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Black Lives Matter protests of 2016, which stirred the whole nation, reignited mainstream media interest for the movement and started a discourse on race and police violence on Twitter and other social media platforms (Rickford; Carney 181). Even though all lives matter, one cannot ignore social issues that declaratively make the tragic deaths of African-Americans in police shootings a systemic problem. This paper aims to discuss policing practices in America and how they relate to the issues of social justice.
The inspirational and reaffirming Twitter hashtag, #BlackLivesMatter has emerged as a response to the status quo that has crippled racial justice proponents in their struggle against police misconduct. Philando Castile’s case is a perfect example of what Leovy refers to as the ghetto side (3). Castile was a 32-year-old African-American male who was fatally shot by a police officer Jeronimo Yanez during a traffic stop (Berman). Despite fury and outrage that swept across the country as a response to the incident, the officer was acquitted of all charges. Sadly, it is not a single case of police brutality; rather, police-involved shootings have turned into a tragic trend. According to Leovy, even though African-American males represent only 6 percent of the US population, “nearly 40 percent of those murdered” (14).
The Identity Compass exercise has helped me to understand that having been raised in a middle-class family, I am an extremely privileged individual who is not capable of relating to the daily struggles of less-fortunate people. That is why I try to pay as much attention to minority victim cases as possible. Also, my Muslim identity, which is framed by global developments, is often perceived by prejudiced people as a threat. Therefore, I am especially interested in the promotion of the social movement, Black Lives Matter, that represents a struggle for saving the lives and dignity of a traditionally marginalized group in the US—African Americans.
The Ta-Nehisi Coates video on police violence shows that African-American communities live in perpetual fear for the safety of their children. The writer featured in the video states that given that police who are being paid to protect people often inflict lethal harm upon African-Americans, “the threat of violence is always there” (“Ta-Nehisi Coates”). Ta-Nehisi Coates tells a story of his friend, Prince Jones, who has been shot and killed by the Prince George’s County police. The writer reveals that he has been incapable of distancing himself from the horrific incident, which shows that fear is a part of the African-American experience (“Ta-Nehisi Coates”).
It can be argued that #BlackLivesMatter campaign on Twitter helps to promote awareness around issues of social justice. Social media is a new public platform that has proved to be extremely effective in fighting against the normalization of violence against African-Americans. This new public sphere has helped to engage many people in the discussion of police brutality as well as organize protests. It is extremely important since even the least privileged members of American society have been able to use Twitter to oppose many issues associated with structural inequality.
The paper has helped me to better understand the daily struggles of African-Americans who have to live in perpetual fear for the safety of their children and close ones. I have also realized that the Black Lives Matter campaign is a response to systematic police brutality that has claimed the lives of many people of color.
Berman, Mark. “Minn. Officer Acquitted in Shooting of Philando Castile During Traffic Stop, Dismissed from Police Force.” The Washington Post.
Carney, Nikita. “All Lives Matter, but so Does Race: Black Lives Matter and the Evolving Role of Social Media.” Humanity & Society, vol. 40, no. 2, 2016, pp. 180-199.
Leovy, Jill. Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America. Spiegel & Grau, 2015.
Rickford, Russell. “Black Lives Matter: Toward a Modern Practice of Mass Struggle.” New Labor Forum, vol. 25, no. 1, 2016, pp. 34-42.
“Ta-Nehisi Coates on Police Brutality: ‘The Violence is not New, it’s the Cameras That are New.’” Democracy Now.