We have placed “Black Lives Matter” signs on our YWCA Evanston/North Shore property because we hope to continue generating thoughtful community-wide discussion about, and attention to, the daily plight of black men, women, and young people in our country.
There are those who will question our decision. Some might mention that it is important to include in this movement all of the many racial or ethnic groups in our diverse communities. Others could argue that since “Eliminating Racism” is part of our mission, we already are letting the world know that we care about black lives. Or one could join those who say, “Don’t all lives matter? Why focus on only one group?”
Because our society historically has, and continues to this day, to send the message, in many different ways, that black lives do not matter. We have come to accept, ignore, become indifferent to, or not even see the experience black people have in our society. Until we acknowledge and truly understand the impact systemic racism has had on black lives, we must continue to bring attention to this injustice in every way we can.
Yes, ALL lives matter. Many of us know our lives matter because of the way we and our family members get treated by school personnel, law enforcement, the courts, merchants, potential landlords or employers, etc. However, others in our communities, specifically those who are black, live these truths:
Students of color are disciplined more severely than white students are, for the same behaviors, beginning as early as preschool. While black people make up 18% of students in preschool, they account for 42% of students with an out-of-school suspension and 48% of those with multiple out-of-school suspensions. (U.S. Dept. of Education)
Black borrowers are more likely to get turned down for conventional mortgage loans than white people with similar credit scores. (Urban Institute)
Black drivers are nearly twice as likely as white drivers to be asked during a routine traffic stop for “consent” to have their car searched. Yet white motorists are 49% more likely than black motorists to have contraband discovered during a consent search. (ACLU of Illinois)
White Americans use drugs more than black Americans, but black people are arrested for drug possession more than three times as often as white people. (National Survey on Drug Use and Health, Bureau of Justice Statistics)
Sentences imposed on black males in the federal system are nearly 20 percent longer than those imposed on white males convicted of similar crimes. (U.S. Sentencing Commission, 2013)
There are countless examples of the disparities that exist. The YWCA Evanston/North Shore wants to make clear that we stand with citizens in our community and throughout the country in further understanding the issues being raised by the Black Lives Matter movement.
And until black lives matter as much as any other life, we will continue to listen, read, share, talk and listen some more, in the hopes of being allies to those who are working so hard for racial equity. Here are a few stories that might be helpful to those who would like more background:
“St. Louis Bookstore’s Amazing Response to Losing a Customer Over Black Lives Matter Storefront Signs” by David Harris-Gershon, Daily Kos
“The Condition of Black Life is One of Mourning” by Claudia Rankine, NY Times
“Police Abuse is a Form of Terror” by Charles Blow, NY Times
“Signs Indicate Black Lives Matter Campaign Gaining Support Among Whites” by Derrick Blakely, CBS Chicago
We invite you to join us.
Karen Singer is president/CEO, YWCA Evanston/North Shore.