Black Lives Matter (BLM) refers to a global activism lobby group that has brought the inequalities against members of the African American community in the United States to global attention. It was founded in 2013 following the shooting of an African American teenage boy by a white man who was acquitted of the crime (Lebron 16). George Zimmerman had been accused of shooting Trayvon Martin in an incident that various lobby groups in the country classified as a case of racial profiling. Over the years, the movement has focused a lot on telling the truths about the brutal killings of people from the African American community by the police, as well as racial profiling and favoritism in the country’s criminal justice system.
Through social media, the movement has received global acclaim for how people have demonstrated their passion to see an American society that is free of racial discrimination and other forms of inequalities. One of the biggest milestones that the movement has made in its quest to change the preconception that white Americans have about African Americans is their involvement in the 2016 presidential elections in the country (Lebron 23). It was a good opportunity for the people involved to challenge the country’s leadership over one of the most controversial elements that characterize the American culture. Although the movement does not have a clearly defined hierarchy, it has a national network that plays the crucial role of ensuring that all areas are covered adequately.
The Black Lives Matter movement has raised a lot of controversy in the United States since it was founded. Research has shown that the perception of the movement across the country varies a lot depending on the racial background of respondents. People that are not convinced about the objective of the movement, created phrases such as “All Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Matter” to counter their efforts. However, critics argue that the creators of the new phrases, which advocate for the need to appreciate the lives of police offices killed in the line of duty, do not understand the message passed across by the Black Lives Matter movement (Lebron 32). Apart from social media, the movement has used direct actions such as street protests and rallies where they chant various slogans such as “ No justice, No Peace”, “ White Silence is Violence”, and “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” to pass their message across. The mainstream media has also been a big influencer in the movement through short films such as “Bars4Justice”, as well as music by various affiliated artists.
Black Lives Matter Movement vs. Earlier Civil Rights Movements
The Black Lives Matter movement is both similar and different to earlier civil rights factions in several ways. The main areas of comparison are the origins of the movements, the nature of protests, and motivating factors. One of the major similarities is the fact that both movements are a call to action against racial discrimination. They are guided by the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who said that the lives of the African American community in the United States would begin to end the day they agree to remain silent about the things that mattered. The founders sought a response to the threat of inequality brought about by racial discrimination (Painter 242).
A notable difference between the Black Lives Matter and the civil rights movements is their origin. In the case of civil rights movements, their origins were evident cases of racism. The death of Emmett Till that sparked the movement was racially motivated. Rosa Parks was fighting against a law that allowed for the segregation of blacks and people from minority groups (Hine 178). On the other hand, the criminal justice system did not find any evidence pointing at racism as the motivation behind the death that led to the formation of the Black Lives Matter movement. Currently, the United States does not have any racist law that can be accused of encouraging racial segregation. The disparities that African Americans faced during the civil rights movements were evident (Painter 251). On the other hand, the ones faced by members of the community in the contemporary world are not being highlighted.
Another notable difference between the civil rights movements and the Black Lives Matter movement is the nature of the protests. The initial protests carried out during the civil rights movements were peaceful. They aimed at ensuring that members of the African American community enjoyed their freedom and equal job opportunities together with the whites (Hine 180). On the contrary, protests done by the members of the Black Lives Matter movement are full of violence characterized by damaging private property and throwing stones at bystanders. The civil rights movements witnessed very few cases of violence. The Black Lives Matter movement has had several cases of violence involving protestors and law enforcement officers. According to the view of experts on the liberation struggle in the United States, the Black Lives Matter movement is dealing with lesser struggles compared to their predecessors.
Hine, Darlene, C., et al. “Liberation: African Americans and the Civil War.” African Americans: A Concise History. Prentice Hall, 2004, pp. 171-187.
Lebron, Christopher. The Making of Black Lives Matter: A Brief History of an Idea. Oxford University Press, 2017.
Painter, Nell. “Cold War Civil Rights, 1948-1960.” Creating Black Americans: African American History and its Meanings, 1619 to the Present. Oxford University Press, 2006, pp. 239-264.