Why We Need Activism — Always
Civil Rights leaders lead the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Express Newspapers/Getty Images
It’s been almost three months since George Floyd was murdered and the mass protests. Three months since the nationwide protests, looting, and riots across America.
Since then, millions of American have raised their voices, expressing their outrage toward our unjust systems and sympathy for the Black community and the many other marginalized groups in this country.
While some took to the streets in protest and others donated — causing a surge in donation levels for racial equality groups — the reality is that the vast majority relied some form of media as a platform to stand in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Hundreds of hashtags surrounding George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and even more condemning the police, surfaced on Twitter. Black squares were posted on Facebook and Instagram. This level of non-Black engagement surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement and commitment to racial equality is unprecedented, leading us to the simple fact that:
Now more than ever, people care about Black lives
This rise in popularity for civil rights social movements must be analyzed. Has engagement always been high?
Since its birth and rise in 2012 after the murder of yet another Black man, Trayvon Martin, media and societal attention surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement has been stagnant. Google Trends show the significant lack of popularity in search queries “Black Lives Matter” and “BLM” in the past eight years.
With George Floyd’s murder on May 25, 2020, the popularity of these search trends saw an unparalleled level of interest which has enabled change to overtake the country. Police institutions are being remodeled. Confederate statues are being dismantled. Cities have banned the chokehold. Americans are becoming activists for the first time in modern history.
We now know that historically, the momentum around other Black Lives Matter movements has been high at times but ultimately short-lived. However, the metric of success for these movements is the change that stems from them. The level of online engagement for a movement does not guarantee justice or change. Is the engagement of the Black Lives Matter movement following George Floyd’s death being matched with tangible action or is it yet another display of slacktivism?
Slacktivism: “Support[ing] a cause by performing simple measures… [and] are not truly engaged or devoted to making a change.” — The United Nations
View more of our interactive data visualizations at blmalways.org
The decline in engagement around these topics continues to demonstrate that sustained activism and engagement around social movements is critical for their survival.
“If you are NEUTRAL in situations of INJUSTICE, you have chosen the side of the OPPRESSOR.” — Desmond Tutu
Together as a society, we can vow to continue this momentum from George Floyd’s murder and create justice for the vulnerable and reconciliation for the abused. I believe that Americans have a genuine desire for equality, but have become debilitated by an overwhelming lack of information. The only way to overcome this burden to step toward change is for Americans to educate themselves about these issues. Only then can we take this level of momentum and sustain it to abolish these issues.
Part of this education involves staying aware and maintaining the momentum of this new age of awareness brought by George Floyd’s murder. Not just when it’s featured by the news cycle or by trending hashtags. We need to be continuously working toward solving these issues that rob Americans of their human rights, and the first step in that is developing awareness through education.
While this is not an easy route, it is a necessary one. My team of social-impact-driven data analysts (Jin Pu & Chelsie Lui) have worked together to develop these resources to help others learn about these issues. Through accessible data visualization and historical analysis, we highlight the low social media engagement statistics and causal lack of change in social movements.
Join us in our goal to lead others on the path to imminent change through sustained, informed activism — always.