The Lasting Impact of the Black Lives Matter Movement
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Politics and Activism

The Lasting Impact of the Black Lives Matter Movement

Let's get comfortable talking about race.

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The Lasting Impact of the Black Lives Matter Movement
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Social justice movements have always played a large role in shaping our countries culture, history and politics. The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, which began a widespread social justice movement defined the culture of America in 2015, ignited conversations about black lives, and paved the way to address existing racism on a large platform. Throughout these conversations, whether it’s in person or online, the word “privilege” was prevalent. In a country where white supremacy is institutionalized, black Americans contributions are continually oppressed and their lives are devalued. Black lives are more subject to police brutality and causalities, and this movement began as the voice for the voices that were taken away too soon. It continued for the ones continually told to quiet down. Black Lives Matter does not mean all lives don’t matter, but that some lives are more at risk. The cultural impact of this conversation has brought awareness of existing inequalities to the people of America, including to the youth, who continue to shape the future of our country by speaking out.

To understand the significance of stating “Black Lives Matter” vs. “All Lives Matter” we must understand and address the existing privilege and oppression in our society. Although many people can understand the concept of privilege, others lack the knowledge to identify what that means in our society. Identity privilege can be summarized as; “any unearned benefit or advantage one receives in society by nature of their identity. Examples of aspects of identity that can afford privilege: Race, Religion, Gender Identity, Sexual Orientation, Class/Wealth, Ability, or Citizenship Status.” (Everyday Feminsim) There are multiple layers to unearned privilege, but on a general scale it is granted to those who fit the mold of Eurocentric and westernized social standards.

Privilege and oppression are coexistent and in order to thoroughly understand privilege, we must understand oppression. Oppression can be defined as, “unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power especially by the imposition of burdens; the condition of being weighed down; an act of pressing down; a sense of heaviness or obstruction in the body or mind," as stated by the Webster’s Dictionary. The Matrix of Domination refers to the concept that privilege and oppression can be present simultaneously. There are many different layers and factors that contribute to privilege and oppression. However, a prominent privilege in our culture is white privilege, while a people of color are oppressed against.

The history of white privilege and the oppression of colored people traces back to the colonial days where slaves were exploited, dehumanized, and devalued while white heterosexual males were reinforced as positive figures in government. People of color were not viewed as human beings but objectified as able bodies to pick cotton and abuse. The three-fifth’s compromise at a political level presented a black person as less valuable than their white counterpart. This system of reinforcing white privilege while stereotyping people of color to keep them in an oppressed state continued for centuries on a political and social platform. People of color were subject to be treated as caricatures, “black faced” and belittled in in the media. They were depicted as animalistic, viewed as unintelligent, and were more prone to police brutality and being marginalized when they demanded to be heard.

Decades later and people of color are still fighting for their basic human rights and equal representation in media. The multiple shootings of unarmed black males in America brought to the public eye the struggle of being black in America. The protests and backlash that broke out against this system that dismisses the crimes of white male authorities initially fueled the movement of Black Lives Matter. Social media allowed a wide demographic to contribute to the conversations about institutionalized racism and creating equal opportunity in America for African Americans who are marginalized everyday on a micro and macro level. Black Lives matter does not seek to exclude other marginalized groups of people but to create a space where black people can celebrate their accomplishments and can fight for the liberation of their people. This social justice hashtag developed to be an all-inclusive movement that is bigger than police brutality. It is a movement that is inclusive to black women, disabled people, trans people, and the entire spectrum of black folks. Black Lives Matter encompasses gaining equality on all platforms, including equal and accurate representation in the media. The impact of this movement is both on a political and social level.

First, this social justice campaign has brought close attention to the white washed nominations of award shows. The exclusive nominations of the Oscars, which have marginalized women and people of color, has prompted the hashtag #oscarssowhite. Too often, black artists, actors and people of color in general are dismissed for their works and are unable to gain the same platform of representation and acknowledgement as their white counterparts. In an institutionalized system that continually reinforces positive attributes of white actors and tokenizes black actors, the only ways to break the system is gain awareness and take a stand. Black Lives Matter has given people the courage to take these stands. Many people have begun to speak out and demand change and diversity against the mostly exclusive nominations of white heterosexual males. In fact, people are utilizing their everyday consumer powers by taking steps such as boycotting watching the award show. Many celebrities have also chosen to not attend the Oscar or support an event that excludes minorities and women.

Movie award shows are not the only place where black people are not adequately represented and Black Lives Matter has helped point out acts of cultural appropriation in pop culture and the music industry. America has been borrowing black culture but now will they stand with black lives? A specific instance where this was true was when Nicki Minaj called out Miley Cyrus at the VMA nominations. After Cyrus made negative comments in an interview regarding Minaj’s opinion about the white-washed nominations of the VMA’s, Minaj responded with the question, “Miley what’s good?” during her acceptance speech. This statement made a large pop cultural impact and the Internet was filled with memes, articles and images of the instance. Miley Cyrus, a white female artist who uses black women as backup dancers to twerk during her performance, failed to see the point Minaj was making about culture appropriation. Too often the impact of black culture on a formal platform is discredited. Miley was able to adopt parts of black culture as display for her performances, but when she had the opportunity to understand the black struggle and be a voice in this crucial conversation, she turned a side eye. After this incident, the conversation about black culture vs. black lives sparked and social media was overwhelmed with opinions and comments. Nonetheless, one thing was clear; black culture was evident in American pop culture, but the representation of black artists was not.

Although some assume that pop culture movements are “short term fads”, the lasting effects of Black Lives Matter on our society is still prevalent. In fact, this movement has had a large impact on the presidential campaigns. Bernie Sanders has been a popular presidential candidate for the millennia’s of America because he resonates closely with the movement we are fighting for. Sanders, who has been the “social justice warrior” of this year’s election, has met with the leading activists on Black Lives Matters: DeRay Mckesson, Johnetta Elzie, Samuel Sinyangwe and Brittany Packnett. The “Feel the Burn” campaign encompasses listening to the black communities concerns. In a statement to Huffington Post Sanders reiterated the importance of this movement by saying, “at a time when the United States has more people in jail, disproportionately black and brown, than any other country, when an alarming number of unarmed African-Americans die in police custody and when 51 percent of black youth are unemployed or underemployed then clearly we have a very serious problem." (Huffington Post) Bernie understands political action must be taken in order to make a meaningful difference in society. On the other hand, Donald trump has demonstrated insensitivity towards racial issues in America, and has gained distrust from many Americans, including the youth.

Many of the front-runners of the Black Lives Matter movement have been women and young people, and they have shaped the impact this social justice campaign has had on society. We are the generation that does not tolerate intolerance, and we are not afraid to speak out against the “uncomfortable” topics. The power social media has given the youth and millennia’s is one that should not be taken for granted. People who did not have the voice to be heard before now hold power and momentum. Our opinions count, our demands count, and we demand that people of color are not marginalized, oppressed, dismissed, or profiled against. We are demanding more from our politicians, television programs, and organizations to equally represent people of color. It is 2016, and we declare that African Americans are heard and represented. It is only once black people are liberated that we will have a true, equal America.

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