Grace Baek/ Portola High 10th
On May 25th, George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was arrested by Minneapolis police officers after purchasing cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. Pinned beneath a white police officer’s knee, Floyd was left unable to breath and showed no sign of life after approximately 8 minutes and 46 seconds.
The recorded video from bystanders and security cameras spread rapidly on social media, causing outrage nationwide. While all four officers at the scene were fired by the Minneapolis Police Department and one was charged with a second-degree murder, the death of George Floyd further sparked unprecedented “Black Lives Matter” protests in all parts of the United States.
For weeks, citizens of the United States have been coming together to protest against the violence and systemic racism towards black people, specifically targeting the police system. During such important times, younger generations are finding new ways to lead the BLM movement.
The start of BLM was a hashtag trending in 2013 for the acquittal of George Zimmerman which later grew into an on-street movement. Following the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, #BlackLivesMatter peaked at 146,000 tweets in 2014. Currently as of June 2020, the hashtag has more than 8 million tweets on Twitter.
Not only is social media becoming a platform for raising awareness, but it has been the center of widespread conversation. Younger generations are using platforms such as Instagram and Twitter to educate one another, organize protests, and provide information about ways to become involved whether that be petitions or donations.
Unlike mainstream media that tends to filter crucial information, social media is a source of raw and live information and imagery of police brutality. Not only has social media vividly exposed racism living in the United States, but it has also uncovered protest misinformation such as police propaganda. Moreover, while mainstream media’s focus on the looting and violent actions of the protests can degrade from the movement’s actual cause, social media gives the public a broader perspective of the problem.
Because the generation that grew up socializing digitally are the ones standing forefront in this fight, “hashtag activism” is not only becoming performative, but also revolutionary in nature and the most powerful tool for change.
<Grace Baek / Portola High 10th