All Lives Matter, but so Does Race: Black Lives Matter and the Evolving Role of Social Media
The statement “Black Lives Matter” in itself is one that every decent human being should agree with, and so is the phrase “All Lives Matter.” What makes these slogans polarizing is their exploitation by the political elite to further their agenda. Black Lives Matter is a movement that began in July 2013, as a reaction to George Zimmerman, an officer in the Sanford Police Department, shooting to death an unarmed African-American teenager by the name Trayvon Martin.
The movement began as hashtag #BlackLivesMatter on social media to protest against the numerous incidents of police brutality against the black community in the United States. Even though the Americans of African descent started the movement, people from other races mostly support this social and political movement. According to a poll done by the Pew Research Centre, 60 percent of white people, 75 percent of the Hispanic community, and 77 percent of Asians are in support of Black Lives Matter (Smith & Anderson, 2020).
The slogan “All Lives Matter,” on the other hand, was coined in criticism of the Black Lives Matter movement. Even though the proponents claim that they stand for the equality and unity of people from all races, it is mostly used by racist individuals further to demine the black community (Carney, 2016).
Police brutality is just one form of systemic injustice that African Americans go through in their own country. These people seem to be operating at a massive disadvantage as compared to their counterparts of other races. They mostly live in congested urban areas where there are very few resources and opportunities. This situation creates a very conducive environment for many dwellers of these inner cities to turn to crime.
To combat this crime, members of the police force tend to apply excessive force on these communities. Some people have argued that the massive presence of illegal firearms within these ghettos is enough justification for the police’s excess use of force. The Black Lives Matter movement is there to call for attention to the situation, hoping that African Americans are treated the same as everyone else (Carney, 2016).
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Since the year 2013, the Black Lives Matter movement has continued to fight for justice for the black community. In 2014, the campaign brought to light other senseless killings of innocent black people in the police’s hands like the murder of Eric Garner. He died in a chokehold by a New York City Police Department office. Other black victims of police brutality include Michael Brown; an 18-year-old whole was shot by Darren Wilson, a white Fergusson Police Department officer, while walking with a friend.
Breonna Taylor was sleeping at home with her boyfriend Kenneth Walker when three armed police officers in plainclothes broke into their apartment, searching for drugs with the authority of a search warrant that had the wrong address. Other victims include Atatiana Jefferson, Aura Rosser, Stephon Clark, Botham Jean, Philando Castelle, Alton Sterling, Michelle Cusseaux, Freddie Gray, Tanisha Fonvile, and Tamir Rice (Matter, 2020).
The murder of George Floyd is seen by many as the stroke that broke the camel’s back. George Floyd was a 46-year-old man who was allegedly caught trying to use a $20 bill. He got handcuffed by Derek Chauvin, a Minneapolis Police Department officer, who knelt on the back of his neck for eight minutes 46 seconds (Dave et al., 2020). All along, George was pleading with the officers, claiming that he could not breathe.
He died while under the police officer’s knee. The whole interaction was recorded and uploaded on the Internet, something that made Black Lives Matter organized rallies throughout the United States and worldwide. The protests were mostly incidences of non-violent civil disobedience. The Black Lives Matter protesters used the slogan “defund the police,” which has varying interpretations but generally calls for police reforms.
The Evolving Role of Social Media
According to the 14 Amendment, the United States Constitution guarantees all Americans “Equality under the law.” Therefore these African-American victims of police brutality did not deserve to die in the hands of the police. Over the past seven years, the Black Lives Matter movement has been using rallies, protests, and political activism, which mostly occurred on social media. Pew Research Center reports the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, was used about 8.8 million times globally, on May 28, 2020.
This is a clear indication that social media has played a crucial role in the movement. Social Media has proven its effectiveness and viability in the Black Lives Matter movement and other political movements and social activism, the #MeToo and #Resist. These hashtags have been used to capture the attention of the political class. It has given the underrepresented groups a voice (Anderson et al. 2018).
Lebron (2017) attributes Black Lives Matter’s growth to be the most potent force for change in the United States to social media’s power. According to him, the movement used social media as a tool for reaching its goal. African Americans are using the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter to share their stories of suffering while in the police’s hands. This expression has helped empower them, and they are now gradually taking control of their authority to protect their life and dignity.
On Social Media, #BlackLivesMatter has provided the black people a way to fully share their experiences with neither controlling images influencing their story nor stereotypes. They can now share first-hand occurrences globally, without television or print media spinning the story (Giorgiet at el., 2020).
The existence of social networks, trust, and norms of reciprocity on social media interactions makes it a way of building social capital. The #BlackLivesMatter has brought people together. First of all, it has created a bond among the members of the African American. In addition to this, it has a lot created a community of people who advocate for all people’s fair treatment.
Lee, a participant of the movement, said that the #BlackLivesMatter has made local issues global. It has now become a worldwide network whereby participants use social media sites like Twitter as tools of empowering the black community. The social bonds created and structures created in this global movement have the potential of creating social trust among all global citizens, thus making the world a better place. These networks have also provided people a space to learn from and support each other. They can also keep each other accountable through online interactions, making it easier for our society to reach a common goal (Lebron et al., 2017).
Social media has made the Black Lives Matter movement, both coordinated and decentralized. The existence of social media has made the Black Lives Matter movement very unique, in the sense that it has no single individual leading it. Even though the organization, Black Lives Matter, always plays a central role in the organization of protests, no single person can claim to be the movement leader.
Unlike earlier civil rights movements like Martin Luther King Jr., who lead the civil rights movements in the 1950s and 60s and Nelson Mandela to lead the fight against apartheid in South Africa. The lack of an iconic leader leading the Black Lives Matter movement has been attributed to social media presence. This fact has played a crucial role in making the people’s movement and by the people (Giorgi et al., 2020).
In conclusion, it is safe to say that, even with all its faults, social media has given people a voice not only to express themselves but also to fight for their rights. It has helped society expose the mistreatment of black people by the police forces’ members in our country. The Black Lives Matter movement has taken advantage of the situation and is purposed to creating justice and equality within our society.
To achieve this goal, the movement participants should try and avoid being exploited by the political elite. The slogans “All lives Matter” and “defund the police” are distractions from the overall and gender of the Black Lives Matters Movement. The movement should exploit its dominance on social media to fight for better physical and psychological police officers’ training. To curb police brutality against the black community, the police departments should consider hiring people who live within the community. All lives do matter. That encompasses the lives of the black people, those of the police force and everyone else.
- Carney, N. (2016). All lives matter, but so does race: Black lives matter and the evolving role of social media. Humanity & Society, 40(2), 180-199.
- Curtis, M. K. (1981). The Fourteenth Amendment and the Bill of Rights. Conn. L. Rev., 14, 237.
- Dave, D. M., Friedson, A. I., Matsuzawa, K., Sabia, J. J., & Safford, S. (2020). Black Lives Matter protests, social distancing, and COVID-19 (No. w27408). National Bureau of Economic Research.
- Giorgi, S., Guntuku, S. C., Rahman, M., Himelein-Wachowiak, M., Kwarteng, A., & Curtis, B. (2020). Twitter Corpus of the# BlackLivesMatter Movement And Counter Protests: 2013 to 2020. arXiv preprint arXiv:2009.00596.
- Lebron, C. J. (2017). The making of black lives matter: A brief history of an idea. Oxford University Press.
- Matter, B. L. (2020). Black lives matter. Retrieved September, 17, 2020.
- Smith, A., & Anderson, M. (2020). Pew Research Center. Social media use in 2020.