Trayvon Martin. Ferguson. Freddie Gray. “I can’t breathe.” These names and phrases have taken on special significance in recent years as iconic touchpoints highlighting systemic racial injustice in the United States. These touchpoints have given rise to a modern wave of Black activism that is reminiscent of the Civil Rights movement of the mid 1900’s. Leading the way is the “Black Lives Matter” (BLM) movement which emerged in response to the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012 and continues to have a voice in matters of inequality that impact Black Americans.
The “Black Lives Matter” movement has sparked a fervid national conversation on the state of race relations that is multilayered and complex. At its core, the movement raises concerns about the treatment of Black Americans across many social institutions (e.g. law enforcement, criminal justice, employment, education, etc.), but other debates have emerged from the movement. Should the concerns of Black Americans be considered separately or as part of a larger conversation that includes all races? Why is the phrase “All Lives Matter” antithetical to the goals of the BLM movement? How does the BLM movement address black-on-black violence? How do minorities reconcile oppression with patriotism?
As social scientists, you may be called upon to provide an opinion on difficult social topics like race and racism. By now you know that an informed opinion should be measured, based on evidence, and take into account multiple perspectives. For this topic, it’s important to understand the historical underpinnings of Black activism that have led to the “Black Lives Matter” movement of today.
Review the resources that follow and respond to the questions posed below:
Review the timeline of the Civil Rights Movement: http://cdn.knightlab.com/libs/timeline3/latest/embed/index.html?source=1hKEHsG1nec6_wYwX7thFZrBTqyDsURcRAXb7d0X8PiY
Separate but Equal – Plessy v Ferguson (1896): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uGvkOBxp0VY
View the video entitled “Freedom Now: The Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi” at: http://www.choices.edu/resources/detail.php?id=203
Explore the following pages from the BlackLivesMatter.com site:
After reviewing these resources (and others that you may find), respond to the following questions:
1) Identify some pivotal moments or issues from before the year 2000 that have shaped the civil rights movement and set the stage for the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
2) In your own words, what is the “Black Lives Matter” Movement and what is its primary mission?
3) How have people from diverse backgrounds reacted to the “Black Lives Matter” Movement? Provide some examples from the news or the Web to support your response. Remember to cite your sources.
4) How might social scientists from different disciplines talk about these issues? For example, what questions would a psychologist ask compared to an anthropologist? What issues would be the focus of a sociologist? How might a gerontologist frame this problem (think about what older people may have witnessed or experienced regarding race relations)? What other social scientists might be interested in this issue?
5) What are some potential controversies inherent in this issue? Think about why this social problem might be difficult to solve. Are there gaps in our knowledge? Lack of resources? Opposing political views? Think broadly and from an interdisciplinary perspective in order to respond to this question.
6) Where does the solution lie? Are there policies that need to be changed or enacted to resolve the issue? Are there programs or services that might help? What agencies or industries are best equipped to help?
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