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All Black Bodies Matter

By Eryn L. Pollard 

We Will Not Be Silenced: All Black Lives Matter.

 

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Black bodies have been uniquely compromised and exploited by racial injustices and inequalities. During COVID-19, we have seen how communities of color have been disproportionately affected by unemployment and racial disparities. Due to the social and economic instability of COVID-19, we have seen something occur in America that we have not seen for a long time. A revolution that is spearheaded by Black people for Black people who are unapologetically asserting the truth, Black Lives Matter. In this, we refuse to continue to allow American people to ignore that Black bodies are deserving to be recognized as people and treated with respect, grace, equal opportunity and dignity.

 

As of 2015, “non-Hispanic black males had the highest rate (1.0 per 100,000 population), 2.5 times the rate for non-Hispanic white males (0.4 per 100,000),” to be victims of lethal force in legal interventions.[1] More recently, according to a 2017 Police Violence Report, although Black people were less likely to be armed and less likely to be threatening, Black people are more likely to be killed by the police.[2]

 

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The unjust and brutal killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd are but three of the thousands upon thousands of Black lives who have been unjustly killed by law enforcement. Michael Brown, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and, as of June 12, 2020, Rayshard Brooks are but four of the thousands upon thousands of Black lives whose death has been recorded and viewed by American citizens, who are now being forced to be uncomfortable and recognize the privilege that comes with the color of their skin, their socio-economic status, their gender, or the intersectionality of all three.

 

When protestors are marching while chanting “Black Lives Matter” it is imperative that those listening recognize that the statement of “Black Lives Matter” is synonymous with “All Black Lives Matter”, in whatever form, shape, color, sexual orientation, or gender-identity. When we shout, “Black Lives Matter”, we are not only demanding justice for Black men, Michael Brown, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd. We are also demanding justice for Black women, Pamela Turner, Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor. We are also demanding justice for Black transgender or non-binary Black people like Iyanna Dior and Toney McDade. According to the US Transgender Survey (USTS), “over half (58%) of transgender people who interacted with law enforcement that knew they were transgender in the last year reported experiences of harassment, abuse or other mistreatment by the police.” [1] Moreover, when we shout “Black Lives Matter”, we are not only demanding complete reform, but also demanding that these legal protections encompass all Black lives, not only cis-gender or gender normative notions of who should be protected and who is a threat to what is “comfortable”.

 

As such, when we shout “Black Lives Matter” we are demanding equality for all Black Lives. We are demanding American institutions to be accountable and assess their part in perpetuating systemic racism. We are demanding that in the pursuit of equality, progress is intersectional and intergenerational, and all Black bodies deserve to be treated as equals, as people.

 

Consequently, when people respond to the truth, “Black Lives Matter” with “All Lives Matter” or use gender normative language to exclude people from the conversation, I encourage you to recognize those words and behaviors only serve to defend the current state of inequality. Remember that yes, all lives do matter, but historically American institutions do not treat every person equally and specific communities and bodies are systemically being ignored, silenced, demonized, brutalized and exploited.

 

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As members of the Black Lives Matter movement, as allies, as well as members of the entertainment industry, we have a duty to stay informed and to fight for equality to protect our colleges, crew members, cast members, writers, directors and so many others. We have a responsibility to be informed and follow the progression of legislation that will address police brutality such as: the Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act (seeking to authorize the Department of Justice to work with independent community based organizations to refine accreditation standards for law enforcement), the Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys (seeking to establish a bipartisan commission within the Office of Civil Rights tasked with examining social disparities affecting Black men and recommending changes to improve current government programs)[2], the Resolution Condemning Policy Brutality (condemning all acts of police brutality and the use of excessive force by law enforcement and calling for the end of the targeted profiling policing practices in people of color’s communities)[3], the National Statistics on Deadly Force Transparency Act (requiring any law enforcement agency receiving federal funds to provide data to the DOJ and public on every incident of the use of deadly force including information on the victim, explanation of the force used, and a description of non-lethal efforts)[4], the Justice in Policing Act (calling for a national registry of misconduct to keep record of incidents of excessive or lethal force to make it easier to hold officers accountable)[5]; to only list a few of the Bills that are currently in the House to address police brutality.

 

Furthermore, it is imperative to discuss the current recession of transgender related health care laws. Once again, June 12, 2020 was a sad day for American citizens as not only was Rayshard Brooks killed due to an excessive use of lethal force by law enforcement, but also, on the anniversary of the devastating and cruel shooting of members of the LGBTQ+ community at PULSE nightclub in Orlando, FL in 2016, the current administration and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) finalized a rule under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Title IX regulations. In this, the current administration has effectively decided that discrimination protections are exclusive on the basis of “biological sex” and do not encompass protections for “gender identity”[6]. Effectively, this revision has stripped equal protection laws from those who identify as a different gender then the “sex” they were given biologically. Legislation such as this, is legislation that the Black Lives Matter Movement cares about. We are not simply asking for law enforcement reform, but a complete systemic reformation. Legislation that takes protections away from Black trans men and women or Black non-binary people will not be tolerated. We demand justice for those who have lost their lives due to a false sense of truth and reality and ask you to recognize and comprehend that all Black lives matter. Any form of discrimination, whether it is on the basis of skin color, race, class, gender-identity, sex, religion, etc. is and will not be tolerated.

 

As of June 15, 2020, The Supreme Court of the United States issued an Opinion in case Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, 590 U. S. 1 (2020), protecting employee’s rights, condemning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity under the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This is only a first step in providing equal legal protections for all people and any form of discrimination, whether it is on the basis of skin color, race, class, gender-identity, sex, religion, etc. will not be tolerated.

 

It is our duty as people to celebrate Black bodies and to have difficult conversations surrounding Race, Gender, Class and Inequality. It is our duty to speak out against injustice and to be inclusive of all walks of life.

 

Say it with us, “BLACK LIVES MATTER”

 

Written By: Eryn L. Pollard

[1] Failing to Protect and Serve: Police Department Policies Towards Transgender People, National Center for Transgender Inequality (May 7, 2019), https://transequality.org/issues/resources/failing-to-protect-and-serve-police-department-policies-towards-transgender-people.

 

[2] Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys Act, H.R.1636, 116th Cong. (2019).

 

[3] H.R. Res 988, 116th Cong. (2019).

 

[4] National Statistics on Deadly Force Transparency Act of 2019, H.R.119, 116th Cong. (2019).

 

[5] Justice in Policing Act of 2020, H.R. 7120, 116th Cong. (2020).

 

[6] 42 C.F.R. §438, 440, 460 (2020) (scheduled to be published on the Federal Register on June 19, 2020)

 

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Eryn L. Pollard, is a second-year law student at Notre Dame Law School and is the secretary of the Black Law Students Association.