Opinion: social media forwards the movement


Ben Labadia, Associate Producer of Quinnipiac Tonight

Black. Lives. Matter. This is an important statement that we all need to be discussing right now. Of course, critics say, “why not ‘All Lives Matter’,” but to them, I say, you are missing the point. The Black Lives Matter movement was not put in place to make other racial groups feel like they are placed out of the picture. It is merely a label based on the spark that has caused a movement of social justice and change in every capacity to catch fire. It is because a black man, along with many others, had to die for there to be a conversation of this magnitude.

This conversation, while being held in the streets through protests, has been mainly discussed online. The internet is being used more than ever due in part by the pandemic leaving social media the only way to remain social, has been the perfect place to host such a conversation. Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube have done an excellent job of spreading awareness and knowledge on the Black Lives Matter movement.

#BlackLivesMatter entered the Twitterverse in 2013, after George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the Trayvon Martin case, in which Zimmerman (a police officer) killed Martin claiming self-defense and was supported under Florida’s stand-your-ground law. The use of the hashtag, however, led many to question the local and state laws that may be in place to harm black citizens more than help them. #BlackLivesMatter was used only 5,106 times by the end of 2013, according to Pew Research Center.

Seven years later, we are left with a heart-wrenching story of a black man (George Floyd) who cried out for his mother within his last breaths at the hand of a white police officer (Derek Chauvin). This time, however, the Pew Research Center stated that Twitter users have tweeted out 47.8 million tweets regarding #BlackLivesMatter between May 26 to June 7. This amount of traction has surely been doing some good in getting people to recognize that this movement is something we all should be talking about. 

On Instagram, #BlackOutTuesday was a day that everyone posted a black square (or a post about solidarity with the black community) has garnered over 25 million posts.

On TikTok, #BlackLivesMatter was used 11.2 billion times. Many videos show the protests occurring in the streets, highlight everyday social imbalances, and even police officer brutality caught on their cameras.

The use of the hashtag has led to donations and petitions that have garnered millions of peoples’ support and further spread of such links and ways to help.

It isn’t just online support for the movement either. According to Elephrame, a data archive website, more than 575 Black Lives Matter demonstrations have been held since George Floyd’s death, with numbers increasing daily. People are not waiting to be called on to speak against these injustices anymore. They are making their voices heard now.

Although some are not making their apparent voices heard, the overall impression the movement has made has been extremely effective. An eye-opening statistic from a Monmouth University poll found that 76% of Americans now recognize there is racial injustice in our society, up from 51% in January 2015 and 68% in July 2016. The abundance of sharing and pushing towards a common ground has created an increase of 25% of Americans since 2015. 

But at the end of the day, it is not a fight with the government or the police. It is not about posting black squares or using a simple hashtag. It is a fight within us. Racism is built within our society and it is going to take behavior (not just vocals) to change anything. Continue to post, continue to march, continue to speak up. But we also need to start thinking and acting in ways that do not hurt each other in our everyday lives. When the protests slowly begin to stop, as people return to everyday life, we need to remember that this movement happened, and is still happening and that we can continue to fight, by stopping derogatory language and jokes, and changing our behaviors to be more respectful of one another.

Here is a link to a great Google Document with every possible petition and donation location you can think of.