A year ago, I wrote a Valley Voices article headlined “Black Lives movement spotlights injustice.”
Before and since, there has been a lot of criticism of the Black Lives Matter movement. The reason there is a Black Lives Matter movement is that from the first moment that a black person came to this continent as a slave, black lives have never mattered as much as white lives.
This movement erupted because, as a rule, police are not prosecuted for killing unarmed black people, and if they are, they are usually not convicted. Justice is the issue.
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno has been studying BLM issues for over a year, a study that has included several readings. The most recent was “Waking Up White” by Debby Irving. Others have been “America’s Original Sin” by Jim Wallace and “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Through these readings, I’ve learned a lot. One of the more eye-opening issues involved “The Talk.” As a white person, I had no idea what that was. Was it referring to sex? No, this is a conversation that black parents have with their children, teaching them how to act around the police to not be arrested at best or killed at worst.
One of the big realizations of my readings has been the notion of white privilege. When I first heard this term, I thought, “Wait a second. My parents worked hard, and my wife and I worked hard for everything we have.”
Then I read about the GI Bill. The GI Bill was one of the greatest things that happened to develop the middle class in this country, allowing returning vets from World War II the opportunity to go to college and purchase homes. In my family’s case, my dad earned a doctoral degree thanks to the GI Bill, became a clinical psychologist, and we lived in nice neighborhoods.
Furthermore, this allowed my sister and me to attend University of California colleges and get good jobs. The only problem with the GI Bill was that it was highly discriminatory. Colleges had quota systems, which mostly excluded blacks, and the FHA, along with Realtors and lenders, mapped out neighborhoods based on skin color.
The white, desirable neighborhoods increased in value, allowing whites to build equity, while the black, undesirable neighborhood housing declined in value. For the 1 million black GIs who risked their lives in the war, their reward was to be mostly excluded from the GI Bill.
A more recent example of how black lives don’t matter happened in Flint, Mich. To save money, the state changed the water system from the Great Lakes to the local Flint River. Immediately, residents complained about the color and taste of their water.
High levels of lead went into residents’ bodies leading to irreversible brain damage in some children. People’s homes are now impossible to sell. Flint is a city of around 100,000 with a demographic breakdown of 57 percent black and 40 percent of the population below the poverty level. Could this happen in a predominantly white city of 100,000 people? I don’t believe so.
In the 2016 U.S. election, Greg Palast, a reporter for The Guardian in London, reported that a program called Crosscheck had been used by some 30 GOP secretaries of state, which has resulted in stripping more than 1.1 million predominantly black, Hispanic, Islamic and Asian American citizens from the voter rolls.
The number of voters eliminated in key states that Trump won would have easily given the election to Clinton. Green presidential candidate Jill Stein paid for a recount in three states. Nearly half of Wisconsin voters were denied a reliable hand recount largely in communities of color, the very places voting machines are most likely to fail.
In Michigan, 75,000 blank votes for president were turned in. Common sense suggests that this could not legitimately happen. Our voting system is a national scandal, and where is it being reported? Nowhere in the mainstream media. I ask myself why and it’s because black lives don’t matter.
Black Lives Matter is an important movement for justice in this country, which will be active and in the headlines until black lives really do matter.
Stephen Sacks is a resident of Fresno.