Engaging on social media to support Black Lives Matter

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Following the killing of George Floyd on May 25, members of the Townsend Harris community have joined many in using social media platforms to raise awareness regarding his death, systemic racism, police brutality, and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Many students noted that beyond using social media to spread awareness, social media was also largely responsible for acknowledgement of what had happened in the first place. Junior Jaida Boodram said, “We would not even be talking about these people if their stories weren’t recorded or put on a platform for millions of people to see.” 

Junior Maya Awoyomi added, “these murders were in the process of being covered up by law enforcement and would’ve probably been overshadowed if [they hadn’t] surfaced.” 

After video of George Floyd’s murder was shared across platforms, the use of social media to advocate for the Black Lives Matter movement has significantly increased. Platforms including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter were flooded with posts and reposts of upcoming protests, petitions, donation links, and other ways to support the cause. Others reposted chained stories that bore the Black Lives Matter hashtag. Students have also been sharing the contact information of important political figures who can be contacted to ensure that changes are made to the system.

Senior Ayanna Fontaine described that while she doesn’t often watch the news, “Twitter and Instagram really helped raise awareness to these issues for people [her] age, and instinctively made [her] want to help bring light to the situation by reposting and sharing whenever [she] could.”

Junior Zoe Indarshan commented, “There has been a vast increase of posts related to the BLM movement since Floyd’s death, which is great for spreading awareness because it lets people know what they can do to help, whether it be signing petitions or watching videos to raise funds.”

Blackout Tuesday, also known as #TheShowMustBePaused, occurred on June 2, acting as a day in which the music and dance industries vowed to take a break from “business as usual” in order to spread awareness. Instagram users posted a black screen and used the hashtags #BlackOutTuesday and #TheShowMustBePaused. 

After some were criticized for taking part in Blackout Tuesday but not otherwise advocating for specific actions, many were called out for being guilty of “performative activism,” a form of activism performed only for attention instead of genuine concern for a cause. 

Sophomore Dalya Hocine called performative activism “absolutely disgusting,” suggesting that some were using the cause to expand followers or follow a trend rather than make change.

On the other hand, Senior Rohan Iyer described his view that accusations of performativity can be unfair: “a person who never posts on Instagram or doesn’t feel the need to showcase their activism could be the most influential behind closed doors. And on the contrary, someone who posts videos of police brutality five times a day could actually be doing nothing behind the scenes.”

In addition to debating performativity, many have used social media to debate the core issues being raised by the Black Lives Matter movement. Numerous users have also used their platforms to address counter protests like “All Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Matter.” When refuting the aforementioned counter protests, Senior Cariece Forde described a common explanation used by supporters of the BLM movement in response to ALM. “If there were five houses and one was on fire, would firefighters stop to make sure all five houses got water, or would they focus on the burning one?” she said. “Yes, all lives matter, but the goal of the movement is to end the injustices faced by the Black community.”

Although these debates have facilitated new social tensions, many THHS students feel it is necessary.

Freshman Jessica Sandoval described, “I think it’s been positive. People have been so outspoken about donating and helping out with this movement.”

Senior Shannon Thomas concluded, “I think that now is the time for social media to be used for something more than a casual day at the beach, but to speak up about what’s right.”

We will be reporting separately on efforts by students to raise money on social media for various causes related to Black Lives Matter.

Art by Amanda Renzi, Editor-in-Chief.