By Rebecca Harrelson, Staff Writer
Published in print Feb. 25, 2015
Social media is taking over; generations are constantly bombarded with new ways to share ideas, news and happenings occurring in day to day life. Hashtags when you really think about it are merely a symbol and improper grammar, yet hashtags have spread like wildfire. We now use them as a way to either tie together thoughts around the world or to mock those who flock to social media to express their opinions.
The #Blacklivesmatter subject has been heard around the world, originating in 2013 after the shooting of Trayvon Martin then gaining speed after the shooting of Michael Brown. We all need to be aware of the accumulating list filled with names of African Americans that are being lost to the ignorance of gun wielding citizens.
Now we have somehow filled the area which should be used for conversation and progression with the conversation of a social media tool- hashtags. Many are starting this conversation with opposing sides, saying the phrase black lives matter needs to solely be used when speaking about African Americans and their specific struggle. Using variations such as Muslim lives matter and Trans lives matter has been said to be taking away from the sole purpose of the African American movement forward. I spoke with an array of people from different walks of life about their opinions on this subject. My initial opinion, which was if it is raising awareness about an issue happening to minority groups then why is co-opting this phrase such a bad thing? Realistically the only thing that will stop our progression and improvement of our society is if we stop making movements forward, with actions so who cares about the words?
Yet through my discussion with others many important points were raised, altering my thoughts slightly. It should also be noted that every person who gave me there opinion regardless of where their thoughts fell, still supported every minority group and their ability to make a mark in and out of social media.
A 6th grade History teacher, Kirin Hart, in Guilford County gave me her thoughts on the topic. “I feel it is best for each community to come up with something that is unique for the situation and group. A statement is more powerful if it is born of events and not just tacked onto an already existing hashtag. To usurp #Blacklivesmatter with other designations takes away from the emotion that was a part of its creation. That raw emotion is what gives it power and what makes it resonate with the community as a whole.”
Another point I felt was also provocative to think on is the fact that African American’s have such a specific struggle, they have had this struggle since the beginning of time. To attach onto the social movement in which they created for their specific struggle, using that as a platform, seems to only be pushing them further down, much like a ladder. We should all be aware that every life on this earth matters regardless of race, sexual orientation, or creed (although obviously not everyone is up to date on this fact) however this also should involve allowing every minority to have their own platform specific to their struggle.
To balance out the thoughts against co-opting the phrase an anonymous source spoke on how they believe creating more rift and hostility will only add to the separation all minorities feel against the majority. “At the same time if they are trying to separate themselves as a group from other minorities, and when they seem to think that their minority group is the most important, or top priority issue they are just reinforcing their separation from the majority group as well as reinforcing the separation of other minorities.” While in fact that is a valid point and I am definitely a supporter of collaboration between minority and majority groups of all kinds, never more separation I do believe for the overall wellbeing of a single movement to have your own phrase and strength in word is important.
However what I find to be more important than all of these opinions is the simple notion that actions speak louder than words when it comes to grassroots change. I believe face to face conversations in and out of classrooms need to be had daily, with every group on and off campuses.
I believe that if we took the time to remove ourselves from social media and pay even more attention to the hands on change that needs to come into fruition this society would be a better place. Ideally we would all have level playing fields, ideally, murders of innocent students and the repression of those who deviate from the “norm” would never happen, but this is not an ideal world, this is reality. Social media is our form of getting others on board, spreading music and photos, words and actions. Media can be used to create such wonderful truthful cohesive progression if we allow it, let’s all just be a bit more aware of the differences within our struggles so we can better help those who differ from ourselves.