This 2019 marks the sixth year of #BlackLivesMatter, an online campaign which began against police killings of black people in the U.S. The movement started on Twitter in a year after the acquittal of George Zimmerman, a police officer who shot dead an Afro-American teenager, Trayvon Martin, in 2012. Unfortunately, the rates of racism and violence against people of color have remained high.
According to the statistics provided by DoSomething.org, a global non-profit organization with the goal of motivating young people to make positive change both online and offline through campaigns that make an impact, about 37% of African-Americans have been arrested for drug-related offenses in the U.S. despite comprising only 13% of the U.S. population and 14% of the monthly drug users. Previous studies have also reported that frisk blacks or Latinos are more likely to be pulled over by the police than whites. For instance, 80% of the stops made in New York City were blacks and Latinos and 85% of those people were frisked. This is compared to only 8% of white people stopped.
Additionally, it has been reported that African-Americans are 33% more likely than whites to be detained after being arrested while facing a felony trial in New York. The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics concluded that there’s a 32% chance of African-American male born to go to jail in his lifetime while a Latino makes has a 17% chance. This is compared to white males who only have a 6% chance. Aside from that, 51% of Americans expressed anti-black sentiments in a poll in 2012, which is a 3% increase from 2008.
These statistics are just the tip of the iceberg that black people are experiencing in the U.S. Historically, they are amongst the minorities who have been subjected to discrimination, unequal treatment, violence, and even death just because of being who they were. With that, the #BlackLivesMatter movement plays an integral role in fighting against racism in the country. According to an article by AA, a source for trusted news which offers news, photographs, and videos on Turkey, the movement is Black-centered political will which raises concerns about ‘systematically targeting for the demise of black people.’
How the #BlackLivesMatter Started?
After six years since it was established, the #BlackLivesMatter has become a member-led global network of more than 40 chapters. It all started when a Florida jury acquitted Zimmerman of murder or manslaughter of an African-American in July 2013. During that time, this news hasn’t spread enough to gain attention. With that, three radical Black organizers – Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi – reacted with the dreadful news by posting #BlackLivesMatter on social media.
Although the #BlackLivesMatter had already started in 2013, it didn’t gain that much attention until August 2014. It is when Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown, another African-American. It has been reported that protests broke out the day after Brown’s shooting. The country saw cars have been vandalized, commercial properties were broken into, and many more. The #BlackLivesMatter was a product of a peaceful demonstration or movement that they need.
When a grand jury announced Darren Wilson would face no indictment in the matter of Brown’s death, a group of protesters chanting “Black lives matter” shut down a local shopping mall. This 21st-century civil rights movement aims, above all, to recognize and treat black people equally. It is democratic in its aims and agile in its responses. It has been fuelled by rage against injustice and institutionalized racism and also a frustration at the brutality of the state against those who are ‘different’ from them.
According to the official website of the movement, #BlackLivesMatter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where people of color are intentionally and systematically targeted for demise. This is a way to affirm black people’s humanity, recognize their contributions to this society, and acknowledge their resilience in the face of deadly oppression.
The Movement Grows
According to Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan American think tank based in Washington, D.C. which provides information on social issues, public opinion, and demographic trends, the hashtag has been used nearly 30 million times on Twitter from July 2013 and May 1, 2018. Although it slowly gained prominence on social media, it was reported that the hashtag was used an average of 17,002 times per day. Analysts have also seen periodic increases in its daily usage in response to real-world events. It was found out that the most notable was the discussions and news about fatal encounters between law enforcement and black Americans.
Additionally, Twitter users have utilized the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag for a range of purposes since its first appearance in mid-2013. Among the most common are supportive or positive references to the broader movement. Now, the movement has reached influence across the world and has gained a lot of chapters in the U.S. In an interview, Karen Ross, an academician with the Department of Conflict Resolution at University of Massachusetts, told Anadolu Agency said, ‘The hashtag ‘Black Lives Matter’ reflects the message that Black lives matter, too – in other words, that Black lives ALSO matter. It was never a statement about only black lives mattering.’
As of now, the #BlackLivesMatter has been an online community which helps fight against the anti-Black campaigns and empowers the voice of people of color. Patrisse Khan-Cullors, co-founder of BLM said, ‘We are building grassroots power with Black communities who have been left out the political process. We are building new spaces and places that tell Black stories and remind the world of our everlasting contributions.’