Shaker Heights disproportionately issues tickets to minorities as well—2 to 3 times more than white people. Further, Blacks make up approximately 38% of the prison population, while only accounting for 13% of the US population.
There are systematic structures in place that continue to be unfair to African Americans. The impact of redlining, which is a discriminatory practice that keeps services, financial and otherwise, out of reach for residents of certain areas based on race or ethnicity, is still prevalent today.
It is present in Cleveland’s poorly performing school system. It is present in segregated communities that suffer from disinvestment, resulting in lower property values, food deserts, and access to adequate health care.
In Cuyahoga County, the infant mortality rate is 16.34 per 1,000 live births for African Americans, compared to the infant mortality rate for white babies at 3.92.
I’m not sure if there will ever come a time when we can say the Civil Rights Movement is over. What I do know is that we must carry on in this movement like the civil rights leaders of our past. We cannot allow their legacy to die with them.
Let this be the year we commit to keeping the fight of this movement alive! In the words of John Lewis, “Get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”