Tomorrow, you could click the ‘compose a tweet symbol’, type the hashtag “#BlackLivesMatter”, add a little heart emoji and publish the tweet so simply without giving it a second thought. When you do this though, are you really considering what it means for black lives to matter? Would you tweet or post this hashtag to support the movement or because you feel like it needs to be done? Does the hashtag really mean anything to you?
Black Lives Matter is a political movement, led by young protestors.
The movement begun in July 2013 at the time of the trial of George Zimmerman who was charged with the murder of 17 year old Trayvon Martin. The hashtag took the social media by storm causing a stir all around the world as people supported the fight for justice. When we see or hear the hashtag we may be transported to the time we heard that about the Trayvon Martin case or when we heard an unarmed 18 year old Michael brown was also shot and killed. We may even think of Sandra Bland, Dontre Hamilton or Eric Garner and those are just a few names that spring to mind. The movement has had a very powerful influence on social media and has allowed us to feel more connected to issues of racism that are being faced by our American counterparts.
Not long after the hashtag began trending we found other individuals question why only black lives matter and in turn the “#AllLivesMatter” hashtag was started to challenge this. Individuals took it as far as to post pictures of animals adding the All Lives Matter hashtag. Following this was a large amount of controversy arguing that it was unnecessary and questioning whether this was making a mockery of the movement considering the number of Black individuals that have suffered injustice at the hands of the legal system and the extrajudicial killing of many other black bodies.
Even though social media is just a technological fabrication, we interact with it so much so that we almost forget that it is built upon reality. Black Lives Matter stems all the way down feeling intimidated by a young black man walking in a hooded jumper or an employer refusing to hire a black candidate, it is more than just what we see and hear on our phones or TVs. According to US statistics from the Centre on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, young Blacks are 4.5 times more likely to be killed by police than any other age or racial group.
Julian Craven, of the Huffington Post wrote an article entitled ‘Please stop telling me that All Lives Matter’. In this article Craven looks at shocking statistics and later says ‘Telling us that all lives matter is redundant. We know that already. But, just know, police violence and brutality disproportionately affects my people.’ Craven not only argued her point compellingly well but illustrated the harsh reality that we often choose to avoid through statistics.
It has become so easy for us as a society nowadays, to say we are in support of something because it makes sense to be but we struggle to really grasp how much it affects us. #BlackLivesMatter or #AllLivesMatter, has it really gotten to the point that we are reducing human life to a single hashtag so much so that we are blind to the fact that things are really happening?
The Black Lives Matter movement represents more than just particular individuals, it represents a people, an entire race standing against prejudice and discrimination so when you use that hashtag you are saying much more than you think you are.