Black millennials use smartphones to increase awareness of social issues


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Photo by Susmita Paruchuri |

The increasing use of smartphones and other portable internet-connected devices have allowed African-American millennials to broadcast police killings more widely than was possible in years past.


The increasing number of smartphones has helped spread awareness of social causes and current events in the public eye.

According to USA Today, 91 percent of black millennials own smartphones and spend two hours more a week using the internet on personal computers than average millennials.

Topical Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram posts—along with tweets posted online at the advent of controversy—helps to expose issues such as police brutality and racism in the 21st century.

For social change to occur many people must voice their opinion and take action to fight against prejudices, said Raquel White, a School of Engineering first-year student, who is also a black millennial.

Although social media proved effective, she said it is not always enough. 

“It is not acceptable that racism still lives in the United States, a so-called free country where one cannot even speak or look at a cop the wrong way without having to be rushed to the hospital or dead. We don't see other races being beaten to death or arrested for minor misdemeanors. The only difference is the color of their skin,” White said.

An increase in the number of smartphones and other social media devices has brought attention to black Americans being killed by police officers, according to CNN.

The incidents involving the deaths of Eric Garner and Alton Sterling may not have been brought to public attention if not for cellphone videos provided.

“Technology and social media allow for the black community to come together as a whole, across city and state boundaries for the purpose of standing up against the issues that we face," said Daniel Anderson, a School of Engineering first-year student. 

Social media allows individuals to send messages and convey feelings to people not only in the black community, but in all communities to raise awareness and gain the support to fight against injustice and inequality, he said.

Anderson and White said they participate in voicing their outrage toward brutality of black people within the criminal justice system. 

It is not just millennials who feel compelled to contribute to an online community, said Kim Butler, an associate professor in the Department of Africana Studies.

“Technology has been critical for democratizing and disseminating information. For example, police violence against people of color, women, the LGBT community and poor people has routinely been shielded from public view, and accusations against them discredited,” Butler said. 

She said cellphone videos allow for documentation of this type of aggression in unprecedented ways. 

"These videos have helped create a visceral awareness of ongoing problems, much like the 1955 public viewing of the body of young Emmett Till after he had been lynched and tortured," she said.

Relating public lynchings of the past to present-day spread of injustice on social media, she understands the importance of sites like Twitter.

“Of course, Twitter has allowed people to mobilize rapidly, share information and consolidate new activisms as we've seen with #BlackLivesMatter, #SayHerName and other hashtags,” the professor said.

Butler said she tries to impart the idea of equality and the importance of diversity in her teachings at Rutgers, highlighting some significant distinctions in technology to her students.

Black America is incredibly diverse, encompassing different languages, cultures and points of view, she said. 

Now is a time where there is unprecedented access to black voices speaking for themselves, she said. 

"This is something that Rutgers, as well as the nation as a whole, can benefit from in the effort towards greater dialogue, understanding and — importantly — correcting the causes of inequality," Butler said. 


Colten Schreiner is a School of Engineering first-year student. He is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.


Colten Schreiner

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