The Black Lives Matter movement erupted as a social movement battling police brutality in relation to innocent African-American citizens of the United States. Over the past decade, protests in multiple countries of the world, including those in Europe, Australia, Canada, and the United States, focused on sharing anti-racist assertions and allowing the system’s victims to speak up. Police brutality, which encompasses the concepts of power inequality and the current political system’s inefficiency, sparked most of the protests. George Floyd’s dreadful murder scene and the following outrage changed the world’s understanding of systematic racism and urged immediate action. Many citizens of past colonizing countries began reconsidering their country’s past in an attempt to understand the underlying issues explaining the origin of racism. By focusing on the Black Lives Matter movement’s concepts of structure, power, and social change, the sociological perspective on the issue is to be explored.
Structure and agency
The structure and agency are concepts that explain the movement’s organization and how it limits or allows for more opportunities in various fields. The structure consists of elements that may limit an individual’s decision-making process, such as social class and race; agency acts as a counter-concept, signifying one’s capability to choose independent of any personal factors (Dancy et al., 2018). Frazer-Carroll’s article on Floyd’s worldwide influence highlights the need for abolishing systematic racism within the police (Frazer-Carroll, 2020). The idea that one’s race constitutes legal or illegal treatment by the state system is essential in highlighting the extreme agency gaps between white and nonwhite citizens.
The structure, in this case, presents a set of restrictions towards nonwhite people based on the factor of race. A parallel situation is demonstrated in the American educational system, with African-American applicants noting a worse experience overall than their white classmates (Dancy et al., 2018). This example is critical in emphasizing the various disadvantages people of color have to manage in order to essentially experience what is granted by law. The Black Lives Matter movement, in this way, aims to vocalize the current system’s inequalities and the influence of past normalized racism. While the discriminatory structure is still able to impact thousands of people in countless institutions, consequently, their agency is restricted as far as the system allows it. By encouraging POC representation in the media, the movement’s followers aim to maximize nonwhite agency in educational institutions and other standard fields.
As the BLM movement involves police brutality and clear power imbalance, cases of innocent African Americans being killed by officers become critical points for discussion. The incident concerning Rodney King, a man violently beaten by police officers who were then considered “in control”, demonstrates the powerless situation most African Americans remain in when facing disadvantageous American law enforcement (Corbould, 2021, para.6). The article reinforces the idea of the power imbalance between privileged and unprivileged social groups. Furthermore, sociologists believe the imbalance to be caused by not one but rather a combination and intermix of several factors (Clark et al., 2018). These factors have been influential historically, reflecting the inerasable effect of colonizers and their treatment of indigenous people (Harris and Leonardo, 2018). Evidently, the issue remains relevant with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people being discriminated against to this day (Allam and Evershed, 2021). With time and the adaptation of slavery, the power positions of racial groups were initially determined.
However, in the last few years, the movement has proceeded with a shift in power to the groups that once lacked the privileges of using their voice to make a change. This change occurred through the use of social media by numerous users and influential activists (Wilkins et al., 2019). The modern method of gaining control over such a controversial issue includes advocating specific action strategies and involving more people online. The effectiveness of this method can be outlined from the shift in racial attitudes observed by researchers. In that way, “Whites’ explicit attitudes were less pro-White during BLM than pre-BLM”, indicating a possible change in attitude that could lead to even power distribution (Sawyer and Gampa, 2018). Hence, the power imbalance, which served as one of the main reasons behind the outrage, notably shifted through the movement, emphasizing its impact on Western society.
Social change, primarily, is a reflection of the tendency to adopt new cultural and social norms as a result of evolving social movements. In a way, social change constitutes the definition of social movements, promoting new structures of society (Gurcan and Donduran, 2021). The Black Lives Matter movement provided the resources for African Americans to resist police brutality and discrimination while urging for the necessary reforms to be prioritized.
Social change can only occur if sufficient time and resources are planned and organized. The BLM movement has been an on-and-off occurrence since 2013, yet critical changes could be outlined in that period of time. The arrest of Derek Chauvin exemplified one of the defining moments of the movement, demonstrating how the racial injustice system can actually be managed. Moreover, unlike the Civil Rights movement, the majority of the BLM protests were not planned and did not follow a hierarchal organizational style, yet additionally promoted inclusivity and diversity (Clayton, 2018). The inclusion of women, transgender, and other previously disregarded social groups served as a major step for social change.
In this way, the Black Lives Matter movement should be regarded as a socio-political movement urging for social change. The disadvantageous structure of Western institutions restricted people of color in obtaining equal opportunities in educational and law-related fields, including discriminatory behavior of white employees and police officers. The brutal murders of significant numbers of African Americans resulted in public outrage, which, together with the built-up concern for the national system, resulted in various protests around the world.
The use of social media and public influencers significantly contributed to social reforms being possible. People’s attitudes notably changed during and after BLM, as white privilege became more evident. A slight power shift also occurred once POC voiced their anger, unsettlement, and courage to stand up to the administration. From a sociological point of view, the movement illustrated the major social issues, including racism and inequality, as well the optimal realistic methods of social change.
Allam, L. and Evershed, N. (2021) ‘Discrimination against Indigenous Australians has risen dramatically, survey finds’. The Guardian: News, Web.
Clark, A. D., Dantzler, P. A., and Nickels, A. E. (2018) ‘Black Lives Matter: (Re)framing the next wave of black liberation. Research in social movements, conflicts and change, pp. 145–172. Web.
Clayton, D. M. (2018) ‘Black Lives Matter and the Civil Rights Movement: A comparative analysis of two social movements in the United States’. Journal of Black Studies, 49(5), 448–480. Web.
Corbould, C. (2021) ‘Relief at Derek Chauvin conviction a sign of long history of police brutality’. The Conversation: Web.
Dancy, T. E., Edwards, K. T. and Earl Davis, J. (2018) ‘Historically white universities and plantation politics: Anti-blackness and higher education in the black lives matter era’, Urban Education, 53(2), pp. 176–195. Web.
Frazer-Carroll, M. (2020) ‘George Floyd was killed in America. His death has sparked a global movement’. Huffpost: This new world, Web.
Gurcan, E. C. and Donduran, C. (2021) ‘The formation and development of the black lives matter movement: A political process perspective’. Siyasal: A Journal of Political Sciences, 30(1), pp.151-167. Web.
Harris, A. and Leonardo, Z. (2018) ‘Intersectionality, race-gender subordination, and education’. Review of Research in Education, 42(1), 1–27. Web.
Sawyer, J. and Gampa, A. (2018) ‘Implicit and explicit racial attitudes changed during Black Lives Matter’. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 44(7), pp.1039-1059. Web.
Wilkins, D.J., Livingstone, A.G. and Levine, M. (2019) ‘Whose tweets? The rhetorical functions of social media use in developing the Black Lives Matter movement’. British Journal of Social Psychology, 58(4), pp.786-805. Web.