Margaret Haule, Black Lives Matter: “Each time there is a loss of life, it’s very serious”

A black American has a five times greater chance to be shot dead by the police than a white American. 15% of fatalities caused by police brutality in 2015 consisted of black men between 15 and 34 years old, while that category only makes up for 2% of the entire population. These numbers show the US still has a race problem, and a big one at that. Black Lives Matter activist Margaret Haule couldn’t agree more.

Margaret Haule, founder of Black Lives Matter Austin, next to the graffiti covered wall of Carver Library in Austin, Texas. The Carver library houses a cultural centre that is devoted to the history of the African-American community. (cc. Julie Putseys)

The discussion of police violence against African-Americans was a controversial theme in the presidential elections of 2016. Hillary Clinton, who recently lost the presidential race to Donald Trump, acknowledged the systemic discrimination in judicial processes and told the American people she would do something about it. Trump, on the other hand, the future US President, has criticized Black Lives Matter and consistently supported law enforcement against the accusations of racism.

The national discussion on racism in police departments has been going on for a while now. In the summer of 2014, the discussion picked up after two black men, Michael Brown and Eric Garner, were shot to death by the police. As a reaction to this, Black Lives Matter arose, a grassroots movement that initially existed on social media, at least for the most part. The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, launched by three activists – Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors en Opal Tometi –was the third most popular hashtag with regards to social issues, according to Twitter. Now, the Black Lives Matter movement has transformed from a largely digital movement to one that occurs in real life. Occasionally, Black Lives Matter demonstrations take place, and in several cities all over the US, local branches have been set up. Margaret Haule established the one in Austin, the capital of Texas.