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The Spirit of the Protests and the Black Lives Matter Movement

Let’s have an honest discussion about the Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality and systemic racism

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Protesters raise their fists at George Floyd’s memorial service in Minneapolis.
Lorie Shaull via the Wikimedia Commons

The Anonymous Eagle staff denounces racism, discrimination, and bigotry of all types and supports those who protest peacefully against police brutality and social injustice that has been a part of this country for too long. We strive to bring unity to our community through listening, learning, and advocating for our Black brothers and sisters who struggle every day to have their voices heard.

Over the last three weeks we have seen many organizations, companies, and institutions, including Marquette University, release a statement similar to the one above. This statement might mean something different for different people. Reactions seem to be generally falling between “Yes, I know, I’m not racist. This is just another isolated incident of a bad cop killing someone,” and “Finally! Someone is speaking out to support the people that have been suffering under the plight of oppression for so long!”

If your reaction was more similar to the first example, I encourage you to ask yourself why. Why do Black Lives Matter? Why are there so many people protesting the death of George Floyd? Why have police reacted with force towards otherwise peaceful protesters? Instead of having a snap reaction to what you see on the news, dig deeper and ask yourself why it’s all happening. I encourage you to have an open heart and an open mind as I offer my perspective as to why our nation’s people of color have had enough.

If your reaction was similar to the second example, I want you to know that I hear you. I stand with you in the fight against racism, police brutality, and oppression. I am open to learning more about the systemic racism in this country. I want to be your ally and advocate.

I know we typically keep it pretty easygoing on this blog. But I feel like this is a serious issue that needs to be discussed. It’s not just an isolated incident of violence. And it’s not an issue that only affects the city of Minneapolis.

The Milwaukee community has had many protests over the last three weeks, so it’s an issue that hits home for Marquette University. We have seen Marquette athletes speak out about how this issue affects them. Marquette also made the difficult but right decision this week to rescind a women’s lacrosse player’s commitment letter due to an oppressive and racist Snapchat post that dehumanized George Floyd. You didn’t see that headline on our site here, because there was nothing that we were going to write about it that was better than what Zoe Comerford did for the Marquette Wire in that link. Go read it if you haven’t already done so. Oppression and racism hits close to home. So let’s talk about it.

I understand that we live in a world where there’s many differing perspectives, experiences, and world views. It’s taken me a while to figure out what I want to say as I’ve been watching the news and seeing all the reaction on social media. But I want to share my perspective on these protests against police brutality and the Black Lives Matter Movement. I’m hoping that with respectful dialogue and conversation we can bring unity and peace to a divided and violent reality that we live in.

I am a Marquette University alumnus. I am a Christian. I am Latino. I am Colombian-American. I am 24 years old. I am neither a Republican nor a Democrat. I am the eldest of three siblings. I am interested in sports, spirituality, and music. I value respect, genuine care for others, and a good sense of humor.

I feel like I just created my Tinder profile. But the reason I did this was to show you who I am. This is my identity.

We have an identity crisis in America. As a country, we are divided by our values and our world views. Ideally, our differences should spark dialogue where we are able to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes, learn about their culture and societal struggles, and ultimately come to find common ground with each other. Instead, some of these divides are currently causing a lot of suffering and fear as both peaceful protests and uprisings are happening in every major city in America. This is not a political issue. This is a social justice issue. Nevertheless, one side blames the uprisings on the protesters while the other blames it on the President’s and other lawmakers’ rhetoric and police brutality.

Here’s where I stand. It is the responsibility of our leaders, be it in our local communities, our cities, our states, or our country, to foster peace and unity through action for all people, and especially people of color who have been silenced for too long. There are many ways our leaders can act in a way to restore peace and unity in this country. But before action, there needs to be a recognition that there is systemic racism within police departments and other institutions of power across the nation. I am troubled to say that I don’t see our nation’s leaders recognizing systemic racism as a problem.

The answer to violence cannot be more violence. When the President demands that the states use the United States military to help contain protesters, that is sending a message of violence. He believes that more violence will bring an end to the uprisings. While eventually the uprisings may be contained, the only thing that rises to my mind is the question: “At what cost?” How many times will we see senseless acts of violence by police towards peaceful protesters? How is this violence towards peaceful protesters not a civil rights violation? How about Americans’ First Amendment freedom to protest peacefully? How many American lives will be forever altered through devastating injury, if not actually lost? Even if police are able to quell the uprisings, the underlying issue of systemic racism is still not being addressed.

The answer to uprisings must be empathetic and peaceful dialogue. Everyone from our elected leaders at all levels down to each individual American must ask themselves “why?” Why is it important to point out that Black Lives Matter? Why is George Floyd’s death causing so much unrest? Why are police using excessive force against unarmed protesters? In reality, the violence has come from many angles. From cops instigating and using force against peaceful protesters, to protesters’ response to that, to third parties who don’t appear to be connected to the protesters rebelling and looting stores and businesses. It’s important to note that police have turned to aggressive tactics, including tear gas and rubber bullets, during many of the peaceful protests which have only exacerbated the cries against police brutality.

This is ostensibly a Marquette sports blog, so I want to turn the attention to some of the current and former MU student athletes who have put themselves front and center on the topic, both in general as well as specifically when it comes to the protest marches.

Former men’s basketball guard Sacar Anim talked to WISN 12 in Milwaukee about his participation in a march in his hometown of Minneapolis.

Current men’s basketball forward Theo John passed along the clip of Anim talking to the local news with a powerful statement about the support that he feels that his community needs right now.

Current men’s basketball guard Koby McEwen might list Toronto as hometown, but he’s in Milwaukee right now. He’s both speaking out about the emotion he feels from the community but also talking with WISN 12 about why he’s participating in the protests.

Current women’s basketball forward and MU legacy Chloe Marotta focused her regular coronavirus/summer Chloe’s Corner conversation with her teammates at the topic at hand, talking to redshirt guard Antwainette Walker about the protests and social justice.

You shouldn’t be surprised that men’s basketball legend Dwyane Wade had something that he needed to get off of his chest. Wade played a part in organizing a Miami Heat photographic statement after the shooting death of Trayvon Martin back in 2012, so this is not an unfamiliar stance for him.

The Marquette athletic department and the Marquette Student Athlete Council issued a joint statement.

Lastly, President Lovell also shared his thoughts on George Floyd’s murder and racism.

This issue of systemic racism and police brutality is directly impacting the lives of current and former Marquette student athletes. Theo John, Sacar Anim, Koby McEwen, Antwainette Walker, Dwyane Wade, and many others have been outspoken about this issue and participated in protests over the last three weeks. These issues are important for them, and they should be important for all of us.

When people say “Black Lives Matter,” it is because our Black community has continually faced oppression since the beginning of this nation. It has not stopped. Many leaders, like Abraham Lincoln and Lyndon Johnson, have placed a band-aid over the issue with the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil Rights Act of 1965. Unfortunately, it is clear that the underlying ideology of systemic racism has not gone away. Until Black men can go jogging without fear of being murdered by vigilantes for being Black, until cops stop pulling over Black men and women for “fitting the description,” until Black women can sleep peacefully in their own homes without fear of being shot by police for doing absolutely nothing wrong, systemic racism will continue to ravage this country.

George Floyd’s death is not an isolated incident. Breonna Taylor, Michael Dean, Christopher McCorvey, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Keith Harrison McLeod, Natasha McKenna, Tamir Rice, LaQuan McDonald, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner are just a few Black Americans who have been killed by police since 2014. People of color are sick and tired of seeing yet another human who looks like them needlessly killed at the hands of the police.

It’s not just this horrendous act of violence against George Floyd that has caused outrage. It’s the fact that it took nearly two weeks for all the officers involved in Floyd’s death to be arrested. It’s the fact that some of the officers who killed the people I listed above were not arrested or charged. That’s why Americans are protesting the killing of George Floyd, because it’s not just about his death or even the specific details of how his life ended. The protests demand justice for the many other Black Americans who have been killed as a result of police brutality. The protests demand an end to systemic racism that has plagued this country for too long. The protests are a call for common decency between people who are at their core more similar as human beings than they are different for any reason.

The protests and the marches are having some immediate impact on the world that we live in. On May 29, Derek Chauvin, the now-former Minneapolis Police Department officer who killed George Floyd, was charged with second-degree manslaughter and third-degree murder, a charge that was later upgraded to second-degree murder by Minnesota’s Attorney General on June 3. That same day, the other Minneapolis PD officers involved were charged with aiding and abetting murder.

On June 4, two Buffalo police officers were suspended without pay after shoving a 75-year-old protester to the ground, causing injuries that resulted in hospitalization. These officers were later charged with felony assault on June 6.

On June 7, members of the Minneapolis City Council announced their intent to disband the police department and instead focus on developing a community-based public safety system. Since then, government officials and protesters in cities around the country have called to defund their police departments. Earlier this week, Milwaukee Alderman Russell Stamper II revealed his plan to introduce an “I Can’t Breathe” resolution at the Milwaukee Common Council Meeting on June 16th. This resolution would require an officer to let go of anyone who says “I Can’t Breathe” while being apprehended.

On June 11, the Louisville Metro Council voted to ban no-knock warrants calling it Breonna’s Law. This law was named after Breonna Taylor who was killed in mid-March by police in her own home after they executed a no-knock search on the wrong house.

In the sports world, NASCAR and the US Soccer Federation have taken steps to actively support Black lives and work to end racism within each organization’s culture. The NFL Commissioner admitted that he made a mistake when he banned players from kneeling during the national anthem. Many other sports leagues and teams have denounced racism and supported the Black Lives Matter movement since the beginning of the protests. Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo joined protesters last week along with some of his teammates. The Big East, Marquette’s athletic conference, issued a statement reiterating its stance when it comes to diversity and inclusion.

All this to say that this is an issue that affects all of us—regardless of the color of our skin. I’ve heard the term “all lives matter” tossed around on the news and social media to respond to the Black Lives Matter protests. Not only is this insensitive and ignorant, but if all lives really do matter, then we must do everything we can to support all lives at all times. Further, the concept that only white lives matter is the default in our society. A recent study conducted by the Center for Talent Innovation found that while Black people make up 12% of the population, they only represent 0.8% of senior leadership roles at Fortune 500 companies. Unfortunately, this trend is present in every sector of the American workforce. People of color are fighting oppression and systemic racism every day in this country, and right now, they need the support more than any other group. This goes deeper than just the threat of police brutality, too. Recently, I saw Los Angles Lakers guard Kyle Kuzma repeat an analogy in an essay published by The Players’ Tribune that stuck with me.

He said that every white person wears an invisible backpack. If they’re ever in need, they can open it up and use the contents, from a “Get Out of Jail Free” card to job opportunities, health benefits, and housing loans. It’s not a conscious choice because it’s not a real backpack; it’s just something that works for them because dealing with most things is easier for them than it is for our Black and Brown brothers and sisters.

Marquette University preaches the Jesuit values of inclusion, diversity, and care for the other. As a Marquette student, alumnus, or even just a fan of the teams that wear MU blue and gold, it is our responsibility to educate ourselves on systemic racism and how police brutality affects people of color. We can no longer silently stand by as people of color are oppressed, discriminated against, and killed by the police.

There are many ways you can join the fight against racism and police brutality. There are educational resources available if you’re looking to learn more about systemic racism. For the people living in the Milwaukee/Chicago area, here’s a helpful list of ways you can contribute that was put together by a recent Marquette alum. You can also donate to various organizations that work to help people of color who are victims of police brutality. You can sign various petitions to push city leaders to reform police departments and demand justice for the countless people who have been unjustly killed by police. Lastly, you can join a peaceful protest in your city. The only way to spark meaningful and lasting change is for us all do to our part to fight the evil of racism and police brutality.

It’s been nearly three weeks since George Floyd was killed by former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin. We must not forget Floyd’s name and the names of the many others who have died because of police brutality. There has been some positive change in the last couple of weeks, but we must continue to diligently fight for Black lives and all people of color who encounter systemic racism regularly.