Four months after the spike in the BLM movement, the protests have died down, but the fight continues.
Words by Emily Alexandra Hyatt
Protesting for Black people’s rights has been an unfortunate necessity for many decades now, but few have got the global reception that the recent Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests have seen. Thousands took to the streets worldwide, amidst a global pandemic. Now the protests have died down, it’s important the movement doesn’t just become a trend that people only engage with because it was popular at the time – the fight must continue.
The recent BLM protests were a reaction to the police shootings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and George Floyd. Towards the end of May, the protests got a lot of attention due to the circulation of a video on social media of Floyd’s death at the hands of the police. The world was shocked by the brutal nature of the video, amidst the knowledge that this was the daily reality for Black Americans.
Black Lives Matter was first established in 2013 by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi as a result of the acquittal of George Zimmerman, who murdered Trayvon Martin. His death and the lack of justice caused a massive uproar in the community. Black Lives Matter was created so that Black people of all sexualities, genders and disabilities had a cause that supported them as well as a cause they could fight for and believe in.
The movement was a way for people to use their platform to speak up about police brutality whilst talking about other issues such as racial microaggressions, white privilege and the necessity of supporting black businesses. Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian began to promote black businesses on their social media. Kim Kardashian bought a bag from the black-owned fashion business, TELFAR and promoted it.
Overnight, this bag became a must-have item. The support for black business through the BLM movement shows clearly that more people wanted to elevate black businesses but, it’s important that this too isn’t just a trend. Social media influencers should help black businesses regardless if it’s a “hot topic”.
It’s important to continue educating non-black people, to ensure that it is a united struggle. At times during the protests, it seemed that non-black people only commented on the issues due to fear of not conforming. There were also incidents of protests being seen as an opportunity to get likes on Instagram. This does nothing to further the cause, we must make sure non-black people understand that the struggle of the black community is everyone’s struggle.
Blackout Tuesday, for instance, was a challenge where people posted black screens with the hashtag #BlackoutTuesday in order to get more people educated about BLM and what they can do to help. People would post a black screen and a hashtag whilst others went out of their way to post different resources that could help. The hashtag has got 22.2 million posts so far. But this number outdid the number of signatures for Breonna Taylor and George Floyd petitions. This shows that more people care about conforming rather than helping the main cause.
Whether the movement was one of the many trends of 2020 or a turning point for the year, it taught people a valuable lesson about how this world treats black people and what we can do to change. The power of this movement opened up the cases of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and gave them some justice. Prior to the movement, the officers that were involved with George Floyd’s murder weren’t sentenced and were employed. Now, the four police officers are being put on trial. Breonna Taylor’s case has been opened up again but unfortunately, the police officers who murdered her aren’t being charged for her murder.
We still have a long way to go, but the recent protests showed society the power we have to make a change. Unfortunately, it seems BLM became a trend this year, now it isn’t at the centre of our attention, support for the issues raised has vanished.
Even though BLM was treated as more of a trend this year it still provided positive change both in people’s perspectives and in law. Topics such as racism in housing, employment and education were finally being discussed. Non-black people were finally listening to the problems facing the black community but since it has become less of a trending topic, people have stopped listening.
But without help and awareness, we can not win the fight against systemic racism. The struggle hasn’t stopped. This cannot be just a trend.