Catherine Triomphe, AFP, June 7, 2020
As massive crowds take over streets across the United States in support of black lives, “white silence is violence” has become a recurring theme, a push to spread awareness that discrimination in a country built on racism extends far beyond police brutality.
The Black Lives Matter movement was founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of the white man who shot dead Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old black youth, in Florida.
Since then, it has grown rapidly worldwide, founding dozens of chapters and organizing disruptions to draw attention to systemic ills — often ignored by white Americans, who are statistically affected the least by such issues — including police brutality, as well as housing, education and healthcare disparities.
The movement fueled a growing consciousness and organizing framework for years, building some of the forces necessary to foster the current explosion of protests.
And according to Candace McCoy — a criminologist at the City University of New York who has written on protest tactics — “one of the major differences in these protests, compared to others in the past 30 years, is the significant percentage of white people protesting on behalf of equal rights for black people.”
Even Barack Obama has noticed a difference: It’s “a far more representative cross-section of America out on the streets peacefully protesting, who felt moved to do something because of the injustices that they had seen,” the former president said during a recent digital town hall.
The marches that have for more than a week blossomed from New York to Los Angeles, including in many small towns and rural areas nationwide, are attracting older generations as well.
Some 49 percent of white Americans now say police are more likely to use excessive force against a black culprit — nearly double the 25 percent who said so in 2016.
And 78 percent of all Americans consider the anger triggered by George Floyd’s murder “fully” or “partially” justified.
It’s a sensitivity also growing on social media.
Meredith Parets, a teacher from Phoenix, Arizona, last week joined a protest and has subscribed to two groups related to the movement on Facebook.
One, “White People for Black Lives,” is aimed at helping white people detect and combat insidious forms of racism.