#BlackLivesMatter: A reincarnation of the Civil Rights Movement

A person holds up a sign at a Black Lives Matter rally in Providence, R.I. 2016

The Civil Rights Movement of the 20th century is portrayed as a successful protest and occurrence of the past. Its fight for equal opportunity and treatment between the white and black communities is admired and depicted as a “successful” one. Although modern day shows some progress and less racial division, the Civil Rights Movement’s quest for equality remains present today through the Black Lives Matter Movement.

The Black Lives Matter Movement was coined specifically on social media during the summer of 2013 when George Zimmerman, a white neighborhood watch volunteer, was found not guilty after murdering 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. This movement became prominent in 2014 when another unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, was murdered by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, according to an article written by Laura Santhanam in 2019 for PBS News Hour.

The Civil Rights Movement occurred between the late 1940s and 1960s – not too long ago, if you sit and think about it. Activists fought for desegregation in public places and leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X were at the forefront of the movement. Many historical images you see of this time period include police officers with K-9 dogs and water hoses trying to stop even the most nonviolent and peaceful protesters. More recently, there have been several images of protests throughout the nation that, whether they are violent or not, are surrounded by police officers.

Some of the realities the Black Lives Matter Movement advocates against include police violence toward black people, mass incarceration and social injustices – generally speaking, the evident societal discrepancies between the average black person and their counterpart. Aside from viral videos such as the one of Philando Castile being shot in front of his girlfriend and daughter after being pulled over by a police officer for a traffic violation, there is statistical data supporting the fatal realities that black people face at the hands of law enforcement. According to the ACLU, recent national studies state that one in three black men can expect to do time in prison while one in 17 white men can expect to do time prison. While the United States takes up 5% of the global population, it takes up nearly a fourth of the worldwide prison population – the U.S. prison population has increased by 700% since 1970, according to the same source.

Today, leaders at the forefront of the Black Lives Matter Movement vary, as social media is one of the main outlets for the advocacy that stems from it. While activists had to express themselves through being physically present at organized meetings and protests in the 1940s and 60s, modern day activists can simply use a hashtag like #BlackLivesMatter on a social media post to get their points across. Instead of the dependence Americans had on news stations releasing information on injustices during the Civil Rights Movement, there is now a more efficient source that provides information: social media.

The Black Lives Matter Movement is one advocating against injustices that are historically rooted. There is nothing shocking about the violence a black person faces in America, especially at the hands of law enforcement. Despite any backlash the movement’s name has received, it is evident throughout American history that for whatever reason, a black person’s life is not valued the same as a white person’s in America.