Violence, chaos, and controversy may come to mind when you think of Black Lives Matter, you might even think it is an anti-white, anti-police sentiment group due to its name and media portrayal, however, this movement is far from it. Black Lives Matter is an activist movement founded by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi that originated in the African-American community to bring awareness of the violence and racial injustices such as police brutality, racial profiling, and systemic racism African Americans face in the United States.
From its humble beginnings of being a hashtag circulating on Twitter in 2012 after Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman, was acquitted of his crime, and dead 17-year old Trayvon was posthumously placed on trial for his own murder, it has become a call for action that is nationally recognized (“About | Black Lives Matter.”). Known for its street demonstration, “BLM regularly organizes protests around the deaths of black people in killings by law enforcement officers, and the broader issues of racial profiling, police brutality, and racial inequality in the United States criminal justice system” (Wikipedia contributors. “Black Lives Matter.”). The movement’s first major and nationally recognized street demonstration was for Mike Brown which resulted in protests and unrest in Ferguson causing the Ferguson hashtag to be synonymous with the movement. Other hashtags associated with this movement are the names of the deceased African Americans such as Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Alton Sterling, and Philando Castile who were killed by law enforcement officers that this movement advocates for. And with this being a movement to promote racial equality for African Americans it receives a lot of support from #BlackTwitter, which is the African American community of Twitter.
With every action, there is a reaction and for #BlackLivesMatter the response is #AllLivesMatter. #AllLivesMatter is a popular hashtag on Twitter that has caused quite a bit of backlash. Users of #AllLivesMatter are viewed as opposers of #BlackLivesMatter and are viewed as trying to take away from the focus and importance of #BlackLivesMatter. BLM is viewed with a negative connotation that it is trying to insinuate that all other lives do not matter or black lives matter the most but that is not true. The organization is just trying to bring awareness to the issues African Americans face that other races, specifically the Caucasian race, do not face. Issues such as “African Americans being shot and killed at two and a half times the rate of whites, even when whites are armed and the judicial system giving African Americans more severe sentences than whites who commit the same crimes” cause African Americans to question if their lives are valued (Halstead, “The Real Reason White People Say ‘All Lives Matter.”).
Not only has #BlackLivesMatter made people aware of the issues African Americans face, BLM activists are publically challenging politician to state their position on BLM issues. The BLM movement has had a significant influence on the 2016 Presidential election; petitioning for the Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee to have more #BlackLivesMatter themed debates addressing the issues of racial injustice. And now more than ever the 2016 presidential candidate’s stance on BLM issues can be a determinant factor on whether or not they’ll receive a certain demographics’ vote. It is imperative to know each candidate’s stance to see if given the opportunity will they promote and create legislation that benefits the African American community and address and resolve the racial injustices African Americans face.
Even though the #BlackLivesMatter movement has been faced with skepticism and criticism, they have gained support from the Democratic National Committee, who passed a resolution in support, and from celebrities, who tweet about BLM and even incorporate it into their works of art, and professional athletes, who make their stance known on and off the field. The most famous display of support of BLM in a work of art is Beyonce’s production Lemonade which featured Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin’s mothers crying while holding the last images they have of their son and the video for her single “Formation” which celebrates southern black culture and features a line of policemen holding up their hands while a hooded black boy dances in front of them and a shot of graffiti on a wall reading “stop shooting us” (Wikipedia contributors. “Black Lives Matter.” ). The most recent, controversial display for support of BLM from an athlete was Colin Kaepernick, quarterback of the San Francisco 49er, who refused to stand up during in the national anthem because he is “not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color”, he continues to say, “there are bodies on the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder” (Kaepernick, 2016). With the support of politicians, celebrities and athletes society is being forced to acknowledge the #BlackLivesMatter movement and issues. With this attention, BLM is winning the war of ideas, but the debate is far from over.