Social Movement: Black Lives Matter
Over the past decades in the US, police brutality against African-American people in the US has risen steadily. Racial inequity issues have led to a lot of incoherence in various communities in the world, such as riots and demonstrations. Different ethnicities sometimes think that the criminal justice system uses more force on them compared to other ethnicities. For instance, African-American people have always felt that cops and the entire criminal integrity system in the US target them as compared to different ethnicities. It prompted people to start Social Movement Organizations (SMOs) to fight for the rights of these people leading to the establishment of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement through the micro-blogging platform, Twitter. In this paper, the researcher examines the reasons why the people coined the BLM hashtag and campaign through a content analysis study.
The statistics showing that more than half of the victims of police brutality are either Blacks or Latinos in the US (Barry & Jones, 2014) prompted people to formulate the BLM. Despite the black Americans making up 12% of the US population, the criminal justice system seems to target them through fatal encounters with law enforcement agencies. Alicia Garza, Cullors, and Opal Tometi coined the hashtag BLM on July 13, 2013, through Twitter. The trio formulated the hashtag to dissent the exoneration of George Zimmerman, a police officer, who shot death Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black American youngster (Garza, 2014). Various advocates advocating against the brutality of the criminal justice system ganged up using the hashtag to express their disappointment and emotions about the numerous high profile cases where unarmed African-American individuals succumbed to police brutality (Barry & Jones, 2014).
The BLM movement and hashtag are of considerable significance to any scholar and individual who wants to understand the partial treatment of different ethnicities by a state’s criminal justice system. Despite people formulating the All Lives Matter to counter the BLM because the US is a post-racial society, people still cling to the BLM because of the police brutality statistics. The recent rapid shootings of African-Americans by police officers in towns around the US have enlarged the essence and significance of the BLM. People have held several protests and riots because of the judicial system’s failure to indicate cops involved in the killing of unarmed black people.
The research had to analyze previous studies conducted on the subject matter to comprehend the need for SMOs such as BLM. The study first examines race theories and racial formulation strategies in the US. The information will provide insights as to why a nation that many people believe is a post-racial society still needs a given ethnicity’s social movement.
Race consciousness is a modern phenomenon. In the far past, people were equal, despite the differences in their skin colors (Omi & Winant, 1986). The notion changed a few centuries back. People thought that race is a biological characteristic, and categorization of people should have their base on their skin colors. It led to the “Chain of Being,” where scholars and communities categorized people in a hierarchical imperative (Omi & Winant, 1986). At the bottom of the chain are inanimate objects, followed by lesser species, and then to humans, who are the superior-most creatures. They (humans) were the closest to God. The issue of racial supremacy arose when figuring out which the human race was closest to God, shifting race as a biological construct to a social construct. In their theory, Omi and Winant (1986) view race as a social construct where the factors that make a given race have their root on the mix of socio-political and economic forces.
Racial Formation in the US started with slavery (Graff, 2015). Initially, people could work on other people’s farms to pay for their debts. Upon the advancement of agriculture and vast lands in the south, the need for sizeable cheap labor led to the slavery of African-American individuals. The whites treated the blacks as their inferiors, and as a move to ensure they remained at the bottom, the whites assigned themselves more rights, positions of power and provided the blacks never joined together (Graff, 2015). The justification for the enslavement of black people as a lesser race led to racism and slavery in the US, creating the start of the race as a social construct in global history.
Bonilla-Silva (2012) argued that people no longer racially discriminate based on biological factors somewhat covert or color-blind racism. He further explains that people should not see the color of an individual skin instead of a person’s social and cultural failings, giving a new base for racism in the US based on culture. People use the skin color of an individual to determine what they are in the inside (Bonilla-Silva, 2012). Bobo (2011) analyzes the colorblind racism and the criminal justice system in the US. Even though the criminal justice system wants to serve people equally, the level of black incarceration in the US tripled between 1980 and 2000. The ration of black people to white people increased to more than 8 to 1. It implies that for every one white American arrested, more than eight black Americans also faced conviction. It is because the colorblind policies formulated to govern the people have a significant impact on the colors of people.
The Black Lives Matters movement aims at fighting and breaking the racial oppression upon which the US has established herself (Bonilla & Rosa, 2015). It aims at fighting this new kind of racism by bringing together all the black people excluded by the Civil Rights Movements in the past (Bobo, 2011). A single idea started the movement in 2012 triggered by the demise of an African-American teenager, Trayvon Martin, and the acquittal of the officer who led to the death of the former, Officer George Zimmerman. The three women who coined the phrase took it to twitter to air their frustration because of the failure of the justice system. Later on, Michael Brown succumbed to death due to police brutality prompting more people to participate in the BLM movement.
Cox (2017) tried to establish the relationship between the hashtags and the exchanges between the BLM campaigners and their followers through Twitter and other social media platforms. The research proved that hashtags elevate the ability of the BLM program and stimulate action within the black community in the US. Bonilla and Rosa (2015) argue that SMOs aims at mobilizing resources or signaling political elites. It is by igniting the interests of political elites in society and motivating these individuals to take a position supporting a given social movement and its ideologies.
Sociological Theories Analysis
According to Mooney, Knox, and Schacht (2007), there are three sociological perspectives, the functionalist, conflict, and symbolic internationalist perspectives. According to the functionalist perspective, a society is an interconnected system with portions that maintain social balance for the entire system by working together (Mooney, Knox & Schacht, 2007). It focuses on how one part of society influences other parts towards maintaining the equilibrium. The BLM movement plays a pivotal role in raising awareness amongst the black people in American society. The police brutality and inefficiency of the US legal system have prompted the people to fight for their rights and voice their frustrations through social movements leading to a finely tuned awareness and social cohesion.
The conflict perspective connotates a society as a system made of diverse groups competing for power and resources (Mooney, Knox & Schacht, 2007). As the American community keeps thriving in industrial prowess, there is a development of two categories of people; the production means owners and workers. The BLM movement makes the black Americans aware of their rights to equal opportunities and resources as other ethnicities in the country (Graff, 2015). The blacks now want to enjoy the same socio-political and economic powers as their white counterparts leading to increased tensions and scramble between the black Americans and the US administrative system. The movement has made the cross-examining of the American justice system where the people believe their entitlement to equal legal rights as the whites in the country. It substantially affects the way the cops maintain law and order in the black communities and white societies.
The symbolic internationalist perspective focuses on the psychological subtleties of people interrelating in minor groups in society. It accentuates that descriptions and connotations fashioned and maintained by dealings with others influence human behavior (Mooney, Knox & Schacht, 2007). Since the BLM movement attracts the opinions and ideologies of different black American people in the US, these people develop similar behaviors with the same objectives, fighting the oppression of the black people by the criminal justice system. The people tweet through Twitter on the social movement triggering the people to awaken and fight for equal socio-political and economic rights. It leads to increased awareness where every individual knows their rights and privileges. It helps to hold together the social institutions in place, such as criminal justice systems.
Black lives have been a subject of neglect since the beginning of the US. The Black Lives Matter Movement is a social, civil rights movement objectifying the fight against racism in the US. It aims at increasing color consciousness in the US, gain public support, and diminishing the notion of color blindness. The social movement should objectify the acquisition of support and enlightening various black communities about colorblind racism. The criminal justice system should formulate laws that can replace the neutral laws that have been a subject of racial discrimination. In the future, the criminal justice system should examine its operations to ensure that it does not discriminate or act more harmful to one ethnicity as compared to others. After the research, the researcher’s perspective about the Black Lives Matter social movement has not changed. The African-American are equal to their white counterparts, and the entire system should treat them fairly.
Barry, R., & Jones, C. (2014). Incomplete records: Hundreds of police killings uncounted in federal stats. The Wall Street Journal, A1.
Bobo, L. D. (2011). Somewhere between Jim Crow & Post-Racialism: Reflections on the Racial
Divide in America Today. Daedalus, 140(2), 11–36.
Bonilla, Y., & Rosa, J. (2015). # Ferguson: Digital protest, hashtag ethnography, and the racial politics of social media in the United States. American ethnologist, 42(1), 4-17.
Bonilla-Silva, E. (2012). The invisible weight of whiteness: the racial grammar of everyday life in contemporary America. Ethnic & Racial Studies, 35(2), 173–194.
Cox, J. M. (2017). “The Source of a Movement: Making a Case for Social Media as an Informational Source using Black Lives Matter.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 40(11): 1847-54.
Garza, A. (2014). A herstory of the# BlackLivesMatter movement. The Feminist Wire.Graff, G. (2015). Redesigning Racial Caste in America via Mass Incarceration. The Journal of Psychohistory. 43(2), 120–133.
Mooney, L. A., Knox, D., & Schacht, C. (2007). Understanding social problems: Three main sociological perspectives.
Omi, M., and Winant H. (1986). Racial Formation in the United States from the 1960’s to the 1980s. New York: Routledge.