Black Lives Matter movement not over
Grass-roots organized protests, die-ins have lasting effects
Black Americans pulled the fire alarm and aren’t looking back. The deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner at the hands of police officers started a reactionary movement that shook the nation. The events that began to unfold in Ferguson, Miss. late last year held America’s eyes wide open. Regardless of feelings about what was going on, everyone had their sights on the city, waiting to see what would happen next. What proceeded to unfurl was a visible, audible grassroots movement riddled with protests, die-ins, tweets and constant news coverage. As millions took to the streets of Ferguson, New York City and other cities around the nation, citizens, politicians and police officers were forced to not only acknowledge, but to discuss the state of race relations in America. Without hesitation, Rutgers students joined the movement and made their voices heard. From protesting at Student Centers to using #RU4BlackLives and shutting down Rt. 18 during rush hour traffic, University students took the movement seriously from its inception. They have shaped the discussion on campus and asserted that as a diverse institution, Rutgers should not stand for discrimination.
As most reactionary movements go, from the outside looking in, it did not appear as if Black Lives Matter had clear direction. But it was obvious its roots would stretch far and wide. The movement resonated across the world: individuals in Paris, Tokyo and New Delhi protested holding signs that read, “The world is watching America.” The phrase Black Lives Matter gave black people in America a voice that everyone was listening to. As President Obama stated during his speech following the announcement of the grand jury decision in the Michael Brown case, “people of color are not making this up.”
The entire movement functions with a bottom-up approach: enacting change at the lowest levels with the mentality that effects will trickle up, resulting in systematic change. As a result, social media and the Internet have played major roles in shaping the movement and helping to decide what it stands for. #BlackLivesMatter became an integral part of the movement. It was used on Twitter, Instagram and protest signs. It was in news reports and on t-shirts. But as most hashtags do, #BlackLivesMatter began to take on the alternate form of #AllLivesMatter. Similarly, as hate crimes across the nation continued to take place, numerous adaptations were made prompting Internet fights about ownership. While bickering over hashtag appropriation does not further constructive discussions or contribute solutions to ending overt and implicit racism, it highlights the fact that systematic injustices will no longer be tolerated. Despite the identifier that comes first, the concept of “lives matter” calls attention to the hate crimes that individuals of all races and creeds fall victim to. Human dignity should be respected — point blank, period. History shows that America has had long and contentious relationships with ethnic minorities, immigrants and other minority groups, but enough is enough.
The Black Lives Matter movement has had tangible effects — there is a local and national push toward police officers using body cameras. Of course, cameras are not the only solution. But their existence stands to provide concrete evidence of events that transpire between officers and citizens. Similarly, America is talking about race honestly and without shying away from facts. Race and hate crimes became issues discussed on local nightly news, and while that attention has faded, the movement has not.
All social movements operate with ebbs and flows. The Black Lives Matter movement began in 2012 with the death of Trayvon Martin, but it gained national and international support with Michael Brown and Eric Garner. The Black Lives Matter movement started a revolution –– it was not a moment, but a movement. Even if the media isn't covering it and Twitter isn’t buzzing, the movement is still happening.