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At the start of Black History Month: looking at the decline of BLM in the media

By Collin Atwood

After George Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges for fatally shooting 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in 2012, an uproar sparked throughout the country. The death of Martin, who was unarmed, sparked a viral Twitter hashtag and a widely known organization now recognized as Black Lives Matter (BLM).

The movement was started by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi in 2013. The movement and hashtag made headway in 2015, ranking at No. 8 on Twitter’s Top-10 News Hashtags list.

Springfield College senior Jennifer Charlera was supportive of the organization’s message when she first heard about BLM in 2014.

“I was all for it,” she said, “I felt empowered and I just like the message it was trying to portray.”

BLM’s mission of fighting for the rights of people of color lives through Charlera at Springfield as she currently serves as the Secretary for the Black Student Union (BSU) and the Vice President of the Student Society for Bridging Diversity (SSBD).

By August of 2017, #BlackLivesMatter was used over 41 million times. The support for this movement kept rising and spiked following the acts of injustice that occurred in 2020. The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery – among others – increased the gap between support and opposition of Black Lives Matter.

According to a study done by Civiqs in June of 2019, 41% of registered voters supported BLM and 34% did not. A year later, weeks after the killing of Floyd, that gap was at its peak with 52% of voters supporting and 29% opposing.

The use of the hashtag also peaked in the weeks after Floyd was forcefully choked to the point where he could no longer breathe. According to Pew Research Center, #BlackLivesMatter was used around 3.7 million times per day from May 26 to June 7. The hashtag set a record on May 28 when it was used 8.8 million times.

That summer was the pinnacle of the BLM movement. Not only did tweets flood the phones of millions, but protestors all across the country made sure that their message was heard. A poll done by the Kaiser Family Foundation revealed that 26 million people protested in America from June 8-14.

Unfortunately, Black Lives Matter has not reached that level of momentum ever since even though the organization’s mission to fight for “Freedom, Liberation and Justice” may be needed now more than ever.

“People are really excited about it, especially after something has occurred that devastated the community, and then it dies out and you don’t hear about it anymore,” said Dr. Mark Flowers, a professor at Springfield College.

This is Dr. Flowers’ second semester at Springfield College and he teaches African American Religion. His claim about movements being less heard about after its initial surge is correct.

Once the summer of 2020 ended, so did the uprise of supporters. As of Jan. 31, 2022 the gap between supporters (44%) and opposers (43%) is slim. Just because there isn’t a tragedy going viral on every social media platform like the ones that did in 2020, doesn’t mean the mission of BLM is any less significant.

“I think (BLM) is extremely important especially since what’s going on right now with society…a lot of Black people are suffering,” Charlera said.

Charlera, an English and secondary education major, believes in educating today’s youth to be aware of the Black Lives Matter movement and other social justice issues in our country. During her time as a student-teacher she took that belief into her own hands.

“I did a whole social justice lesson about BLM and women’s rights and I thought it was important to tell the students, especially the next generation or our generation, to keep pushing the movement,” Charlera said.

Charlera’s mission statement for teaching is to “teach for Black lives,” and that is exactly what she plans to do with her future as an educator.

A common message from Black Lives Matter that gets misconstrued is that supporters believe #BlackLivesMatter means that other lives don’t matter as much. Hence the start up of #AllLivesMatter.

Dr. Flowers, who has been a part of rallies that fought for Black rights before the movement became an organization in 2013, believes that the most important message coming from BLM is that it doesn’t mean Black lives matter more than others.

“It’s not saying that other lives don’t matter, because common sense would dictate that all lives matter. It’s just that that common sense has stopped when it comes to Black people,” Dr Flowers said.

For all lives to matter, first Black lives have to matter. It is important for people to learn the true meaning of the movement and why its mission still holds relevance today.

“I just think it’s important, especially today, Black History Month, people should definitely go educate themselves and be a part of the movement,” Charlera said.

1 comment

  1. Black Lives Matter movement is problematic. Black Lives Matter seeks to highlight the killing of Black Americans (typically men) by alleged vigilantes, law enforcement, and quasi-law enforcement. Black Americans die at the hands of police at 2.5 times the rate of White Americans,ñ. While it is not logical that Black Lives Matter should take on every issue for Black folks, it should be focusing on poverty and subsequent crime rates. Why? Because Black Americans have a poverty rate 2.5 times higher than White Americans and that entails a higher crime rate that requires a higher presence of police intervention. We do not have a duty to just care for Black lives. We have a duty to care for all lives. Especially if they are overburdened. Black Lives Matter exists because they incorrectly attribute the problem to racism or apathy toward the Black community, instead of a general problem of apathy toward impoverished and disadvantaged communities of all ancestries.

    The mission of Black Lives Matter is supposedly to intervene when violence is inflicted on Black communities by the state and alleged vigilantes. But they do not differentiate between racist-motivated violence and non-racist violence, nor do they separate justified violence from unjustified. They see the deaths of Black men by state actors (including Black actors) or non-Black civilians as racist without looking at the individual facts of each case for merit.

    The statement ‘Black Lives Matter’ first arose in 2009 with the unjustified killing of Oscar Grant, an African American shot in the back while he was on the ground. The officer allegedly mistook his gun for a taser. This is not a solitary case, and this type of mistake has affected people outside the Black community as well — for example, the shooting of Brian Riling, a White man in 2019.

    At that time ‘Black Lives Matter’ meant “Black Lives Matter (as well),” much like the already existing ‘All Lives Matter’ (not just entitled ones) that predated it. In 2013, you see the saying take a darker turn to mean ‘Black Lives Matter (first).’ Or as they would clarify later, ‘All Lives Don’t Matter if Black Lives Don’t Matter First.’ This darker turn arose because of a racial entitlement movement that has been growing that many have coined ‘Anti-Racism.’

    As John McWhorter, a prominent African American scholar has noted, it has taken religious connotations where Whites are seen as innately racist, and Blacks as perpetual victims. In 2012, Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old black youth was shot and killed when coming back from a convenience store because he committed a violent assault on a smaller neighborhood-watch volunteer who had spotted him looking into the window of a previously cased house. The neighborhoodhad experienced a rash of burglaries and home invasions. The smaller Afro and Native Peruvian descent volunteer,George Zimmerman, was walking back to his car after “observing and reporting,” according to protocol, when Martin assaulted and mounted Zimmerman, foiling any possibility of escape from a one-sided attack that forced him to defend himself killing Martin. Martin’s family attorney, Benjamin Crump, falsely claimed, as was proven in court, that Zimmerman was a White vigilante who had racially targeted Martin.

    When Zimmerman was fairly acquitted, protests ensued and the ‘Black Lives Matter’ grew. As John McWhorter has pointed out, the movement has evolved not to try to save Black lives, as much as use the death of Black lives as political tools for Black Americans to get more social, economic, and political power. For this, they will ignore that poor White Americans die at the hands of police at similar rates than poor Black Americans, and poor Native Americans die at a rate higher than both.

    This is not to say that there are not plenty of valid cases of armed civilian unjustified killings, just that these types of killings are not unique to Black Americans. Ahmaud Arbery’s shooting by vigilantes is a case in point. In 2008, an African American man by the name of Roderick Scott saw a 17-year-old White youth, Christopher Cervini, and two 15-year-olds testing car doors. He took it upon himself to confront the teens by pointing his gun at them. The 15- year-olds fled, and, while disputed, Scott claimed the unarmed, smaller Cervini charged at him. He shot him multiple times. The state of New York determined it was a justified homicide.

    George Floyd is another example. He was suffocated to death by four police officers, much like the case of Eric Garner. Both tragic and unjustified homicides. But no different than the cases of Robert Ethan Saylor, Robert Joseph Minjarez Jr., Steven Kellog Neuroth, Troy Goode, Joseph Hutcheson, Tony Timpa, etc., all White, who died in similar circumstances.

    Michael Brown was much like Trayvon Martin, an assailant who assaulted the police officer and was proven in a grand jury that he was charging the officer when he was shot dead. In the same week the police homicide of a White man, Dillon Taylor was ignored, when he was shot by a policeman with his headphones on, unarmed. Or we can speak of the more recent case of the White man, Daniel Shaver, who was unarmed, pleading for his life, made to crawl, and was shot to death. That there is a problem with many officers being trigger happy does not change the fact that most these shootings are justified, and the ones that do not span the spectrum of ethno-racial groups who overwhelmingly were in or near impoverished communities.

    This has been going on for a long while, with valid cases, like the homicide by police of Michael Arnold, a White man who was shot over 100 times in 1998 and Amadou Diallo, an African American who was shot in similarly horrifying ways the next year.

    The point is, as Nick Gillespie in Reason’s “John McWhorter: America has Never Been Less Racist,” points out, “The unwillingness of both blacks and whites to acknowledge progress on racial equality is a long-running theme for McWhorter, who in 2000 published ‘Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America,’ which argued that ‘in most cases, [racism] is not an obstacle to people being the best that they can be.’” In “Anti-Racism: Our Flawed New Religion, McWhorter argued that “anti-racism” had become a new secular religion in America, complete with “clergy, creed, and also even a conception of Original Sin.”

    Today’s monster of economic inequality and disenfranchisement are the biggest obstacle to help stop the rates of high mortality due to police homicides. Until we address the root causes of that disproportionate criminal element rooted in poverty, disenfranchisement, lack of employment and somehow correct those root causes, high crime rates will continue to drive high police interaction, and no matter how much police departments are accused and persecuted on charges of racism, their numbers of arrests will continue to be higher, because the numbers of victims will demand it.

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