The Black Lives Matter movement has always made people uncomfortable. From the moment the movement was created, it was refuted. But what is it, exactly, that stirs this feeling of uncertainty in people? Why doesn’t everyone support the Black Lives Matter movement?
If we refer back to my first post ‘The creation of the Black Lives Matter movement‘. I write about the origin of the movement and how the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter‘ was a response, by Alicia Garza, to the acquittal of George Zimmerman. The man who killed Trayvon Martin in 2012. Even then, people believed that Zimmerman was innocent and deemed the movement another ‘crowd of angry black people’. But could it be that people refuted the movement because they were uncomfortable with what they saw? Too many people, and not just people of colour, thought that the death and subsequent trial of Trayvon Martin highlighted the unjust behaviour of the judicial system and exposed the true nature of race relations in America. It was believed that people would come together and unite over social injustice. And while in some cases that were true. In others, the movement created deeper cracks in an already fragmented society.
How? Let me explain. In my second post ‘Michael Brown and The Power of The Hashtag’ I detail the death of Michael Brown, the protests it caused in Ferguson and the monumental effect that had on The Black Lives Matter movement and its social media presence. I also wrote about the power of the hashtag and how it helped expand the movement. To refresh, the definition of the hashtag is:
“A word or phrase preceded by a hash sign (#), used on social media websites and applications, especially Twitter, to identify messages on a specific topic”
The hashtag is a powerful popularity tool across multiple social media platforms. For example, the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag appeared on average 58,747 times per day, during the protest in Ferguson. But this tripled on November 24th, 2014, when the grand jury decided not to indict Darren Wilson. However, with popularity comes criticism, as many people believe that because the Black Lives Matter movement only focuses on the treatment of black people and because of that it is essentially racist. From this belief, #AllLivesMatter and #BlueLivesMatter were my created.
All Lives Matter:
#AllLivesMatter criticises the Black Lives Matter movement as they believe that they (Black Lives Matter) overlook the fact that suffering and injustice happens to everybody, not just black people. Analysing the hashtag, it currently has a 62.9% popularity rating, with 82.9% of tweets with the #AllLivesMatter hashtag originating from America. Considering the amount of support for the Black Lives Matter movement, those numbers are astonishing. Also, with the high levels of police brutality, national cases and a corrupt judicial system, why is it that so many people misinterpret the Black Lives Matter movement?
Blue Lives Matter:
#BlueLivesMatter is another movement that was created in response to Black Lives Matter. The movement was created by active and retired police officers to show support to fellow officers and their families, as they believe that Black Lives Matter is anti-police. The hashtag also has a high popularity percentage of 62.3% with 75.1% of tweets with the #BlueLivesMatter hashtag originating from America. However, it is argued that a person’s job identity is not as significant as person’s racial idenitity, they are not equal in terms of injustice. And, historically, black people have always felt threated by police.
I believe that people interpret the Black Lives Matter movement to be racist due to the influence of virtual communities. Social media allows you to follow and unfollow whoever you wish. From news outlets to actors, to friends and family. Most of the time, a lot of the content that people follow it homogeneous meaning that attitudes and beliefs are synonymous with the content that you follow. For example, if you were to believe that the Black Lives Matter movement was indeed racist and you believed that #AllLivesMatter is a more forward-thinking movement. You would most likely, follow a few different #AllLivesMatter accounts, follow some of the figures or the moments, or celebrities that have spoken out in support. The more you follow those accounts the more content you consume – and in this modern era, we consume a lot of content.
This means that the more you tweet or post, the more followers you get (who likely have the same opinion as you) the more you converse with ‘like-minded people’, the more your views, which previously may have been deemed extremist or insensitive, are now normalised. This is what virtual communities do. The negative effect of this is that we are now less likely to listen to each other. My fear is that we lose the ability to have a conversation, to be patient, to listen and learn from people, to acknowledge a viewpoint, to agree to disagree. My fear is that we are becoming too aggressive, and the normalisation of views within individual digital communities is fueling this behaviour.
Thank you so much for reading! Come back next week for a brand new post.