(Intro) Do Black Lives Really Matter?
When it comes to activism in this new day in age, social media is becoming more and more prominent in it. There are some positives in it as well as quite a few negatives. I think you can make good arguments in favor of both sides. With that being said, my proposal is the type of impacts social media has on activism. I believe it’s an interesting topic because opinions vary vastly. Can activism be effective online? Will the revolution be tweeted? No way to find out for sure, but we can always speculate.
The public as a whole expresses conflicting views about the potential broader impact social media sites might be having on political discourse and the nature of political activism. Some of Americans feel that the statement “social media helps give a voice to underrepresented groups” describes these sites very or somewhat well. But a larger share believes social networking sites distract people from issues that are truly important. Some believe the assertion that “social media makes people believe they’re making a difference when they really aren’t.” You got people skeptical of online activism and they have valid reasons as to why they believe what they do.
With social media making it a lot easier to share information with many people so fast and easy it has helped campaigned to save many of people lives either if was related to an illness or natural disaster. The social media have made people aware of the problems of others by the impacting information, pictures, and videos received by the people we follow on twitter or our friends on Facebook, giving an incentive of helping others because the information is quite impacting. Thus, motivating people to help and join people for the cause. You have people who believe online activism can really change activism for the better.
The Beginning of How Black Lives Matter Was Started
In 2012, Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman, a self-proclaimed neighborhood watch member. The case went to trial and in 2013 Zimmerman was acquitted for the killing of Trayvon. “BLM grew during the Ferguson unrest but not during the period of time when the Trayvon Martin killing was prominent” (Davis, Ince, & Rojas, 2017). Those incedents sparked outrage for many across the country, particularly within the black community. The hashtag “#BlackLivesMatter” became popular shortly after the decision of the trial. Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometti are the three women credited with starting this movement. It served as a way to pay homage to Trayvon as well as other black people who were unjustly murdered. People wanted to let their voices be heard and this seemed as if it would be the only way that could happen. “The basic framing of the movement, Black lives matter, invites the audience to further consider a number of issues that affect Black Americans ranging from racial inequality to police violence to healthcare (Davis, Ince, & Rojas, 2017). It rapidly grew across social media. Whenever a person of color is unjustly killed by police the hashtag peaks the following week or so. That’s when it is most commonly used.
What are The Goals of Black Lives Matter?
According to their official site they want to liberate certain black people. In the about section it says, “We affirm the lives of Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, undocumented folks, folks with records, women, and all Black lives along the gender spectrum”. It seems as if they want better treatment for certain black people when you tie everything together. “A critical part of this discursive struggle involves social media, which creates a virtual space to challenge, reframe, and rein scribe representations of who is victimized”
How Does Black Lives Matter Use Social Media for Activism?
The founders and supporters of the BLM movement use twitter and other social media platforms as an outlet for their voice to be heard on certain issues. It is used to garner support for the cause. “After Brown was killed, many Americans on social media outlets began using the hashtag as a cry for racial justice. Social unrest and protests appeared on the streets of Ferguson, and other cities around the country. In response to these events, news outlets portrayed many activists shouting this phrase and carrying signs with the phrase painted on them. The media began framing these demonstrations in response to Brown’s killing as literal manifestations of the phrase” (Davis, Ince, & Rojas, 2017). Social media is used to get the word out on an event that may be coming up and they need to get people to show up. It is used to gain coverage of whatever issue they want to bring awareness to. “The subsequent media attention to the murders of unarmed black and brown people encouraged further protest using not only the streets, classrooms, and campuses, but also social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumbler, Snapchat, YouTube). Of these, Twitter is the world‟s largest microblogging service and gained singular political importance among Black audiences (Freeson, et al. 2016).” (Cumberpatch & Trujillo-Pagán, 2016).
Pros of Black Lives Matter Using Social Media for Activism
The Black Lives Matter hashtag has been used over 30 million times since its birth in 2013. The message will spread due to how fast things can get from one side of the country to the other.
“The key is to use social media for mobilization, not persuasion” (Parker, 2017). When it comes to gathering up a following for a specific cause and in this case it’s the liberation of certain black people. People have called out the founder’s for using the hardships of black individuals to make a profit. “One thing is for sure: there is too much shoddy faux-journalism online” (Bayer, 2016). The founders continue to make their voice heard about the topics they don’t feel get enough media attention.
Cons and Criticisms of Black Lives Matter Using Social Media for Activism
While protesting in the streets across the country things didn’t always end well for them. “The New York Times’ headline ‘Scenes of Chaos in Baltimore as Thousands Protest Freddie Gray’s Death’, conflates the chaos occurring in Baltimore with the protesters. Headlines like this work discursively to frame the ‘thousands’ of protestors as the people creating the chaos, rather than conveying the reports that it was a small minority who were looting and destroying property” (Banks, 2018).
You have people who are a part of the Black Lives Matter movement who use social media as a tool for activism, but that seems to be the only thing they do. There is a term for people like that and it is slacktivism. “The United Nations has defined slacktivism as when people “support a cause by performing simple measures” but “are not truly engaged or devoted to making a change.”” (Muslic, 2017). It also refers to doing things like wearing a ribbon on a shirt. In this case it was just a bunch of people tweeting hashtags such as names of the unarmed black men who were fatally shot by the police and Black Lives Matter.
My Final Thoughts on Black Lives Matter and How They Use Social Media for Activism
When I first saw it come across my twitter timeline I kind of just went along with it because I took the hashtag at face value. I didn’t think too much of it. I ran with the assumption I initially had. I thought it was a movement that was in support of all black lives. I began to do more research on this movement and saw some interesting things. What I saw on their homepage was “We affirm the lives of Black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, undocumented folks, folks with records, women, and all Black lives along the gender spectrum”. I found it weird that they specifically stated [black]women, but not [black]men. Why use The Trayvon Martin incident and Mike Brown incident to give the impression that black men are included of those that they fight for, but then leave black men out as part of those you say you fight for on the website. As a black man this didn’t sit well with me. My thoughts on Black Lives Matter changed. They ostracized black men, but use our tragedies to garner support. Over time and in the midst of me curating this blog post they have thus changed it. The damage was done for me already. My eyes have seen it. I now question do they really believe Black Lives Matter, or just certain ones?
Bayer, B. (2016). Developing A Critical Nose for News
Parker, E. (2017). In Praise of Echo Chambers. The Washington Post
Davis, C. A., Ince, J., & Rojas, F., (2017). The social media response to Black Lives Matter: how Twitter users interact with Black Lives Matter through hashtag use. Ethnic & Racial Studies, 40(11), 1814–1830.
Cumberbatch, P., & Trujillo-Pagán, N. (2016). Hashtag Activism and Why Pass: #BlackLivesMatter In (and To) the Classroom. Radical Teacher, (106), 78–86.
Banks, C. (2018). Disciplining Black activism: post-racial rhetoric, public memory and decorum in news media framing of the Black Lives Matter movement. Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, 32(6), 709–720.