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The Timeline of Events Leading To The Black Lives Matter Movement

On the 20th of February 2012, Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old African American teenager was shot by a neighbourhood watch captain, George Zimmerman. According to CNN reports, the two had a physical altercation, Zimmerman shot Martin and claimed that it was self-defence. Prior to the physical altercation, Zimmerman spotted Martin, who was carrying ice-tea and candy as he walked from a store. He called 911 to report, "a suspicious person in his neighbourhood." On the 11th of April 2012, George Zimmerman was charged with second degree murder. However, on July 13th 2013, he was acquitted of all charges. This resulted in protests and led to the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement. Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors created the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter (BLM) in protest. Since then, the hashtag has been used in protests about injustices inflicted on Black people. Black Lives Matter is now an international human rights movement that campaigns against violence and systemic racism towards Black people. 

 

This year, in April, a racist TikTok video was reposted on Twitter and went viral.

In the video, two high school seniors are seen ‘making’ Black people. They put a piece of paper with the racial slur ‘n**gers’ in a sink. At the beginning of the video, the female explains that they are making ‘n**gers’. The male pours cups of water into the sink to indicate the traits that Black people have. Under each cup there is a piece of paper and written on each paper was the trait that Black people have, according to the couple that made this video. The first trait was “don’t have a dad," followed by, “eat watermelon and fried chicken," “rob people," and after this trait the male added, “specifically whites." Then they added two more traits, “don’t make good choices” and, lastly, “go to jail." Twitter users called out the video and contacted the students’ high school. Their school announced that the students were no longer enrolled there. This is not the only racist TikTok video that went viral this year. There are several more that were posted, and, understandably, Black people were infuriated by them.

 

In addition to the racist TikTok videos, there are pictures of African people sleeping on the street, because they have been evicted from their homes and were turned away by hotels. There are also videos showing the mistreatment of Africans by Chinese people amid the second wave of the Coronavirus in China. 

The second wave of Coronavirus in China was linked to people from abroad. This sparked racism and xenophobia. African people living in the city of Guangzhou, in the Guangdong province, were forced to quarantine - most got evicted as businesses and hotels refused to do business with them.  Even with videos and photos circulating on social media, the Chinese government insisted that there is no racism in China. In an interview conducted by a US broadcast journalist, Richelle Carey, about the ill treatment of African people in China, Victor Gao, an international relations and diplomacy specialist, would not admit that there is racism and xenophobia in China, even after hearing two African people, Gabriella Dilantin and Keith Richburg, talk about their experiences as African people living in china. 

This was not the first time China angered African people with acts of racism. In 2017, pictures comparing African people to animals were exhibited in a Chinese museum. The pictures were taken down after African people complained.

Besides the mistreatment of African people in China, statistics show that in the USA, the number of Black people that die from Coronavirus is higher than the number of other races. Furthermore, there were claims that Black patients with COVID-19 were being “murdered." Nicole Sirotek, a nurse from Elko, Nevada, made a Facebook live video where she described that people are not dying from Coronavirus but from being “medically mismanaged."

 

In the video, Sirotek said that Black lives don’t matter in the two New York hospitals where she has worked. She goes on to describe the things and "mistakes" that nurses and doctors make, which end up ending the lives of African and Latino patients. She said that when she advocates for the patients, she gets moved to another unit and gets new patients.

Another video of a white woman calling the police on an African American man, Christian Cooper, who was bird watching, went viral on social media.

Christian Cooper asked Amy Cooper to follow one of the rules of Central Park. He asked her to put her dog on a leash, but she refused. She asked Christian Cooper to stop recording her while walking closer to him and Christian Cooper asked her not to come close to him. Amy Cooper then told Christian Cooper that she was going to call the cops and tell them that, “there is an African American man threatening my life.” Christian Cooper then told her to tell them whatever she likes. She reported that she was in a ramble, and that there was an African American man in a bicycle helmet recording her and her dog. “I’m being threatened by a man, please send cops immediately," Amy said hysterically. This video started conversations about racism and the danger of racist police calls.

 

On the 25th of May 2020, an African American man, George Floyd, was killed during a police arrest. An 8 minute and 46 second video of a Minneapolis police officer, kneeling on his neck, trended on social media and triggered protests in America.

 

Floyd allegedly bought cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. The New York Times reconstructed, in detail, the minutes leading to George Floyd’s death. According to their reports, their videos show officers taking, “a series of actions that violated the policies of the Minneapolis police department and turned fatal, leaving Mr Floyd unable to breathe." The four police officers who were involved in George Floyd’s death were all fired the day after his death. At least 40 countries took part in George Floyd protests to show solidarity with Americans, using hashtags #BlackLiveMatter, #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd, #GeorgeFloyd and “I can’t breathe” - the words that George Floyd said when Derek Chauvin was kneeling on his neck. People all over the world made their voices heard and helped to get justice for George Floyd. The four former police officers were all arrested. Derek Chauvin was charged with second degree murder and the other three officers, Thomas Lane, J.A Keung and Tou Thao were charged with aiding and abetting second degree murder in the commission of a felony. It took a global movement to get all four police officers to be charged for the murder of George Floyd. Statistics also show that more unarmed African Americans die at a much higher rate in police custody. African Americans only make up 13% of the population, yet they are two-and-a-half times as likely as white Americans to be killed by police. 

 

There are a lot of events that led to the Black Lives Matter movement. The list of injustices that are inflicted on Black people all over the world is long. George Floyd’s death enraged Black people and triggered them to protest, even though that poses a threat to their health. Allies of the Black Lives Matter movement also risked their health by protesting in their countries, amid the Coronavirus. Because of all these injustices that have been inflicted on Black people over the years, especially in 2020, one could say that the global Black Lives Matter and George Floyd protests were inevitable.

 

 

Selloane Ntlatlapo is a 2nd year BSocSci student majoring in Politics, Gender studies and Journalism. When she is not stressing about assignments instead of starting them, she spends her days crocheting, watching movies/series, or watching videos on TikTok. She is a firm believer of “wear it anyway”. She is passionate about equality and inclusion.
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