I’m going to free write about Civil Rights 2.0. It’s the name I’ve given to the New Civil Rights Movement we’re in so I don’t have to constantly write out The New Civil Rights Movement. I also chose to attach 2.0 at the end because of the media and tech influence there is. I honestly feel like the movement and media+tech influence each other and have provided for a paradigm shift in what social justice looks like. The influence they have on each other is tremendous and unavoidable. The protests began in August and social media made those images and live updates really available to anyone and also what pushed for the early movement to get media coverage. As a stand alone, social media is exactly that, a medium…or a tool with the ability to start movements. It really is incredible now; the purpose of social media has been redefined. With the introduction of Facebook and MySpace, social networking was really about keeping tabs on other people and letting other people keep tabs on you and then Twitter emerged with a similar function. Brands and individuals then really started using social media outlets to network and market themselves.
In August 2014 the possibilities for how to use social media really opened up. Twitter became a place for people worldwide to engage in conversations about race and problems in our nation’s politics. It became a place to support and uplift Blackness, it created a space for Black people to be empowered and really has been essential to this movement. For me it has also raised some uneasiness. With social media outlets such as Twitter and Instagram, there is a definite culture of self-promotion and neediness for attention, and that can really take away from the movement for obvious reasons.
I attended the Millions March in LA at the end of December and am grateful to have been a part of that. A lot of times I have thought to myself that I am living in the wrong era and the movement of the 1960’s is what I wanted to be a part of, but being at that march last month showed me that this is where I’m supposed to be and when. This is my movement in history to be a part of. The purpose of the march, the energy and all that was good for me until I noticed some people breaking off to the side to take pictures. There were two young Black kids, no older than 6 or 7 holding a sign that read “Have you reached your quota yet?” People were gathering around them taking pictures, there was clear symbolism there but as a regular cynic my first thought was “would these kids even know what ‘quota’ meant [at this age] had someone not explained it to them?” The obvious answer is probably not, but I kept it pushing and withheld my judgment. Some time later in the march I saw women of color, none of which were Black, some were Middle Eastern some were Latina taking group photos with their signs that had messages along the lines of “Middle Eastern women for Black lives” and “Latina women supporting Black lives” and I was borderline upset as people gathered around them while they took advantage of a photo opportunity. The last photo opportunity I encountered was a Black man with no shirt on, just jeans and jays and had a rope that tied around his neck and connected to rope tied around his wrists. A lot of strong imagery related to slavery and the current state of Black culture in that one but it would have been more powerful to me had he not been smiling as a group crowded around to take his picture. I was heartbroken. What are all these people here for?
I get told I can be a pretty negative person, so in order to work on that I started thinking more about these specific examples from the march. I concluded, that it wasn’t about people just being there for the likes and the favorites because there were people there for genuine reasons and I don’t doubt that. This is something very tangible in terms of civil rights that everybody can be a part of. But social media had a huge outcome on this march, and many marches nationwide. There is a need for us to share and there is a need for us to find symbolism. All of the photo opportunities had symbolism in them and even being fake deep is still a little deep. These are not what marches looked like in the 1960’s because they didn’t have iPhones and social media and while I do think it’s tacky and takes away from the message, I do get it. We have a chance to rewrite history and tell our story and social media is an absolute catalyst in this movement to do so.