Part 1 in a series
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The online platform turned national organization project — Black Lives Matter — started as a call to action against anti-Black racism following the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who fatally shot unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin.

According to The New York Times, the jury rejected the prosecution’s argument that Zimmerman deliberately pursued and started what became a lethal fight with Martin because he assumed he was a criminal. The verdict wasn’t a surprise, certainly not to black people who have experienced and/or witnessed similar outcomes over and over again. Alicia Garza, a co-creator of Black Lives Matter, explained in a Colorlines interview:

A lot of what we were seeing on Facebook and in our conversations was, “I knew they would never convict [Zimmerman]. He would never go to jail.” For us, it wasn’t actually about using the criminal justice system to solve our issues. For us, it’s really about asking, “Do black lives matter in our society?” and what do we need to do to make that happen. We know that someone going to jail is not going to make black lives matter. What’s going to make those lives matter is working hard for an end to state violence in black communities, knowing that that’s going to benefit all communities.

The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter soon became a rallying call. Within days of tweeting it out, Garza teamed up with Patrisse Cullors, executive director of the Coalition to End Police Violence in L.A. Jails, and Opal Tometi, who runs the Black Alliance for Just Immigration. Together, these women started a dialogue about what it means to be black in this country, to be the target of a system of anti-Black racism.

The persistent, strained relationship between law enforcement and African Americans that has led to a string of police-related incidents and fatalities is part of that system. The fatal shooting of yet another unarmed, black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, followed by yet another grand jury decision not to indict the white police officer who shot him, begs the question again: Don’t black lives matter?

Recurring incidents like these across the country shine a dim light on the everyday biases and racial, political, and socio-economic structures that uphold racial inequalities and privilege whiteness. But Black Lives Matter is not just about racism; it’s about anti-Black racism.

At this critical time, we, as social scientists, have an opportunity not only to support those seeking transparency, accountability, and safety in their communities, we can examine ourselves, and be proactive in our own work.

What biases do we hold? How do we help to perpetuate racism in our institutions, and specifically anti-Black racism? How might we engage in critical dialogue in ways that will transform our institutions to make black lives matter? What actions can we take to support this growing movement, not only through our classroom teaching, but also informally in our work with students, in our research and how we use that research, in our public sociology, and for some, in direct action?

We’ll be reflecting on these questions here. Please share yours. And we will continue the discussion in the next few blog posts.

Read the entire Black Lives Matter Series on Feminist Reflections

More Information:

On the movement:


Reflections from The Society Pages:

How white people can fight racism:

On Protesting: