It seems that every couple of years, there is an incident that sparks the debate over race relations in the United States. While the civil rights movement in the 60’s seems like something from the distant past, there are many that don’t feel that enough has changed since Martin Luther King Jr. gave his iconic “I Have A Dream Speech” in 1963.
Some of the most notable cases that have helped to spark this debate include Rodney King, O.J. Simpson, and a number of police-involved shootings. The most recent cases have given rise to the Black Lives Matter movement, which is proving to be a force unlike other civil rights movements in the past. Since social media is relatively new, the movement has been able to take on a whole new twist on interacting and propelling the cause. In a world filled with such accessibility, there doesn’t seem to require one singular leader in this movement. Unlike movements under Martin Luther King Jr. or even Malcolm X, the Black Lives Matter movement can operate at the whim of its participants and reach the highest positions in government.
A huge difference between the Black Lives Matter movement and other civil rights movements is the fact that there is a difficulty reaching a tangible goal. While the mission seems to rely on accountability for the deaths of black people in America, there doesn’t seem to be any real way for this to be established in a manner that will quell the movement. With the movement continuing stronger than ever, check out our list of 15 things you should know about the Black Lives Matter movement.
15. Used By Hollywood
Oftentimes, some of the most intriguing storylines in film and television are pulled straight from the headlines. So the headlines made from the Black Lives Matter movement caused huge coverage by media, and even made its way onto some of the hottest shows on television. Law & Order: SVU highlighted the movement through an episode referencing the Trayvon Martin case, and Scandal implemented a storyline involving an officer-involved shooting in the fourth season of the series. Many people have questioned the media’s role in how these officer-involved shootings have been portrayed in the public, especially since some of the fictional situations have been so negative. In Scandal’s episode entitled, “The Lawn Chair,” the officer in question went on a tirade with a monologue that was damning to his character. Stating, “Brandon Parker is dead because he didn’t have respect, because those people out there who are chanting and crying over his body. They didn’t teach him the right values. They didn’t teach him respect. He didn’t respect me, he didn’t respect my authority.” The storyline ended with the implication that the officer would then have to fight charges against his behavior.
14. The Case That Started It All
Oftentimes, it’s the cases that grab the headlines that cause the added attention towards different societal issues. Just as the O.J. Simpson trial captivated the nation on race relations, so did the Trayvon Martin case. The death of Trayvon Martin led to some donning hoodies in an effort to show their solidarity pointing to the case as a murder, including Congressman Bobby Rush wearing a hoodie on the House Floor in 2012. The neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman, was ultimately acquitted of manslaughter in the case, which led to the creation of the Black Lives Matter movement. Yet, the creation of the movement wasn’t the only outcome from this case. The media storm surrounding the case brought attention to how the deceased was being portrayed in comparison to the shooter. George Zimmerman’s photo was a mugshot taken in 2005, while Trayvon Martin’s photos made him look like the picture of innocence at a much younger age. Yet, pictures taken from Trayvon Martin’s cell phone show him holding a gun, and smoking marijuana. Many have questioned why the Black Lives Matter movement caught such attention, while the issue involving the photo discrepancy didn’t gain even half of the media attention.
13. Adding Fuel To The Fire
The following summer after the first hashtag of Black Lives Matter hit social media, things seemed to die down in regards to media coverage after the Trayvon Martin case. Yet, the entire issue was stirred up again after the death of 18-year-old, Michael Brown. “Freedom rides” were constructed from all different parts of the country to Ferguson, Missouri. While the Trayvon Martin case involved a citizen with a license to carry, the Michael Brown case was different in that it involved a police officer. Officer Darren Wilson was notified of a nearby robbery when he came into contact with Michael Brown, and the shooting and ultimate death brought on further attention to the Black Lives Matter movement. Ferguson was then put on display as an example of structural racism in the U.S., with protestors quickly turning to violence and rioting in the streets. A QuikTrip was set ablaze, and protesters conflicted with police for weeks. Yet, this was just the start of the aggressive behavior associated with the Black Lives Matter movement.
12. Black Lives Matter Moves To Baltimore
Another case influencing the Black Lives Matter movement happened in Baltimore when 25-year-old, Freddie Gray, died in police custody in April 2015. Video was released depicting the arrest of Gray, prior to being placed in the police van that would transport him into custody. During the trip, Gray suffered a neck injury where the autopsy stated a “high-energy injury” was what caused his ultimate death. There was a huge debate over whether or not Gray had caused the injury on his own, or if the injury was due to inadequate restraints in the van. The case once again sparked national debate over police accountability, which many people believe led to the arrests of the officers involved. The case brought on protests, rioting, and increased violence in Baltimore, with much of it playing out in front of the cameras. In West Baltimore, rioters broke the windows of the CVS pharmacy and began looting. The CVS ultimately was set ablaze, and news cameras captured protesters slashing the hoses of the firefighters working to put the fire out. All the officers were either acquitted or had the charges dropped in the case, all while the Black Lives Matter movement increased in its aggressive behavior.
11. The Black Lives Matter Movement Sparks In Baton Rouge
On July 5, 2016 officers were called outside a supermarket in Baton Rouge. During a struggle on the ground, 37-year-old Alton Sterling was shot and ultimately died. A video was released of the incident that caused even more scrutiny against police officers. With all the momentum behind the Black Lives Matter movement, the video was just another catalyst to propel the movement forward. Yet, a second video was released that showed the fact that Sterling indeed had a gun, just as the initial call had stated. This gave some attention to how quickly the Black Lives Matter movement can jump to conclusions without all of the facts being revealed about a case. Many have come forward to declare that it was indeed a justified shooting. Army veteran and firearms instructor, Mike Brown, took to Facebook in a video to prove all the naysayers that declared Sterling’s death a murder by the hands of the police. In the video, he demonstrated how easily a gun could be used while still in his pocket and states, “So for those of you all who say the gun wasn’t fully extended and drawn… you don’t know a DAMN thing about guns.”
10. Philando Castile’s Death Live Streamed By Girlfriend
Within a day of the Sterling controversy, Diamond Reynolds took to Facebook with a live stream of the shooting aftermath of Philando Castile. The video shows Castile in the seat beside Diamond, with the officer outside of the car with his gun drawn. The video actually reveals much more than just what the initial shock value portrays, with many having their own take on the details surrounding the shooting. While many saw Reynolds as incredibly poised and composed, others thought to question why she would choose to exploit the moments immediately after the shooting rather than comfort him or her 4-year-old daughter in the backseat. The video also shows Reynolds saying, “We had a busted tail light and we have some weed in the car. That’s about it.” This helps to complete the picture of the scenario, which is heightened by the facts about Castile that emerged after his death. Castile was stopped by the police on 46 occasions, racked up more than $6,000 in fines, and wasn’t a stranger to having a suspended driver’s license. Some have seen this as further evidence that racial profiling is real, while others further questioned if he truly was compliant during the traffic stop.
9. The President Has Come Under Fire For His Role In Speaking About Black Lives Matter
President Obama has repeatedly come under fire for the way he has treated the Black Lives Matter movement, with many feeling that he has emboldened the movement to allow for increased violence against police. Many have felt that Obama’s words have helped to create a war on police officers, and have even blamed him for the police attack in Dallas. Sheriff David Clarke from Milwaukee County has been one of those in law enforcement that hasn’t been afraid to speak out about what Obama’s role has been throughout this movement, and has become a regular on both Fox and CNN news networks. One of the most notable interviews was with Don Lemon, where Sheriff Clarke stated, “This anti-police rhetoric sweeping the country has turned out some hateful things inside of people that are now playing themselves out on the American police officer.” When Lemon mentioned the President speaking out about police being more aggressive towards black males, Sheriff Clarke responded, “There is no data. The President has been lying about it.” Other criticisms of Obama came after he delivered a politically charged speech during the Dallas memorial for the fallen police officers, which many felt was further disrespect for law enforcement.
8. All Lives Matter Vs. Black Lives Matter
One of the biggest issues surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement is its name, since many feel that it isn’t inclusive enough and calls into question many separate issues. Since the creation of Black Lives Matter, there have been numerous offspring mottoes like All Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter. The response to this critique has always been that the statement refers to the specific vulnerability of African-Americans that isn’t prevalent with all other lives. Yet, many have criticized the fact that black-on-black crime has far more alarming numbers than anything remotely close to officer-involved shootings in the black community. The Injury Prevention and Research Center at the Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago released a report that followed the homicide rates from 2005 to 2015, and the results were astounding. The study showed homicide rates for African-Americans in Chicago were not only more than double than any other demographic, but are continuing to get worse with each year. In 2015, the African-American homicide rate was at its highest with 64.3 killings per 100,000 residents. Many question why these black lives don’t seem to matter.
7. Black Lives Matter Compared To Terrorists
One of the biggest criticisms of the Obama administration has been the reluctance to call terrorists out by the name of radical Islam. While many feel that this label can be construed as offensive to those of the Islamic faith, others feel that the administration is appearing weak in their unwillingness to call it by this name. With all the incidents involving the Black Lives Matter movement, some have compared the organization with domestic terrorism. A petition was started July 6, 2016, to ask the federal government to formally recognize Black Lives Matter as a terrorist organization citing the terrorism definition as, “the use of violence and intimidation in pursuit of political aims.” The petition met and exceeded its goal of 100,000 signatures, but it was sent back with somewhat a dismissive response. The response stated, “The White House plays no role in designating domestic terror organizations. The U.S. government does not generate a list of domestic terror organizations, and therefore we are not able to address the formal request of your petition.”
6. Black Lives Matter Is Untouchable
Every civil rights fight in American history has had its ugly moments, from “Bloody Sunday” to the L.A. Riots after the beating of Rodney King. These types of incidents have spawned a number of television and film adaptations that have been hugely popular and received critical acclaim. In an effort to forego the same mistakes made in previous years, it seems that protesters are now able to behave much more aggressively without any repercussions from law enforcement. Countless videos have gone viral, with protesters yelling and spitting in the face of police officers without any retribution. An example is Ja’Mal Green, an activist in Chicago that was arrested during a demonstration in early July 2016. It took a number of incidents with police to finally allow for his arrest, with the last involving Green hitting a police officer and trying to take his gun away from him. Green was in court July 19 where his electronic monitoring restriction was lifted, and the judge also lifted Green’s curfew and ability to post on social media. It seems that prosecutors and judges are no longer interested in holding Black Lives Matter protesters accountable for their actions during their demonstrations.
5. Reverse Racism
One of the most notable features to a Black Lives Matter rally is the fact that all of the protesters are so diverse. The Black Lives Matter movement has been referred to as the civil rights fight of this generation, and the diversity of its supporters is just one of its many comparisons. Just as there were non-black protesters in the 60’s, the Black Lives Matter movement seems to have embraced those of all nationalities. Yet, it seems that not everyone in the movement is completely open in including others in this civil rights fight. A Black Lives Matter protest in Philadelphia sparked some shock when this video went viral on July 26, 2016. An activist grabbed a megaphone in an attempt to segregate the members of the media. The biggest outrage came when the activist shouted, “White media get to the back! Black media come to the front!” The shock from this demand kept everyone pretty still until the activist started to call out white members of the media, shouting, “We are not afraid to put people out! White people to the back! Black people to the front!”
4. War On Police
There has been a definite evolution to the Black Lives Matter movement that has caused many to believe that it has transitioned to become an anti-police movement. Black Lives Matter protesters have become violent towards police officers. In 2014, a protest in New York City had a few dozen marchers holding several signs, including Black Lives Matter. During their march, they started to chant, “What do we want? Dead cops. When do we want it? Now.” Yet, this anti-police sentiment became most apparent in July 2016, when Micah Johnson set out to kill “white people, especially white police officers,” during a demonstration. Five officers were killed and nine injured during his sniper attack. Although he wasn’t formally affiliated with any one particular group, the attack occurred during a Black Lives Matter protest and the shooter expressed his distress around the cases that became prominent by media coverage. Sheriff David Clarke is just one of the many law enforcement officers that have talked about the effects of this movement. In 2016, he spoke with CNN saying, “This anti-cop sentiment from this hateful ideology called Black Lives Matter has fueled this rage against the American police officer.”
3. Black Lives Matter Takes Over Campaign Events
The 2016 election has been filled with seemingly countless controversial issues, with all of them making jaw-dropping headlines with each new week. From the potential of having the first female President of the United States to the incredible antics by Donald Trump, this election has long proven that it will be like nothing we have seen before. The Black Lives Matter movement hasn’t taken a backseat during the campaign trail, and has chosen an aggressive approach at how to handle certain politicians. The most notable instances include a Bernie Sanders event in July 2015, and a finagled meeting/confrontation with Hillary Clinton. The Bernie Sanders event was in Seattle, when two members of the Black Lives Matter Movement commandeered the podium and completely took over the event. Sanders released a statement saying, “I am disappointed that two people disrupted a rally attended by thousands at which I was invited to speak about fighting to protect Social Security and Medicare.” The Clinton confrontation had the same kind of abrasive behavior, with Clinton seen on video being peppered with demands and reforms. Both politicians seemed to cower to the Black Lives Matter movement, which calls into question the integrity of their approach.
2. Collaboration Through Social Media
In July of 2013, Alicia Garza took to Facebook shortly after the announcement of George Zimmerman’s acquittal, with a post entitled, “a love letter to black people.” Part of the post included the lines, “btw stop saying we are not surprised. That’s a damn shame in itself. I continue to be surprised at how little Black lives matter. And I will continue that. Stop giving up on black life. Black people. I love you. I love us. Our lives matter.” The message was then brought to Twitter, and ultimately began the basis for the movement. Yet, social media also played a hand in the collaborative efforts brought out into the streets. Using social media to spread the message, gain followers, and attract new supporters, demonstrators even used social media to coordinate rally locations and meeting times. Although media attention has been huge for the Black Lives Matter protests, the rise of citizen journalism has allowed anyone with a cell phone camera to upload videos and photos to their social media accounts.
1. It All Started With A Hashtag
Social media sites like Twitter have given rise to a whole new platform of communication around the world. Using the site to reach out to celebrities, politicians, and people all over the world; it’s not just about sharing pictures anymore. Hashtags are a way to spread topics that are trending, and conjoin people through these varying subjects. In 2013, the acquittal of George Zimmerman brought on outrage, which played out on social media sites. Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi decided to use Twitter as an outlet to talk about the issues brought on by the Trayvon Martin case using the hashtag – #BlackLivesMatter. The hashtag was picked up around the world, and became more than just a trending topic on the Internet. The first time the social media hashtag made it to the streets was in St. Louis, MO. This was the moment that it stopped being a hashtag, and started being a movement.