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Black Lives Matter Essay

Black Lives Matter Essay

Potential Topics:

The Beginning of the Black Lives Matter Movement

Trayvon Martin’s Killing by George Zimmerman

Police Brutality against African Americans

Black Lives Matter: Terrorist Organization or Civil Rights Organization?


Alternate Titles:

The Black Lives Matter Movement: Modern Day Civil Disobedience

Black Lives Matter: Why Saying All Lives Matter Ignores the Underlying Social Justice Issues

The Black Lives Matter Movement: An Exploration of Why Minority Groups Sometimes Have to Stand Apart in Order to Achieve Equality



I.  Introduction to Black Lives Matter

II.  Founded by Women

     A.  Alicia Garza

     B. Patrisse Cullors

     C.  Opal Tometi

III.  Institutional Racism

IV.  The Power of Protest

V.   Allegations of Terrorism

VI.  Conclusion


This essay focuses on the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States.  One of the more controversial movements in recent American history because of critiques that it is anti-police, the Black Lives Matter movement began as a response to George Zimmerman being acquitted of the murder of Trayvon Martin and gained force as people became increasingly aware of the killings of unarmed or compliant African Americans by police officers.  The result is that opinions of the Black Lives Matter movement vary, with some people considering them a vibrant new civil rights movement, while others consider them domestic terrorists.  


The Black Lives Matter Movement:

Fighting for Civil Rights or Fighting for Superiority?

December 5, 2016


A2 A2: Headings are left-justified in regular font (can be bold, though APA does not require them to be in bold- check with your teacher for specific instructions). Introduction

Although the Black Lives Matter movement has become controversial, with some people going to far as to label it a terrorist group, it simply began as a group of mothers who saw George Zimmerman’s acquittal for the killing of Trayvon Martin as a stark example of the devaluation of black life by American society.  The movement gained steam during the following years, when police killings of unarmed black people were not only occurring frequently, but also being caught on cell phone.  Furthermore, while most of the assailants never faced charges, when they were charged, it was generally for lesser offenses than murder and convictions were not forthcoming.  To the founders of the A3 A3: In this paper, we have included a hyperlink to the “About Us” section of the Black Lives Matter movement’s own website. If you are turning in a virtual copy of a paper or preparing a paper, essay, or article for online publication, you may want to consider using hyperlinks. In many ways they function like footnotes functioned in the years before the internet, allowing readers who are curious about specific concepts or ideas in your paper an easy way to explore them further. They also allow you to define or explain things without taking up room in the body of your paper.  Black Lives Matter group, this was evidence, not necessarily of personal racism or intentional racial animosity, but of the type of systemic racism that has been seen as devastating the black community.  The response was to create a group that was designed to educate people about institutional racism and then fight that racism with the simple phrase “black lives matter.”

Thesis Statement:

            The Black Lives Matter Movement was created by Garza, Cullors, and Tometi to be an organization that not only bring attention to institutionalized racism and violence against African Americans, but also seek solutions to those problems. 

Body of Paper:


            Traditionally, civil rights groups have been led by black men, rather than by black women.  Whether advocating for equality or positing a form of Black nationalism, these movements have tended to be patriarchal in nature.  There are many reasons for this, and one of the most significant reasons may be that African American males are targeted by racism at higher rates than African American women.  However, Black Lives Matter is a woman-driven movement, and it began with a Facebook post by founder Alicia Garza, which stated, “Black people.  I love you.  I love us.  Our lives matter” (Altman, 2016).  Her friend and co-founder Patrisse Cullors added the hashtag that would come to make the movement iconic.  Both Garza and Cullors were already activist that worked with members of the black community, and they were joined by Opal Tometi, a New York immigration activist, to form this movement with the goal of bringing recognition to the fact that African American lives are systemically devalued in American society and to try to fix those problems. 

Institutional Racism

            When many people think of racism, they think of overt thoughts or acts of hatred directed by one group towards another group.  While these things certainly qualify as racism, racism can be far more subtle and far more pervasive than simple overt acts.  The Black Lives Matter movement has outlined several areas of American society where racial bias, whether intentional or inadvertent, has helped perpetuate race-based classism in American society.  These include: Black poverty; violence against women and children; the unique challenges faced by trans and queer members of the Black community; Blacks who are also undocumented immigrants; the high incarceration rates of Blacks in the United States; how differently abled and disabled Black individuals are treated by the government and society; and the use of Black women during times of conflict (Black Lives Matter, 2016).  All of these problems are pervasive, many of them are multi-faceted, and none of them lend themselves to the type of quick or simple solution that people want when confronted with social problems and social justice issues.  However, the fact that the problems are so complicated and cannot be solved without addressing multiple levels of institutionalized racism is why the founders of the movement believe that a new approach to civil rights is necessary.

The Power of Protest

            While it is overly simplistic to suggest that there has ever been a single unified approach to African American rights at any point in time in American history, it is correct to suggest that certain time periods have been dominated by certain types of civil rights advocacy.  For the last half-century, the dominant paradigm has been loosely based on the very successful 1960s Civil Rights Movement.  However, while this model was very effective at ending the de jure discrimination of the Jim Crow era, it has proven to be far less effective at ending the de facto discrimination that most African Americans experience during their lifetimes.  The Black Lives Matter movement has distinguished itself from earlier civil rights movements.  “Like the Occupy movement, it eschews hierarchy and centralized leadership, and its members have not infrequently been at odds with older civil-rights leaders and with the Obama Administration- as well as with one another” (Cobb, 2016). 

            The movement has taken the idea of protest, which was an effective component of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, and incorporated it into modern activism.  However, instead of the peaceful and organized protests that were aimed at merely making a statement, many of the modern Black Lives Matter protests are intended to be disruptive.  The protests may occur during rush hour or may be aimed at creating financial disruptions (Shulleeta, 2016).  Moreover, in cities with active Black Lives Matter groups, the protests may be frequent, so that, instead of a single isolated disruption, they can cause frequent disruptions.  This is not unintentional; one of the goals of the movement is to cause people to focus attention on institutionalized racism, which is easy to ignore unless one is impacted by it. 

In addition, many Black Lives Matter protests have been focused on ending police brutality towards African Americans and have occurred after the police have killed unarmed or compliant African American males in scenarios that do not seem to have warranted the use of any type of force, much less deadly force.  These protests by Black Lives Matter members have, for the most part, been peaceful.  However, Black Lives Matter has not been the only group represented at the protests and not all of the protests have been handled responsibly by local governments or law enforcement, which has resulted in rioting and violence.  Because there is no official organization for the Black Lives Matter group, some of these activities have been attributed to Black Lives Matter, and circumstances made it impossible to disprove those allegations. 

Allegations of Terrorism

            In fact, because of the financial disruptions and the rioting, some people have gone so far as to take the position that the Black Lives Matter movement is a terrorist group.  They have decided that a movement that wants police to stop killing unarmed black men is somehow anti-police or in favor of people killing police officers, though there has been no link between Black Lives Matter and any of the assaults on police officers that occurred in retaliation for perceived race-based attacks.  In addition, detractors take issue with the idea that the movement is suggesting that only black lives matter and believes that the movement is suggesting that other lives do not matter, and directly or indirectly, inciting violence against whites.


            However, these opinions reflect an ignorance, not only of what the founders and leaders of the movement desire, but also of institutionalized racism in the United States.  Describing Black Lives Matter as a racist, terrorist, or violent group requires ignoring the factual history of race-relations in the United States and assuming that, up until this point, African American lives have been treated with the same respect as white lives.  However, when one examines objective evidence across a broad range of social measures, it becomes clear that African Americans are still experiencing a significant amount of discrimination and that United States society devalues black lives in comparison to white lives.  Therefore, the message is not that black lives should matter more than other lives, but that they should matter as much as other lives.


A4 A4: References are listed on a separate page, following the conclusion of the text. It is labeled References, which is centered at the top of the page. Works Cited / Bibliography / References:

Altman, A.  (2016).  Person of the year: The short list: No. 4: Black Lives Matter.  Retrieved November 29, 2016 from Time Magazine website:

A5 A5: On-line references in APA format follow a simple, basic format: author, date, title of the page or article, date it was retrieved, website where it was retrieved, and the URL address for the article. Black Lives Matter.  (2016).  About us.  Retrieved November 29, 2016 from Black Lives Matter website: A6 A6: Even if we had not used this source as an in-text citation, we would include it in the reference list because of the hyperlink that sends readers to the page.

Cobb, J.  (2016, March 14).  The matter of Black Lives.  Retrieved November 29, 2016 from The New Yorker website:

Shulletta, B.  (2016, November 28).  13 Black Lives Matter protesters sentenced to five days in jail for blocking Richmond interstate.  Retrieved November 29, 2016 from the Richmond-Times Dispatch website:

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