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An Analysis of the Speech of Professor Bobby Vaughn on the Black Lives Matter Movement in the Color of Crime Course

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Bobby Vaughn on #BlackLivesMatter Having taken the Color of Crime course with Professor Vaughn last year, I was excited to hear him speak freely and openly on subjects that had been well-discussed in that class: inequality, disparity, and racism in the United States. But what I was most interested in hearing was his take on the Black Lives Matter Movement. Vaughn began his speech, of course, with inclusivity, as so many construe this movement to be very hostile and inclusive, and set up the atmosphere by beginning with statistics to emphasize what already accepted truths that are pushed to the side, perhaps as unchangeable facts or out of indifference. All lives do matter, but as Vaughn points out, this phrase only works to perpetuate a broken justice system that criminalizes, and by extension, dehumanizes large groups of people on the basis of their skin color.

The most daunting statistic, in my mind, is the huge gap in wealth between minorities and whites, and I am drawn to that concept because money is the easy answer to many problems facing an individual and lack of it accounts for the stark differences in life experience between the average black person and the average white person. The average black family in the United States has an average wealth of $5,600; the average white family has $113,000. Somehow, that number was not surprising to me, but in that moment, I felt quite insecure in myself and what was to become of me in my future. I don’t want to use the word “strategic” to describe Vaughn’s decision to focus on statistics about death at the beginning of the speech, but it was a very good call. Not enough people take the issue of poverty in America very seriously. When brought up, someone will simply suggest to work harder before listening to the factors that cause and perpetuate poverty within this country. By speaking on death first, even some of the more adamant-minded people will tune in to the conversation because it takes a very severely disconnected person to blame another’s death on his poverty, and, by extension, his not working harder.

Vaughn points out in his speech that the life expectancy of blacks is 5 to 7 years shorter than whites and that this is due to chronic disease, physical stress from racism, and largely, inequalities in the health care system. Now he does not reveal anything specific about these causes, but “Chapter 4: Living and Dying” in our class book does. This statistic about life expectancy only proves the point in Chapter 4 of how inequality persists in the health care system, and while there may not be anything going on as explicit and horrifying as the Tuskegee trials, the inadequate health care, or even lack of health care completely, given to many among the lower-class, and especially the lower-class minorities, evidences the gloomy reality that non-white lives just don’t seem to matter as much, if at all, to the people in power. The gist of it all is basically if you are poor and black, you either can’t afford health insurance, or if you can, you are not treated as well as your white counterparts, and you die early from health issues that could have easily been fixed with either more money or more proper care. Again, one can sum it all up to money and how hard one works, but considering the high rates at which minorities are dying compared to whites and the lack of change being pursued in the health care industry says a lot about how much preference is given to a white upper-class person’s life over a non-white lower-class person’s.

Finally, with Vaughn’s address of the Black Lives Matter movement, I hoped I would find something admirable in it, and I was simultaneously awed and, the word I used in conversation, appalled. It is a good thing that people are fighting against an oppressive system. It is a good thing that they are fighting for justice and equality. To use the terms in “Chapter 6: War, Revolution, and Peace”, one could say the movement has a just cause and the right intentions, but I could not accept the proposition that the group was not multiracial. I can understand a focus on black people because that is the most oppressed group in the United States, but they are not the only group. I found that statement wildly exclusive, and completely and utterly hypocritical when compared to their response against the statement “all lives matter”. This entire religion course has focused on the idea of interconnectedness and how our actions affect each other on a much, much larger scale. To separate groups from one another like that in an open statement goes back directly to the “I-it” and “I-thou” mindsets, and from that one claim, I believe the movement sympathizes with the former.

Essentially, it is their movement, so they are going to focus on themselves rather than oppressed people as a whole. And while it may not necessarily be wrong to assert that by improving upon the lives of black people, all other people will benefit, it is a really self-centered way of thinking about these issues of racism and inequality. Working together as a whole people, as equal members of the earth with duties and responsibilities to ourselves, to all others, and to our planet, that is the way I feel that we should approach. That said, I do believe that good will come out of the movement if people continue to support it. Their movement, despite being solely focused on black lives, does not impede the work of other movements fighting for social justice, nor does it oppress them, nor attempt to oppress the upper class. So, I think that, as a whole, it is a good movement. I only hope that in the process of seeking justice, people will unite in common humanity to understand each other and to help each other.

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