Black is the New Black: How #BlackLivesMatter Shaped Our 2015

By Allison Williams

2015 was an incredibly long year. The black community shared a number of good times and bad times; we cried together and we laughed together, all without ever meeting each other. Social media seemed to reach its peak this year, and the #BlackLivesMatter led  many of our conversations.

According to Twitter, #BlackLivesMatter was in the top 10 hashtags in 2015, which is no surprise. People around the world used the hashtag left and right, but what did it do for the black community? What did we gain from this “stating the obvious” statement?

After the killings of Travyon Martin, Mike Brown, and Eric Garner, the hashtag brought little known cases of police brutality into the light. Users from all over used social media to spread awareness, to expose details of cases the media would overlook, and to contact law enforcement and politicians to demand answers.

Sometimes we didn’t get the answers we were looking for (i.e. Sandra Bland), but this movement has been successful in showing the media, police, and politicians that we will not be ignored. No longer will people be complacent while innocent men, women, and children are mistreated by those who are supposed to protect them.

The Internet, yes, the Internet, has been so impactful on politics involving race relations and police tactics that activists were able to meet with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and they launched the Police Union Contract Project, which allows civilians to read which police union contracts protect the police in their cities.

Because we live in this patriarchal society, most of the early police brutality spotlights were shined on black men, but this did not last long. BLM led to a number of other hashtags such as #YouOkSis and #SayHerName, which brought attention to sexual assault and violence against black women and those in the LGBT community.

This was highly significant because it demanded the inclusion of black women in the fight against injustice. It sent a message that there is a war raging against black people as a whole, not just black men. A modified hashtag, #AllBlackLivesMatter, gained some popularity. Although it’s not popular enough, this journey isn’t over so there is still hope for those stubborn, hotep, sexist non-believers.

Often times, use of the BLM hashtag was accompanied with a post about racial injustice, but in 2015, hashtags such as #BlackOutDay, #BlackExcellence, and my personal favorite, #StayMadAbby allowed the world to swim in a sea of pictures, pages, and posts containing the most wonderful black people I have ever seen. Inspiring photographs of black graduates and black business owners, black politicians and black couples flooded the internet day in and day out. Pictures of little black children smiling and embracing their natural features circulated Twitter and Tumblr.

This influx of positive black life and success was contagious in 2015, as it should have been.

Even offline, we saw our people conquer their fields in ways we had never seen before. These images served as daily reminders of our inner strength, and that we can rise above any obstacle. I can only hope that this trend continues, and the exposure of our talent and beauty never subsides.

It wouldn’t be right to say that the “BlackLivesMatter” movement only produced the most intelligent, tolerant, and sensitive individuals. If you’re an avid Twitter user, you are probably aware of the infamous “social justice Twitter.” This group probably had good intentions in the beginning, but many have likely let frustration and egos push them too far into “consciousness.”

These users were known for ripping people to pieces for being racist, homophobic, or sometimes, truly unknowledgeable. Other Twitter activists have caught heat too, but it is important to remember that no one is perfect and that they are putting their lives on the line for this.

Somehow, being “woke” has become a competition, and a silly one at that. But aside from that bit of negativity, what happened to the black community in 2015 was somewhat of an intellectual phenomenon. Blacks across the world started to notice the injustices around them, whether large or small.

Even microaggressions in the workplace and in classrooms are not going unnoticed. This is progress. We are opening our eyes to see what is really there. We are opening our mouths and spilling our truths, sharing our experiences on and offline, hoping to find comfort and strength.

We are opening our minds to reach new heights, places some of us thought were beyond our grasp. This is progress. Parents are making sure their children love their black features and college students are standing up to their administrators. Thanks to Bree Newsome, the Confederate flag was taken down from a number of public places. Major companies such as Twitter, Google, and Microsoft are now making a greater effort to increase workplace diversity. This is progress.

These changes are not going to happen overnight, but it’s something to look forward to. One may not agree with the tactics used by the BlackLivesMatter activists, but to deny that the movement has helped countless black people regain their sense of pride and the strength to combat injustice in their everyday lives would be completely unfair.

2015 was a long year; a long year full of mourning for our fallen friends, but also a year of accomplishments and celebration for the resilience of our people and the many changes that are to come.

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