It’s starting to get frustrating to have to say it so much, but here we go again: #BlackLivesMatter is not an aesthetic.
Black squares on Instagram and well-taken pictures of people holding homemade signs at protests is not the type of social reform that people think it is. Throwing up a couple of hashtags on your favorite social media platform isn’t going to change anything. It might get you some attention, sure, and you might feel like an activist, but it just doesn’t work like that. Going to peaceful (key word) protests is fantastic, but only going to show off the sign you made and then turning right back around and going home? Yes, actual protesters have caught people doing that. It’s not cute, and it makes the people who are there to influence change look like a joke to the very people we’re trying to convince that it is the complete opposite.
#BlackLivesMatter is a social movement that started back in 2013 in response to Trayvon Martin’s story (he was shot and killed at 17 years old, and his murderer, George Zimmerman, was aquitted). Alicia Graza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi are the three women behind the movement’s start, and it has since spread globally, often being the staple hashtag that spreads through social media when another Black life is lost to police brutality. This movement is a highly impactful one. It is one that dozens of celebrities support and stand by. It is one that never leaves anyone out, because all Black lives matter, including LGBTQIA+ Black lives, Black lives living in poverty, and so forth. It is one that erupts passion in Generation Z, who have been coming together to attend protests, encourage each other to vote (given that they are old enough to do so), and help in any way that they can.
It should be a given, but here’s what not to do if you want to support Black Lives Matter.
Don’t go to a protest just to take a couple of pictures. Stay for a while, stand for the cause. If you’re worried about your safety (because, yes, police officers have retaliated to peaceful protesters violently before) either do not attend at all, or leave when you feel the situation starting to get tense. No one will blame you from running away from danger.
Don’t go to a protest just to start causing problems. These protests are meant to be peaceful; that’s the entire point. People just want the police to listen; we want authority figures to know that we’re sick and tired of Black people being victimized and killed by police at such a higher proportional rate than other races. We are not protesting for revenge; we’re protesting for rights. Protests are not riots.
Don’t post hashtags and black squares on social media without resources for people to follow up with. One post doesn’t provoke much attention from someone, except for a brief thought of ‘Yeah, Black Lives Matter!’ Let people know what to do to help. Please, stop flooding these potentially useful hashtags with posts that contain zero information.
Here’s what you can do to show your solidarity and support instead.
Go to protests. Although social media doesn’t exactly reflect it anymore, there are still BLM protests happening all over the country. If you go to any, make sure you keep your mask on, maintain as much social distancing as possible, and be safe. Do not provoke the police. Stay away from officers if you feel tensions rise. These protests can become dangerous, though that is never the intention. If you’re feeling uneasy, you can read up on how protesters in Hong Kong are staying safe.
Sign some petitions. There are plenty of cases involving the murder of Black people that are not being investigated for a number of reasons; the main excuse is that there just isn’t enough care from the community to spend time looking into these crimes. Signing petitions shows that people do care, and we do want justice for these Black lives that have been cut short. If you are going to sign petitions, especially on change.org, please remember not to donate your money directly on the site; the money donated to change.org does not go anywhere but to the site itself.
Donate. Black Lives Matter is a movement full of goals. BLM intends to make the world a safer place for all Black lives (such as disabled, trans, undocumented, etc.), and donating can help others get jobs, food on their plates, a place to live, and more. Many people now wish to defund the police and encourage more training so as to not endanger anyone. BLM also intends to educate youth; donating money helps to fund schools and teachers for children in need.
Watch videos. There are plenty of YouTube content with ad revenue that is donated back to BLM causes; search “watch to donate to blm” on YouTube to find individual videos and even long playlists of videos that will help out the cause. You can play these videos on an old device while you go about your business throughout the course of the day, or you can sit and watch some of the content — just remember, don’t skip the ads! That’s where the money is coming from!
Spread resources. If you’re going to post on social media, do it right. Don’t post just to show “hey, this is a safe space for Black people, and I believe that Black Lives Matter!” That should be a given. Instead, tell people how to help. Social media is all about getting and giving attention, spreading things you find interesting, funny, worthy of talking about, etc.; show that you actually care by providing your friends and followers with the resources you’re using to help out.
For resources, here is my favorite carrd.co site to refer back to; it alerts you of current protests in your state (when there are some), petitions that you can sign, as well as places that need donations (reminder: do not donate to change.org). If you want to read more about the Black Lives Matter cause itself, visit blacklivesmatter.com, and use this information to educate your friends and family. The more people that know what BLM really means, the more support it is likely to get, and the more chance we have at making a change.
Yes, it helps to stand in solidarity with the Black lives that have been lost to police brutality, and it helps to show Black people who are worried about and fighting against authoritative violence that you believe in their case, and are willing to fight for it. It does not make a change, though. Actually figuring out ways to stand with and promote #BlackLivesMatter is what is going to help.