In 2020, there have been two topics which have dominated the news. The first, which has affected the entire globe and shows no sign of letting up, is coronavirus. The second one, though much debated and heavily featured in the media around the globe, is a topic that does not affect people to the same degree. This refers to the wide-ranging debate currently taking place under many guises about the extent of racism in modern society.
The spark for this debate came in the form of a 46-year-old African-American man who was killed by police in Minneapolis. This re-ignited the discussion about the treatment of African-Americans at the hands of the police and the frequent accusations of excessive force levelled against police forces when dealing with members of this community. It was just the latest in a long line of high-profile incidents of a similar nature, such as Rodney King, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Freddie Gray, and Breonna Taylor. The initial anger as a result of this incident was focused on the subject of police brutality against minorities.
The discussion spreads
Not long after the protests began in the United States, the focus of the discussion began to move to more general questions about racism and its place in modern society. There has also been a focus on the impact on modern society of historical incidents of racism. This, in turn, has led to a reassessment of the narrative of many historical events. As a result, statues have been torn down, places have been renamed and even sports teams are re-evaluating the impact of thier logos and names.
The use of social media
Of course, there is a large section of society that feels marginalized and they seek to have their voices heard. While the reins of many multimedia companies are still firmly held by those in power who are unaffected, social media offers the perfect opportunity for these people to share their experiences with the wider world and have their stories heard when they may not otherwise be. Social media offers a space for billions of people throughout the world to come together and recount painful events from their own lives and give us all a better idea of how this fits into the society we live in. The #blacklivesmatter hashtag is just one of the topics that is driving this debate and there are more than twenty-three instances of it being used on Instagram as part of this debate.
What does this mean for now?
For those of us who have been unfortunate enough to suffer incidents of racism, social media gives us a place to detail our experiences and help others understand how it has affected us. It is also important for those of us who haven’t been affected by racism to take note, as social media can provide us with an opportunity to listen to people’s stories and examine our own behaviour. In this way, we can be more aware of how we act towards others in the future and we can make sure that we do not continue to repeat the behaviours that have caused so much hurt up until now.