The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and the riots in the United States are becoming quite a global issue, though many would disagree that it shouldn’t be.
We’ve seen many Malaysians voice out their opinions and wonder why most of us in Asian countries care so much and why we shouldn’t, including but not limited to public figures such as Samantha Katie James and local netizens. A lot of this disagreement comes from the fact that we have racism in our own country that is not getting the kind of attention the BLM movement is getting.
But what people don’t often realise is that when we disregard the problems of others for our own, it dilutes the support for an important cause.
We’re not saying that there are no other causes that needs attention. After all, we still have quite a few issues that require attention under our own belt such as the treatment of refugees and immigrants, racism, poverty and even drunk driving, but that doesn’t mean that Malaysians shouldn’t show as much support as they can for the BLM movement.
Because. Innocent. People. Are. Dying.
And we don’t have to be in their shoes to show support against injustice in general.
The BLM movement is a product of racism (something that Malaysians are considerably used to), but the cause stems a lot deeper than just racial slurs and discrimination. It boils down to deaths caused by racial profiling.
“Racial Profiling” refers to the discriminatory practice of targeting individuals for suspicion of crime based on the individual’s race, ethnicity, religion or national origin. The BLM movement was founded in 2013 after 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was racially profiled, shot and killed by a neighbourhood watch captain who was acquitted of murder charges.
As according to CNN, Martin was walking home from a convenience store when he was noticed by George Zimmerman, the captain of the area’s neighbourhood watch who then called the non-emergency line of the Sanford Police Department to report “a real suspicious guy” who was “walking around, looking about” and claimed that there had been burglaries in the neighbourhood. He also added that Martin seemed “up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something”.
He was then advised by the dispatcher to not follow Martin, to which he ignored, and got down from his vehicle claiming that he wanted to take a closer look at a street sign to ascertain his location. Apparently, a violent exchange ensued and Martin was shot in close range, killing him. Zimmerman claimed that he shot Martin out of self-defense as he reportedly sustained a broken nose from the confrontation.
In one of the 911 recordings that was released, Zimmerman chose to ignore dispatcher’s advise and followed Martin. A voice can be heard in the background screaming “Help! Help!” before a gunshot went off. Martin’s girlfriend, who was on the phone with him at the time claimed that she heard someone approaching Martin and asking him what he was doing, to which Martin asked why the person was following him.
Unfortunately, the connection went dead and Martin was killed.
Despite the 911 recordings and Martin’s girlfriend’s information about the phone call, Zimmerman was released from police custody as it is permitted by state law to use deadly force in self-defense and that there was no evidence contradicting Zimmerman’s version of the event.
Many rallied behind the Martin family as there was also no evidence that Martin had started the physical exchange to warrant his death as self-defense, which is why the Black Lives Matter movement was then formed, in an effort to stop the justification of killing innocent African Americans subjected to racial profiling as self-defence when self-defence was not necessarily needed.
After all, he could have just been walking down the street when a stranger decided to follow him despite authorities telling the man not to. Did Martin not have the right to defend himself from a stranger carrying a gun?
Since then, more publicised incidents of racial profiling in the United States have been skyrocketing as people have been more trained to record for proof after what had happened to Trayvon Martin, but unfortunately, putting a spotlight on the situation has not made things better as expected.
More and more episodes of racial profiling not only by random civilians but also police officers began to pop up, which only caused more outrage as police officers who have sworn to serve and protect the general public have been racially profiling, wrongfully detaining, shooting and killing innocent African Americans in an abuse of power towards black people when it’s their jobs to carry out justice.
And for years, both black and white Americans have been doing their best to highlight and stop incidents like this from continuing but have not gotten much of a productive response as the body count continues.
Atatiana Jefferson, an African American woman was shot dead in her own home after police officers were called in regarding an open front door. The officers present had not bothered to announce their presence or to at least knock on the door, for if they did, Atatiana would have known that they were there and could have had the chance to explain to them that it was her house. And the officers never identified themselves as police.
One of the officers, Aaron Dean, decided to sneak into the backyard of the house when Atatiana heard a noise coming from her dark backyard and pulled out a gun in self defense. After all, the officers didn’t bother to announce their presence as they should have so it’s only fair in situations like this to think that there could be a potential home invasion in progress, right?
Dean then yelled “Put your hands up! Show me your hands!” before shooting Atatiana through a window.
25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery was jogging through the outskirts of Brunswick near his home when he was accused of “looking like a man” suspected of unreported break-ins in the area and was pursued by a white father and son duo with guns in a truck. A physical altercation apparently ensued, which ended with Arbery dying of gunshots from the son.
The father and son duo was only arrested months later despite the fact that they admitted to shooting him and that they had no evidence of any wrongdoing by Arbery except the color of his skin.
The death of George Floyd was the last straw that caused the on-going protests against systemic police racism in America.
He died shortly after being detained by police officers, in which one of them was kneeling on Floyd’s neck as he laid on the ground, not resisting the arrest. “I can’t breath! I can’t breath,” Floyd could be heard struggling to say as the officer completely ignored his pleas.
And honestly, there are COUNTLESS other victims.
The dangers of racial profiling in America has become such a big issue as families are wrongfully losing their loved ones to a point where the BLM movement had to do something. So, they decided to protest the injustice of systemic police racism and demand change.
The protests have turned into riots due to the participation of white supremacy groups against the BLM movement, mixing in with legitimate protesters as reported by officials via CNN. “They do not represent the peaceful New Yorkers that want to protest,” the official said, as this causes a distraction away from the main cause of the protests.
With that factored in, it’s only fair that the BLM movement needs more supporters, may it be local or foreign, because how many more innocent people have to die before the US authorities realise that there is a serious problem with their policing system.
Because in understanding the importance of the BLM movement and the pain and fear experienced by African Americans in the US, we may be able to help Malaysians understand the severity of judging a person based on the colour of their skin.
By supporting the BLM movement, we can help Malaysians understand that discrimination and judgement experienced because of the colour of one’s skin is not a choice. We can help employers understand that race shouldn’t stop a person from becoming a contributing member to their company.
We can help the general public understand that refugees need all the help they can get and immigrants are just as valuable as the rest of us.
And with that being said, it is understandable that Malaysians are worried about the BLM movement taking us away from own problems, but the importance remains at the fact that innocent people are dying in the hands of injustice and we are highly capable in tackling our own problems while helping to shine a spotlight on theirs.
After all, just because we have our own problems doesn’t mean that the BLM movement isn’t important and in need of all the support they can get. I mean, if we can rally against the injustice happening in Palestine while dealing with our own issues, what’s to say we can’t do the same for the BLM movement, right?
And maybe, with the support that we can provide the BLM movement and seeing it through to the end where hopefully, the systemic police racism in America is resolved, we can find methods on tackling the racial injustice that is widespread in our own country.
Hence, let’s not condemn Malaysians supporting the BLM movement for ‘choosing to highlight racism in a foreign country instead of Malaysia’. If someone is not interested in the BLM movement, that’s also entirely up to that person.
Because, yes, our own racist problems matter. But black lives matter too.
What are your thoughts about this? Let us know in the comment section below.
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