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Black Lives Matter in the Era of White Supremacy

Jack Foley | jfoley17@radford.edu

As we continue into this new era of history that we live in, which was initiated by the election of Donald Trump to be our next President, people continue to speak about what has and what will continue to change in this short period. Mr. Devon Lee, an adjunct faculty member within the Department of Sociology, took some time Tuesday evening to speak about one of those things that are changing: the issue of race in the United States. Lee took the audience through the history of the civil rights movement all the way up to the movement we know today as Black Lives Matter to make his argument of what will happen if nothing changes.
Just reading the title, one can see that Mr. Lee was not scared of talking about controversial issues. The Confederate flag, something we are familiar with here in southwest Virginia, he called a “symbol of white supremacy.” He claimed that the only reason modern day flaggers can disassociate themselves from its racist past is that white supremacy is still a norm. Lee went further to say that we have never stopped living in a “White Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy,” which is continued through what he calls the “Pathology of Prejudice.” This pathology is broken down into four sections which are all connected; prejudice, discrimination, disparity, and rationalization. Lee argued that this circular system maintains racism in our society.

“[The] pathology is backed by public policy,” said Lee. He spoke about the repetitive accounts of black males being shot and killed by law enforcement, and then the officer left unaccountable and unpunished. The pattern of police killing black men and then left unaccountable is what Black Lives Matter leaders recognized and organized against. The societal stereotypes that continue into law enforcement is that people “see black people as a problem to their safety,” said Lee. Mr. Lee didn’t fault the officers particularly but focused more on the repetition of the stereotypes that become policy and protocol for the law enforcement officers to enforce.

After listing what is happening now, such as an increase in hate crimes, an increase in police authority, and a weakening of civil rights, Mr. Lee asked the crowd “what is at stake?” He did not play down the risks of the future, so it is important to list them as a whole. The risks Lee stated were, educational apartheid, epistemological apartheid, homo and transphobia, white nationalism and the potential for retaliation, continued race and gender division, and democracy.

There was one question that continued to come up when the audience was given the opportunity to ask questions, “What can I do to prevent this?” Devon Lee answered this simply, just “do something.” No matter how small it is, Lee spoke that everyone has their “sphere of influence” where they can make a change. He urged the audience to “organize” with like-minded folks, to continue to make impacts within the field of civil rights.

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