As we sail through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, and any other social media right now, it is impossible to do so without navigating through posts about the racial injustices that are being highlighted, as a result of the numerous deaths of Black Americans, in particular, the death of George Floyd. The 8-minute long video that many of us have seen, shows the late George Floyd repeating the words “I can’t breathe” to police officer Derek Chauvin, as Chauvin continued his lethal neck restraint, which asphyxiated Floyd to death.
This instance of police brutality is not an isolated incident in the world as the numerous protests and riots worldwide prove to us otherwise. Countries like Jamaica, France and England have had their own issues of police brutality (PB) and it is sad that it took the death of another innocent and marginalized human-being, for us to rally together and speak up. Nevertheless, this tragic incident reminded so many of us of our own societal evils and like a careless campfire, the passion for justice and change spread all over the world. People began to show solidarity for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmad Arbery and the countless lives ruthlessly snuffed out by PB — especially the Black ones. People also began to (re)attack their social injustices in hope for change.
With all this happening, we have to acknowledge that there has existed a pandemic of injustice. It has lived among us like a hungry, snarling fox waiting to sink its teeth into another unsuspecting hen’s neck and escape again into its den. Therefore, using social media right now can prove challenging for many of us. It certainly was for me! So, let’s see how we can manoeuvre all of this.
Also, this post will be split in two parts.
After the riots began, my IG and Twitter feeds were flooded with BLM posts, racists attacking people, graphic PB videos and images- the list goes on. After a week, it all became too much for me, especially the graphic videos of protestors (and regular people) being shot and killed by the police. For my own sanity, I had to take a break. I shortened how often I would use my socials and used that free time to do other things.
What I did not do, however, was to mute and block certain keywords. While this choice is anyone’s prerogative, I do believe we all needed to see what was taking place worldwide and at home. We needed to be uncomfortable. Nevertheless, we also need breaks. Protestors themselves sleep at night as it is impossible for them to go 24/7, therefore you should take your breaks too.
Introspection is the act of looking inward to examine and evaluate one’s own emotional and cognitive processes. Many of us are seeing posts that offend us and make us uncomfortable and that is okay. However, why? Why did that BLM post offend you? Why are people tearing down statues making you uncomfortable and upset? Why are the numerous videos of violence and aggression making you sad or angry?
By asking ourselves these important questions, we can keep our emotions and thoughts in check and manage how behaviour. If a BLM protest is offending you, then maybe you need to check yourself? Try to understand why these protestors are protesting, instead of rushing to feeling offended or upset. Also, we should all try to be respectful to each other when interacting online. Useless arguments are occuring left and right, and are subsequently adding more fuel to the already raging fire.
So, what you can you do?
After introspection, is there anything that you can do to help make a change? For starters, we can stop sharing fake news by dissecting and using our discernment to pick them apart. When we beleive in these fake stories, – Yes I’m looking at you mom, and all the other WhatsApp aunties out there – we arm ourselves with false information! False information that we spread and can cause harm to the movements that are trying to bring about change.
When viewing viral tweets, people are now posting helpful links such as the Black Lives Matter website, BLM ways you can help website, various change.org petitions and the list goes on. As a matter of fact, some people deliberately post tweets that they hope to go viral, just so that they can share these helpful links – talk about positive marketing!
On the ‘BLM ways you can help website’, there are petitions to sign, numbers to call to have bills passed, funds to donate to in support of the protests and the list quite literally goes on. This means that even if you are not in the US, you are capable of helping to make change. Now, for your local application, try to rally your friends and start a protest. See if there are any organizations that have been doing the good work since God knows when and could use your assistance now.
And most importantly, start educating yourself. There is a lot of misinformation that is embedded in our society’s regarding the injustices we see and even face. It’s time we unpack those and arm ourselves with the necessary knowledge. I have had to re-educate myself during this time, as there are so many things many of us do not know! Like for example, in Jamaica, the police were created to quell any subsequent slave revolts after the Morant Bay Rebellion! By educating ourselves and others, we can engage in pro-justice discourse, which can ultimately result in a positive change in our behaviours, attitudes and beliefs.
Living your life
After you have done your part and contributed towards the ongoing fight for change, you must continue to live your life. At the end of the day, you have priorities, responsibilities and goals. I remember being told by an activist in my 2nd year of undergrad, that even though we are fighting for change, we are still students. We still have essays to write, exams to pass, high grades to obtain and both our parents and ourselves to please! So as old Jamaican people say “ride and whistle”. Learn how to strike that balance! This is where for some people the social justice workload varies and that is completely fine.
By living your life, I do not mean that you should not continue doing your part however small it may be. Right now some of the BLM momentum has faded and it almost feels like it was a trending topic and not something real. Sometimes, performative activism is just as bad as no activism, because after the ‘trend’ dies, what next? This cannot be the case as people are still suffering from police brutality, racism, colorism, and the many forms of bigotry that scourge our world with its whip that chuckles like lightning.
With these tips, I hope you can better navigate through not only social media, but also your life amid this pandemic of injustice. We should also be grateful that we are able to feel uncomfortable and uneasy to use social media, because there are individuals out there who are losing their lives for less.
What do you think about these tips? Do you have any of your own? Let me know in the comments. As always, thanks for reading!