Media history is full of various events, such as the invention of the television and the Internet, the introduction of Apple products, or the popularity of Instagram blogs among individuals. Those moments have shaped the modern perception of media services and how the global community is receiving and exchanging information. The increase of social media platforms’ influence brought numerous movements because people have realized that it can be an effective way of introducing a specific issue to a higher part of the community.
One can say that Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement is also a part of media history and represents a moment that had a significant impact on social, cultural, and political levels. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the essence of the BLM movement, analyze how it has influenced the identity concept, and evaluate the significance of this media history element.
Today, BLM is a world-wide known activist movement, originated in the US in an African-American community, and, curiously, it has started as a Twitter hashtag trend in 2013. At that time, three women built a project with a name #BlackLivesMatter in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman, who killed an African-American unarmed high school black boy, claiming it was self-defense (“Herstory,” n.d.). Later, in 2014, Michael Brown was killed by a police officer (“Herstory,” n.d.). Those events highlighted the need for action and the need to unite and work on changing the harsh reality. Hence, three women started a movement that transformed into a global network of those who fight for justice and liberation.
It is crucial to observe the background of this media trend. Negative stereotypes about black people from poor neighborhoods are prevalent. According to Carney (2016), those stereotypes are rooted in the society to such an extent that “they serve as a way to legitimate police violence against unarmed black boys and men” (p. 182). Those beliefs exist not only in American society but also in other cultures, which brings the issue to the international level and which explains the massive growth of the BLM movement.
One can claim that the scope of the problem became one of the reasons why the movement started its journey from the Twitter platform. Social media offers a new way of access for individuals around the globe, which often can engage those who would not have the ability to participate in public debates (Carney, 2016). Thus, Twitter plays an essential role in the discussions about racism or other social and cultural issues, and BLM became one of the most prominent ones.
At this point, it is crucial to look at how the BLM movement has influenced the concept of identity. The network is directed towards uniting African-Americans and raising awareness within the communities about present issues with the call to combat them. As the paragraph above mentions, the prevailing stereotypes about black identity drives the regime to target its representatives. BLM addresses real problems that “touch the lives of a wide segment of people of color” (Rickford, 2015, p. 36). This point emphasizes that this project has united people from various backgrounds and diverse cultural contexts in the fight for justice. Besides, it has strengthened the feeling of identity within African-Americans communities and gave them a voice at different levels of a global society.
Although BLM, just like every activist program, had many opponents, it managed to grow into something huge that keeps attracting individuals from different corners of the world. One of the most popular counter slogans was #AllLivesMatter that aimed to challenge the initial message of the movement (Carney, 2016). The use of the words is essential in the context of social media because they can be interpreted in different ways, as it happened first with the BLM hashtag. The message sent as a call to confront the system, where individuals who committed murder are acquitted, was twisted and faced criticism. Nevertheless, the movement continued to expand, and the cohesion of its members brought change.
Besides the most popular counter slogan #ALM, there were numerous arguments against the BLM movement on Twitter. One of the statements was #SupportPolice, and many individuals claimed that it is not about appearance and those men paid with their lives for resisting the arrest and being disrespectful to the police (Carney, 2016). Social media platform represents not only a mean of spreading the information but also can be a place, where one’s argument meets intense opposition and raises questions in those who seemed to be undoubtful.
According to Carney (2016), there is significant diversity within each group of Twitter users, and the active integration of the project on this media reveals crucial information about people’s opinions and what drives them. Consequently, Twitter served as a useful platform for holding the debates about the issue of BLM, and the active users’ contribution to the problem.
It is also crucial to mention that the events contributing to the emergence of the BLM movement are dramatic and severe because they involve official authorities, the members of the police. The project faced extreme resistance from the policemen who started to claim that it is an assault towards them and that the statement itself is absurd (Rickford, 2015). One of the aspects for the BLM movement to continue making an influence with the presence of powerful opponents is to “develop a firm ideological foundation while retaining its resiliency” (Rickford, 2015, p. 39). The project imposes challenges for the existing arrangements and measures, and, as discussed earlier, vast expansion within media brings the fight to another level, making more individuals aware of the issue.
One of the most significant aims of the BLM movement is to confront the issues that arise due to racism. Besides uniting people of color, BLM has also contributed to the creation of such campaigns as ‘Native Lives Matter’ and ‘Say Her Name’ (Rickford, 2015).
Those projects are directed to the rights’ protection and just judgment of different groups. It represents another aspect of the BLM’s influence on society and the global perception of ethnic minorities or gender discrimination.
An example of BLM and its initiation in the social media point out the necessity of looking at history. The fight for the rights of African-American started decades ago. Even though at a specific point in history, their rights were considered equal, injustice and such cases as the murder of Michael Brown are the echoes of massive racial discrimination. One of the examples of the previous social confrontation is the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).
Similar to BLM, SNCC emerged due to the murder of Emmett Till in 1955 and represented a coalition that addressed racism issues (Rickford, 2015). Today, while everyone possesses equal rights, prejudices exist among the communities and cause numerous injustice cases and unfair judgments. Thus, BLM is fighting for “self-definition and human rights rather than for mere social inclusion” (Rickford, 2015, p. 36). This particular movement goes beyond the standards and aims to unite people around the globe, using social media platforms as the foundation to spread the word and to be heard.
The emergence of SNCC happened during the time of the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s when African Americans were fighting against discrimination and demanding justice. Existing media played a significant role in spreading the word and attracting public attention at that time. Before the 1950s, the African-American issues were not lighted in the press. Still, with the protests’, like Montgomery Bus Boycott, despite the pressure from the national news dictating what to cover, the night television started to present the issue of inequalities (“How the media covered,” 2013).
The role of media in bringing many Civil Rights movement events to light “helped the nation progress towards more equality” (“How the media covered,” 2013, para. 18). Hence, the BLM movement, in a digitalized and globalized world, got a broad media coverage of the issue that had emerged decades ago, when the television brought to light the Civil Rights movement events.
Another crucial point in this specific media history event is the changes that the movement has caused at different levels of society. Today, BLM includes various projects like Black Youth Project 100, Dream Defenders, the Organization for Black Struggle, and others (Roberts, 2018). Moreover, the vast expansion of the movement and its activities helped to start changing the system. The ousting of some prosecutors involved in corruption and the removal of those prosecutors who failed to convict the murderers became some of the BLM victories (Roberts, 2018). One more example of the impact that the movement has can be the case of the University of Missouri.
With the project’s support, the students managed to achieve the resignation of the university’s president, who continuously ignored the racism issues emerging on campus (Roberts, 2018). Those examples portray how something that gains the attention of social media users can change the reality and lead to significant transformations for different groups.
In conclusion, the BLM movement originated as the hashtag on Twitter, becoming a significant event in the history of digital media. Numerous social platforms’ challenges and trends arise often, but #BlackLivesMatter represents an issue that concerns serious social and political aspects, which gives it a completely different value. With the enormous scope of users in social media, BLM managed to attract many followers as well as the opponents. Still, the project continues to exist, bringing change and fighting for fair judgment. In such a way, the BLM movement significantly contributed to the cohesion among different communities. It raised awareness about the existing issues for the people of color, using social media platforms as the foundation.
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.
Herstory. (n.d.). Web.
Rickford, R. (2016). Black lives matter: Toward a modern practice of mass struggle. New Labor Forum, 25(1), 34-42.
Roberts, F. L. (2018). How Black Lives Matter changed the way Americans fight for freedom. Web.