Social Media and Black Lives Matter

There is so much wrong with social media. It is unfortunate that it allows people to have a platform on which to spread hatred, animosity, false information… the list goes on. And it is also astonishing that whilst most people have access to one sort of social media platform or another, they are still so ignorant to the issues in the world. For example, those who use TikTok; did you know that there are MANY issues with the videos that some people are posting, issues of colourism and just simply racism? However, there is another side to social media that acts as a platform on which important issues can be circulated and can reach even the most ill-informed people, who themselves have the privilege to be able to choose to be this way.

With lockdown, the amount of time people have to spend on social media has increased dramatically. The recent videos coming to the forefront of social media are regarding the police brutality against Black people, both in America and the UK. These videos have sparked posts and worldwide media coverage of the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as protests and public dismantling of statues that depict slave traders and other controversial historical figures. In this case, social media seems to have been overwhelmingly important in re-engaging a lot of people in the continuing struggle for the BLM movement.

Whilst the list is exhaustive, one particular case being discussed on social media is of a Black man named Ahmaud Arbery who was gunned down, LYNCHED, by white men who had connections with the police, whilst he was on a jog. It was videoed and then published on social media platforms, going viral only within the past month and prompting the arrest of these men on the 8th of May – three days after the video went viral. Ahmaud Arbery was killed on the 23rd February. It took almost two months to charge these murderers.

These videos are graphic, painful and uncomfortable to watch regardless of your identity: as a human being, it chills me to see this. However, many Black people have raised their concerns, and rightly so: “Stop sharing videos of Black people suffering for ‘activism’. You can talk about racism without sharing Black people deaths on video.” - Yes, you can talk about racism, you can share and promote issues concerning black rights - but can you achieve ‘justice’ without posting these videos? Whilst being utterly disturbing, they tend to serve as a shock to a mass audience of whom are privileged enough to ignore these deep-rooted issues of structural racism that is so pervasive within society. It provides evidence that puts extra pressure on the police force and prosecutors.

Why are people so shocked that this is happening, though? It is because they are white. It is because they have the privilege to like and trust the police. Why does it take a Black person to share videos of their own race being prosecuted in such vile and disturbing ways to reach enough people to then achieve justice? But then again, what is justice? Justice for a Black man being killed for simply going on a run will most likely be in the form of a peaceful arrest, a caution, a light sentence. This only but touches upon the vast problem of the inadequacy of the police and the justice system as a whole.

Looking on social media then, there have been a lot of different people posting and spreading awareness of the Black Lives Movement, as well as sharing links to petitions and websites to donate to. However, it also seems that there is a sense of performative alliance, especially from white people. The #Blackout trend of people posting a plain black background with only the caption #BlackLivesMatter has inadvertently seemed to silence those voices who are using this hashtag in order to share knowledge and awareness of the movement. Videos shared of white police officers being nice to Black protesters are also problematic. Whilst being ‘positive news’ it ultimately serves to undermine the main concern when it comes to police brutality. Whilst one man is being nice to a protester, behind the camera,  cars are running over others and police are using tear gas in order to disrupt and dissolve crowds. It is important to keep relaying the message that police historically and still continue to be brutal towards black people as a result of systematic racism. Reposting posts made by white people saying that they stand with Black people is also problematic - you cannot stand with a community you have not yet interacted with.

Listening to Black voices and the issues they raise, trying to understand and unlearn behaviour that we have garnered from the white institutions we are unfortunately subjected to, is in my opinion the most effective way.

 

Words By: Shivani Soni

Edited By: Ellie Jade Lewis