The Black Lives Movement as a Non-Violent Action
Non-violence action refers to the practice of achieving social change goals using non-violent methods such as civil disobedience, symbolic protests, political non-cooperation, and economic non-cooperation. The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement is a perfect example of non-violence action. The Black Lives Matter Movement is a global social movement which started in 2013 in the United States and is dedicated towards fighting anti-black violence and racism particularly police brutality (Carney, 190). People of color by far comprise the majority of the population killed at the hands of the police in the United States. The Movement condemns the unjust killing of people of color by the police and demands society to value the humanity and life of people of color as much as it values the life of white people. Activists associated with the movement have held and continue to hold influential and large protests in various cities in the United States and internationally. At the grassroots, the movement is led by local chapters that organize programs and campaigns. These chapters have affiliations with the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, an active and non-profit civil rights organization with operations in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The purpose of this essay is to analyze the Black Lives Matter Movement as a non-violence action used to promote social equity and justice. The essay delves into various aspects of the movement including violence against African American people, the formation and structure of the movement, funding, how the movement employs social media as a tactic, the shadow banning of black creators on Tik Tok, direct action, excessive use of force by the police, some of its broader movement and the Movement’s impact.
Notably, the Black Lives Matter Movement has other broader movements that run concurrently involving various activists and organizations. One of the braider movements operating under the Black Lives Matter Movement is Campaign Zero which was formed by DeRay McKesson, Johnetta Elzie, Samuel Siyangwe, and Britney Packnett. Campaign Zero was initiated with the aim of promoting policy reforms that will see police brutality come to an end. The initiative came up with a ten-point agenda for reforms in policing as well as recommendations including putting an end to broken window policy, improving the community oversight in various police departments and stern guidelines on excessive use of force by the police. John Eligon, a reporter for the New York Times noted that some activists expressed concern as they felt that the campaign over-focused on the legislative solutions for police violence. The Black Lives Matter Movement also supports other positives and causes that do not relate to police brutality such as economic justice, Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Queer (LGBTQI), immigration reform, and feminism.
Violence against African Americans
The Black Lives Matter Movement began in July 2013 as a hashtag #BlackLivesMatter after George Zimmerman who was responsible for the murder of an unarmed African-American teenager called Trayvon Martin in Florida. Zimmerman was acquitted of the crime in February 2012, 17 months earlier than expected. Notably, the movement only became widely renowned following the death of two high-profile African-American individuals; Michael Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in Newyork in 2014. This caused uproar as neither of the two police officers responsible for their deaths was formally convicted. Since the protests in Missouri took place, the supporters of the activists have demonstrated against the killings of numerous black people caused by police actions. There is a bigger history and context of African American boys and men who died at the hands of the police just like George Floyd who died at the hands of the police outside the Minneapolis police department. Since 2014, the movement has protested against the death of high-profile deaths including Laquan Macdonald (2014), Tamir Rice ( 2014), John Crawford (2014), Water Scott (2015), Freddie Gray (2015), Philando Castile (2016), Alton Sterling (2016), Terrence Crutcher (2016) and Antwon Rose (2018). Additionally, black girls and women have also become targets of police violence a reality evidenced by the “Say Her Name” Movement which highlighted this subtle violence and how it often goes unnoticed. Some of the women who have succumbed to violence associated with police interactions are Breonna Taylor (2020), Atatiana Jefferson (2019), Sandra Bland (2015), and Deborah Danner (2016).
Black Lives Matter Formation and Structure
The Movement was co-founded by three black community organizers namely Opal Tometi, Alicia Garza, and Patrisse Khan, and began as a social media hashtag called #BlackLivesMatter. The phrase Black Lives Matter can be used to refer to a political action committee, a Twitter hashtag, a social movement, a slogan, or a loose association of groups advocating for equality and equal justice. As a movement, BLM is decentralized and has operations at the grassroots and it emphasizes the need for local organizing before local leadership. The structure of the Black Lives Matter movement is different from other previous movements such as the civil rights movement. The differences have become subject to scholarly review. Deray McKesson, an activist notes that the Black Lives Matter Movement comprises of all people that publicly declare that the lives of black people matter and devote their energy and time to the movement’s cause (Ince, Fabio, and Clayton, 1815). One of the movement founders, Alicia Garza describes the movement as an online platform that exists for the purpose of providing activists with a collective and shared set of goals and principles. The local chapters of the Black Lives Movement are required to have commitment to the network’s guiding principles and continue operations without a hierarchy and central structure. Gaza further notes that the organization’s interest is not in policing those who are and not part of the faction. The Black Lives Matter has a loose structure that has led to confusion among activists and the press as statements or actions from individuals or a chapter are associated with the BLM movement as a whole.
Between May and December 2020, donations to the Black Lives Matter Movement were 10.6 billion dollars according to The Economist. In 2015, Politico noted that Democracy Alliance, a coalition of Democratic parties had donated over 200, 000 US dollars in endorsements for the movement (Taylor, 166). The Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation is focused on catching up with its plans and funding for use in endowment as it wants to be known for more than just protesting for Black people dying at the hands of law enforcers. 2020 marked the first time for the movement to reveal details about its finances. The Foundation reported committing $21.7 million as grants for unofficial and official chapters including 30 local organizations that are black-led. The year 2020 ended as the company had a balance of over 60 million dollars after using a quarter of its assets on grant funds and other charitable giving (Ransby, 67). According to the Foundations report, individual donors donated an average of $30.76 with over 10% of the donations being recurrent. The report did not indicate who made donations in 2020 and its leaders also refrained from naming its prominent leaders. In 2020, the foundation’s expenses were $ 8.4 million including the cost of staffing, administrative and operating costs and cost for carrying out activities such as crisis intervention, rapid response, and civic engagement. The foundation that in 2021, the organization’s focus will be on economic justice, and particularly concerning the current impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the black community. Last year, the racial justice organization impacted largely on philanthropic giving. According to a report by the Candid and Center for Disaster Philanthropy, 35% of the total covid-19 funding of 20.2% from high-net-worth individuals, corporations, foundations, and public charities were directed to communities of people of color.
Social Media and the Internet as a Strategy and Tactic
Originally, the Black Lives Matter movement employed various social media platforms in activism; it used hashtags particularly on Twitter to reach multitudes of people rapidly. Since then, the Movement has embraced the diversity of tactics. The protests organized by The Movement have all been overwhelmingly peaceful. The protests have never employed violence and when it did it was done by the police or counter-protesters. Despite this, opponents have been portrayed to be falsely violent. The American Dialect Society selected #BlackLivesMatter to be the word of the year in 2014. The hashtag was among the twelve selected hashtags which changed the world in 2014. For the period between July 2013 and May 2018, #BlackLivesMatter was tweeted more than 30 million times which translates to 17, 0002 tweets a day (Rickford, 90). Notably, by June 2020, the hashtag had about 47.8 million tweets, with July 7th- July 17th, 2016 having the biggest usage at about 500,000 daily tweets. The said period recorded an increase in the tweets that were using hashtags #AllLivesmatter and ##BlackLivesMatter. In May 2020, 8.8 million tweets were sent using the hashtag with an average of 3.7 million tweets being recorded daily (Leach and Aerielle, 545). In 2016, an incident that led to the death of five police officers and the injury of 9 others in Dallas saw the movement take on a more negative tone than before. At the time, 39% of the tweets that used the #BlackLivesMatter were showing opposition for the movement and criticizing it. Half of the people that opposed the movement described the group as terrorist and referred them as terrorists. Rutgers University professor, Khadijah White, argued that the Black Lives Matter Movement ushered an era where black movements in university emerged. Notably, social media has increased activism all over the world as evidenced by the ease with which bystanders are being empowered to use their phones to record graphic videos showing violence by the police. People are now empowered and are using social media to drive messages across the world. The use of hashtags has brought a lot of attention particularly to politicians in high ranks and rallying them to support Black Lives Matter.
Shadow Banning of Black Creators on Tik Tok
During the summer of 2020, the death of a black man called George Floyd sparked worldwide riots and Black Lives Matter protests. The protests which took place in nearly all states in the United States, centered around promoting police reform and other countries demonstrated their support for the movement by organizing demonstrations in their countries. To show their presence in the streets, Tik Tok allies, black creators and influencers showed their support for the app in the hope that the message would spread to the larger population through the popularity of the app (Kilgo, Rachel, and George, 413). However, many creators began noticing that a shadow banning trend had emerged and was affecting views of any videos that mentioned the George Floyd and the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag. For instance, Kam Kurosaki with a following of over 80,000 and thousands of views on other videos was getting less than 1000 views in videos mentioning George Floyd, Breonna Taylor or the Black Lives Matter Movement.
In response to this shadow banning, the creators of Tik Tok came up with a plan to configure a protest on their own on major social media avenues including Instagram, Facebook, and Tik Tok in what was called Black Out Tuesday. The goals of the campaign were to raise awareness about shadow banning and to express support for the agenda against police brutality on a bigger scope. Some of the leading Tik Tom creators such a Chari D’ Amelio who has the largest following on the app showed support by noting people of color have a vice and they ought to stand up and stick together for what is right. The creators showed support by changing their profile pictures on the application to a picture of a raised fist and by refraining from posting for an entire day. With the popularity of Black Out Tuesday going mainstream, Tik Tok gave a statement addressing claims about shadow banning. In their statement, they apologized and acknowledged black creators and the community at large that felt suppressed, unsafe, and unsupported. In response, Tik Tok launched events and initiatives aimed at raising awareness and stirring a conversation relating to the experience of blacks online. Some of the initiatives include Tik Tok’s #MakeBlackHistory which was the first summit of its kind that brought together iconic and leading black individuals such as Trace Ross and Tyra Banks as panelists to strike conversations about their experiences as people of color in the industry. However, creators still show their dismay to the path of change and the continuing employment of shadow banning on creators who are black. The main issue has to do with the inconsistency that exists in regard to the community guidelines.
Direct Action Employed by the Movement
In general, the Black Lives Matter Movement partakes in direct action which makes the parties or people uncomfortable to the extent that they cannot ignore the issue and they take necessary action to address it. The Black Lives Matter movement is mostly known for building power through the use of rallies and protests. In the past, the movement has also staged a lie-in protest where the protests simulate being dead for instance, the 2015 Twin Cities Marathon. Additionally, some political slogans have also been used in demonstrations including the famous Black Lives Matter slogan. Other common phrases used are “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot”, a slogan attributed to Michael Brown. Furthermore, the slogan “I can’t breathe” used to refer to George Floyd and Eric Garner have also emerged and are used in the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Other famous slogans are “Is my son next?”, “No justice, no peace”, and “White Silence is Violence”. A 2018 study revealed that protests organized by the Black Lives Matter Movement are more likely to happen in areas where people of color have died at the hands of police officers.
Impact of the Black Lives Matter Movement
Ever since the Black Lives Matter Movement emerged in 2013 with #BlackLivesMatter which began on social media, the Movement has had a tremendous impact on society. The movement has been featured and documented in songs, television, film, literature, and visual arts. Because of the movement, various media firms and outlets started airing material relating to the Black Lives Matter Movement and racial injustice. Additionally, in 2020, there was an increase in the number of television shows, books, and novels. Further, songs such as Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” and Michael Jackson’s “They Don’t Care About Us” have become widely adopted and are used as rallying calls when demonstrations are taking place. Bars4Justice is a short documentary film with features from various recording artists and activists associated with the movement. The film was the official choice for the 24th Annual Panafrican Film Festival-themed Stay Woke. In 2016, there was also a Black Lives Matter Movement was created that featured Jesse Williams. The film was all about the Black Lives Matter Movement. In 2015, the February issue of the Essence magazine was dedicated to Black Lives issues. Additionally, the Black Lives Matter contended for Time Magazine’s Person of the Year award in December 2015. It emerged fourth out of the eight candidates. The Black Lives Matter Movement has had a major influence on society as evidenced by the number of cities that have erected mural paintings about the Black Lives Matter movement. Many cities such as Dallas, Denver, Washington D.C, Denver, Charlotte, Brooklyn, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Alabama have painted the words “Black Lives Matter” in large big letters on the streets. In May 2016, when Delrish Moss was sworn in to serve as the first police chief who is Africa-America, he noted that he is faced with the challenge of lack of a diverse police force. Further, he noted that other challenges facing the police force are making the community relations better and resolving issues that have been stimulated by the Black Lives Matter Movement.
Excessive Use of Police Force
A study conducted between 2002 and 2011 by the Bureau of Justice Statistics revealed that out of all the people that had brushed shoulders with the police, people of color (2.8%) were more likely than Hispanics (1.4%) and whites (1.0%) to be perceived as a threat or to be arrested using excessive force. A study by the Washington Post revealed that in 2019, police officers killed 1,001 individuals by shooting at them. Out of these, half were white, about a quarter were people of color making the death rate of people of color twice that of Americans. In essence, Black people record 31 fatal deaths per million while White Americans have 13 deadly shootings per million. The Washington Post also estimated that in 2019 alone 13 unarmed black men were shot by police officers.
A study carried by Cesario in 2019 and published by a peer-reviewed journal called Social Psychological and Personality Science revealed that there exists no evidence showing disparities against black people in fatal shootings, shootings involving unarmed citizens, or fatal shootings where harmless objects are misidentified. However, the report is countered and criticized by a Rose et. al (2020) study which concludes that exists a substantial racial bias where police have shot black suspects who are unarmed. The bias is not present where the suspects were white or of another race. Roland Fryer, a Harvard economist, found that Hispanics and black people were 50% more exposed to police interactions that are lethal. Additionally, another study conducted by Ross found substantial bias in the death of unarmed black people as compared to white Americans. On average, black people were 3.49 times at risk of being short in comparison with white people who are unarmed. The study further found that armed black men were 2.79 times more likely to be shot by police than their fellow black people who were unarmed. Additionally, the research discovered that the racial bias which had been documented was not capable of explaining the differences that exist in crime rates locally.
The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement is a perfect example of non-violence action as it achieves social change goals using non-violent methods such as civil disobedience, symbolic protests, political non-cooperation, and economic non-cooperation. The Black Lives Matter Movement is a global social movement which started in 2013 in the United States and is dedicated towards fighting anti-black violence and racism particularly police brutality. Activists associated with the movement have held and continue to hold influential and large protests in various cities in the United States and internationally. Discussed above are some aspects about the movement including violence against African American people, the formation and structure of the movement, funding, how the movement employs social media as a tactic, the shadow banning of black creators on Tik Tok, direct action, excessive use of force by the police, some of its broader movement and the Movement’s impact. There is a need to continue supporting the Black Lives Movement as a nation as it has brought positive change to society. With proper funding and support from the government as well as local and state actors, there is no limit as to what the Movement can achieve in the fight against anti-black violence and racism.
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Leach, Colin Wayne, and Aerielle M. Allen. “The social psychology of the Black Lives Matter meme and movement.” Current Directions in Psychological Science 26.6 (2017): 543-547.
Ransby, Barbara. Making all black lives matter: Reimagining freedom in the twenty-first century. Vol. 6. University of California Press, 2018.
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