Black Lives Matter (BLM).
It’s more than just a hashtag. It’s a movement. A movement that was envisioned by three powerful Black women: Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, following Trayvon Martin’s tragic murder. A movement that is working to architect a world where Black Lives are treated equally, no longer targeted systemically for demise, and no longer being killed in disproportionate amounts by police and white supremacists. A movement that started small but has turned global.
Recently, the movement has seen much activity following the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. George was murdered by officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Breonna was murdered by officers in Louisville, Kentucky. In the wake of their tragic deaths – along with the multitude of wrongful deaths at the hands of police everywhere – BLM demands that we prosecute police departments for their actions and dramatically change policing in this country.
Many organizations and activists call this “transformative justice,” but the buzz-phrase that gets the most hype is “defund the police.” What does this really mean? On the whole, in order to strengthen communities so they don’t have to rely so heavily on police presence, social justice activists want to divest money from police departments and invest it in building stronger communities instead.
Stronger communities that can be built on a basis of equal treatment in the justice system, removal of police from school campuses, reallocation of the budget for jailing youth to education, housing, mental health, and arts programming, and dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline.
#BLM Turned Heads
There’s no doubt that social media, at a modern platform, is a catalyst for change. It is one of the most powerful tools to lead any force of change today. It gives everyone a platform to voice whatever is on their mind. It can be utilized to inform, educate, discuss, and in this case, change the world.
Growth involves putting yourself in uncomfortable situations. One of these uncomfortable situations, to some, may have been the first time they saw the hashtag #blacklivesmatter trend on social media. It triggers an immediate thought in one’s head. And for that very reason, most people will post their immediate response to that trigger, sometimes helping, but oftentimes harming the movement.
A common trigger response: “Don’t all lives matter?”
This is unfortunate because Black Lives Matter does not mean that other racial groups do not; it is a call for equality in communities that have been systemically broken for decades. Black Lives Matter is the sunrise of change in today’s society, shining new light on issues that have been historically underrepresented, ignored, or even flat-out denied. This educational progress starts conversations that may be uncomfortable, but which have so much potential for growth.
BLM Encourages Listening, Interaction, & Doing The Work
While a full educational session is unlikely within a social media platform itself, at the very least, it opens up the conversation and encourages participants to seek out more information and continue to engage with others. Some conversations may lead to an argument due to an unclear understanding (lack of knowledge), incompetence, or just blatant racism, which is very upsetting.
However, for those willing to listen, it is a great opportunity to listen and learn about what the BLM movement is really all about, and then discover how you can help contribute! Further education, discussion, and action are definitely required so the BLM movement doesn’t stop just because we logged off or because the hashtag isn’t “trending” in our circle anymore.
It is important to move the conversations off of the internet as well so the discussion can take on more depth and eliminate more of the misunderstandings that arise from social media. Because having an in-person conversation with peers, children, parents, etc. is how the community begins to grow.
Sure, having an online conversation helps a lot, but bringing matters up in a more intimate scene encourages normalizing conversations that are usually hard to have with people off of the computer or phone screen. These conversations promote inclusivity in social environments so Black voices can be lifted and heard.
White individuals need to listen to the entire Community of Color when it comes to their feelings and their lived experiences. This will help white people truly understand their perspective, and start an important conversation with other friends, who may be white too, in how they can be effective in this movement, rather than cause further harm.
All of this can encourage people to then coordinate ideas for community events where Black lives are discussed more openly. These community events can lead to educating people who still need help understanding what the motive of BLM is. It is important to understand that while you may not completely understand these feelings that Black Americans may have, you should still empathize and listen. There is always something that can be learned by listening. Knowledge is power and power that can turn into action.
BLM is a Call-to-Action
The BLM movement is a call-to-action in so many ways. It encourages discussion. It encourages people to voice their thoughts and experiences within their community whether via social media, protests or events. and other community gatherings. It encourages people to donate to organizations that will help the world become a better, more inclusive place as a whole. The BLM movement provides us all with a variety of methods to support this movement, even if you are not actively posting on social media platforms.
Discussion with peers is also effective because it prioritizes talking about how we can build a better future for generations. Even purchasing a t-shirt from your favorite artist who is donating the proceeds of the sale to an organization that is working to combat racism can be impactful. Anything can make an impact.
But just because you share one post, or make one action does not mean you should stop there. Like working towards achieving any goal, whether working towards fitness goals, business goals or combatting social injustice in your community, consistency is key. Making an ongoing effort to contribute to the equality efforts in surrounding communities is so essential. We cannot stop with just one action.
Black Lives Matter has changed the world and had a positive impact on society so far, but it is still just the start. Injustice and racism continue to prey on society. I challenge you to take a few minutes out of your daily routine to discuss social injustice today with those around you. Whether that conversation starts online or in person, it’s a start. Progress begins with being uncomfortable.