When the Florida courts handed down the verdict freeing George Zimmerman for the death of young Trayvon Martin, there was little response from those in my locale, from those near enough for me to judge the impact on our cities in Upstate New York. Our problems flash. We are startled, and then we return to nothingness. I thought, “Wow. What heartless beasts we have become.” Still, I kept up with subsequent news articles on social media and reposted as many articles as I could find on Trayvon, his family, even the lunacies of Zimmerman. Alicia Garza of Black Lives Matter helped me to understand that what I determined to be coldness was a slow rising unfathomable fear. Garza, her husband, and another couple were at a bar when she heard the news. She tells “The Guardian:”
“Everything went quiet, everything and everyone,” Garza says now. “And then people started to leave en masse. The one thing I remember from that evening, other than crying myself to sleep that night, was the way in which as a black person, I felt incredibly vulnerable, incredibly exposed and incredibly enraged. Seeing these black people leaving the bar, and it was like we couldn’t look at each other. We were carrying this burden around with us every day: of racism and white supremacy. It was a verdict that said: black people are not safe in America.”
Elizabeth Day’s article on the history of the Black Lives Matter, so far, tells a few stories. The changing face of Black activism such as appropriating spaces and audiences once held captive by main mass media outlets, the agile network of local activist working together nationally, power shifting from convention conservative leadership to the masses, and utilizing social media hashtags to create forums and meeting houses.
Samuel Sinyangwe, Black Lives Matter data guru states:
“We have been holding a mirror up to the nation. And we’ve shown what has been going on for a very long time: that we are being brutalised. That the state is being violent against us… The nation is now aware of the problem. Whether we can agree on a solution or not is another question but at least they acknowledge something is going on and that’s a great first step.”
But what happens after that first step? Zuckerman warns that although social media can give the illusion of empowerment, it also runs the risk of diverting attention away from the knottier problems of longer-lasting policy change.
“We’re at a moment where trust in our major institutions is at an all-time low,” he says. “When you start losing trust in those institutions, you start losing your ability to change things. Social media is a place where people feel they can move the wheel, and they’re right – they can change the representation of a gun victim in mainstream media. They can build momentum around removing the Confederate flag. But the fear is that it might be harder to make these much bigger structural changes in education or wage policy or to have a conversation about our gun culture.”
Read the entire article at The Guardian via #BlackLivesMatter: the birth of a new civil rights movement | World news | The Guardian.