The core of a movement

Here’s what Black Lives Matter is all about

For those who equate Black Lives Matter to a terrorist group, do yourselves and the rest of humanity a favor and conduct an Internet search for the photo of Ieshia Evans standing in the middle of a highway. The iconic photo taken in Baton Rouge, La., is what the movement is all about.

Evans, a Pennsylvania resident, traveled to the South to attend a peaceful protest on Saturday in the wake of the high-profile shooting deaths of two black men in two days at the hands of law enforcement. The photo was snapped moments before Evans was arrested for civil disobedience by police officers wearing black stormtrooper-esque body armor. There, in the middle of the roadway, the slim 28-year-old nurse wearing a long spaghetti-strapped summer dress stands tall and poised in the face of intimidation not only from the approaching robotic-looking officers but also the additional wall of cops in the background.

Yet there’s something relatable about Evans, whose dress appears to catch a breeze, showing her left leg from the knee down. To their credit, the police officers handcuffed Evans peacefully, taking her into custody, where she remained overnight with more than 100 protesters, many of whom were roughed up despite the fact that the protest, which reportedly included poetry reading and live music, was generally peaceful.

The juxtaposition of Evans and the approaching armor-clad officers is symbolic of the great divide between America’s increasingly militarized law enforcement and the public. We understand that the nation’s peace officers are on edge—frightened, even—in the wake of the horrific shooting deaths of five Dallas police officers. Micah Johnson targeted them for extermination, an unconscionable and heinous act on innocent men doing their jobs to keep the peace as citizens carried out their First Amendment right to free assembly. What the former Army reservist did is sickening, heartbreaking and wrong. Each of the slain men leaves behind a family; most had children.

Americans must mourn for them and their families and support law enforcement personnel, but we also must not lose sight of the events leading up to their deaths and how the genesis is, in fact, racism. We must confront the very real and disturbing truth about the killing of black people, typically men—and especially unarmed black men—by law enforcement.

As The Washington Post reported earlier this year, police officers have shot and killed about 1,500 citizens since Jan. 1, 2015. When adjusted for the makeup of the United State’s population, the data show that blacks are shot and killed by law enforcement at more than double the rate of whites. Stats also show unarmed blacks are five times as likely as whites to die from police gunfire. The Post points out that, yes, the most recent FBI crime stats indicate a disproportionate amount of violent crime is committed by black Americans. However, experts also note that there is no correlation between such crime and the killings by the police.

That brings us back to the Black Lives Matter movement. The group exists to call attention to acts of violence against members of the black community, including killings and brutality at the hands of police. It began three years ago in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the Florida man who killed teenager Trayvon Martin. It gained ground the next couple of years following the police killings of two unarmed men: 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was shot to death, and Eric Garner, a father of six who was choked to death while being arrested for selling individual cigarettes. Tragically, many others have followed.

Evans, the Pennsylvania mom who was photographed in Baton Rouge over the weekend, represents the best of the Black Lives Matter movement. That her demonstration could strike such a chord throughout the nation gives us hope that peaceful resistance can effect change.