Questions on Baltimore, Social Media ‘Activism’

I’m not too sure how I feel about my opinions just yet, and this post reflects my jumbled brain. I am genuinely looking for responses, and dialogue, if possible!

I can barely (and I’m sure I’m not the only one) go on Facebook without seeing a post about Baltimore, and Freddie Gray. We’ve seen this before; Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner were all internet phenomenon immediately following their deaths. And rightfully so; I am not attempting to suggest that there is anything incorrect about posting to social media about current issues, I certainly do so myself. I see so many Facebook posts, and try to read all of them or the articles attached, and am definitely better informed about both my friends’ opinions and various media outlets’ take on the events. I think that posting on Facebook about politics is generally good, as it can influence important conversation and debate and may leave everyone more informed. But, something about posting on Facebook about social issues or political topics also seems frustrating. There are friends who post really meaningful dialogue, but I can’t help but think that a lot of the posts come in the form of “slacktivism”–people posting to seem relevant and caught up on issues.

In reading The New Jim Crow, I began to understand for the first time just how embedded racism is into the structure of society, and how detrimental police brutality and mass incarceration are. Our nation is absolutely perpetuating standards of protection that are different for whites and non-whites. The killing of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Freddie Gray are all examples of the racial castes that Alexander describes. So when I see friends posting about their opinions on police brutality and racism, I really appreciate their awareness and cognizance of social issues; I am certainly not trying to say that I am more aware than anyone else. It just seems a little, well, lazy. And it bothers me that many friends who are posting are white, and well-off, and maybe (probably?) not engaging in this conversation or activism outside of Facebook. I think that posting at all is better than not posting, but how is posting an article from an opinion piece of a blogger discontinuing the racial caste system? How is sharing Facebook posts really, actually, dismantling racialism? Am I wrong? Is posting on Facebook actually active?

The killing of young black men is heartbreaking, and I think that sharing opinions on how wrongful their deaths are is necessary; so, I’m not entirely sure why people voicing their opinion seems frustrating. I am trying to get a grip on how useful social media activism really is. What would Michelle Alexander say of social media activism? Are we working toward changing societal structure with our Facebook pages? If social media activism is helpful, and “trending” topics reflect actual change, why are we still killing black men?

I think that posting is better than not posting; being engaged in conversation is certainly better than ignoring current events. I just don’t think that posting is actually doing very much. Ought I just be okay with reading Facebook posts from (mostly white, mostly entitled) Facebook friends, since at least they’re posting something?

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2 thoughts on “Questions on Baltimore, Social Media ‘Activism’

  1. This is a really interesting idea that I totally identify with as well! I’ve actually wanted to post some stuff myself but before I can all of these questions pop into my mind like what are people going to think? what if i say something politically incorrect? am i actually going to make it worse? etc. Upon reading these I realize how horribly self centered that sounds but it really affects me! This idea of a twenty one year old, privileged white woman making a change is something that I struggle with as well. I want to be engaged I want to be active but I want to do it in the right way.
    I totally understand what you mean about posting on Facebook being like an easy way out…I think I agree. Or at least, I agree that it is ineffectual when it isn’t followed up with real action. I know numerous people who post about these issues and I know that they are attending rallies and helping to organize protests etc. and I think that that’s how it should be. It’s one thing to sit behind a computer and post something that might be controversial versus actually going out and participating in real world dialogue and events. I don’t think enough of my Facebook friends–myself included–walk the walk. Which is why I personally really appreciated this class because now I feel more well equipped to at least go out and ask questions and get some answers for myself.

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    1. Christina you bring up a really interesting point about the whole posting phenomenon and whether people are posting because they genuinely care about the issue at hand or if they’re posting just to say that they care, and do not actually actively discuss the issue outside the scope of that post on Facebook. And I understand that it can be frustrating to think about what people are actually thinking, whether they care or not, but at any rate, as enticing as it may be we need to try not to overthink in this direction—frankly, its exhausting, frustrating, and time wasted, because we will never be 100% on what is going on in someone else’s head. The way I would look at it is to realize that such posting is contributing to the awareness of the issues and that it has potential to engage citizens as to the problems of our society and garner more supporters. In other words, I think this is how problem solving process begins, by first recgonizing the problem in which citizens (all over) become self-aware of the realities within their society. After reading the material assigned in my Race and Law class I came to realize the extent of ignorance as to the reality of racial inequality throughout America—unfortunately, after reading these texts, I too was one of the most ignorant people out there, because I had no idea about the extent to which racial inequality is still present in American society. In essence, it is my belief that in order for such problems to be solved, first the overwhelming sense of ignorance that disillussion the masses from reality must be confronted, and such blog posting—whether it is out of genuine concern or not—is the beginning of an end to the ignorance.

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