Social Media Shines A Light On Racism & Police Brutality

Examining how police get away with commiting crimes and how media affects the youth relating to racism.

Police are firing off flash-bang grenades and spraying protesters with tear gas and pepper spray. Innocent lives are being taken by those who are supposed to protect and serve. New cases are being reported everyday. Sounds familiar right?

It’s everywhere on social media and throughout the internet. We can see disturbing videos of these events occurring during protests or towards innocent black people everyday. What was previously well hidden from the public is now accessible to everyone, through social media, and with that people see that it’s the police who are committing these heinous crimes but are not taking accountability or facing any consequences. With our voices we can make sure these issues are not pushed under the rug and are continually being talked about so change can occur.

Media Coverage and Social Media

Police brutality targeted towards black people is not suddenly rising; this has been an ongoing issue in the U.S. that was just very well hidden from the public. These injustices were just easier to hide and disregarded when there were not as many people visibly fighting for justice and demanding for change. When we log onto social media, with thousands of people fighting for a change and with the BLM movement, it really opens people’s eyes, allowing for large numbers of people to be heard.

BLM Protest (Photo: Pexel.com)

Media coverage isn’t always accurate or honest to its viewers on what is truly going on. Many times the protestors are blamed, and lies followed by misrepresentation are publicized wildly, brainwashing viewers. Tweets and news are deleted when pointing out police who are in the wrong. According to Courier, “Rather than accurately placing the blame on police officers, WUSA, the Washington D.C. CBS affiliate, published a tweet indicating that pepper spray had developed agency and “caused a short stampede in Lafayette Park during a peaceful march honoring George Floyd. (WUSA later removed the post.)” This, however, is not news to many, as the news is not held responsible for reporting everything that is happening; they report on what message they want to be heard and seen. For those who only look at one source and evaluate the issue based on the conclusions made by the news, they miss out on a lot. According to the University of Arkansas, “Yet, while trust in individuals and institutions is decreasing, research shows that the use of social media is rapidly and consistently increasing. According to Grieco (2017), people trust social media as an avenue to share and gather information and as a platform with the potential to encourage social movements and promote social change.” That’s why it is important to spread the message that we can research and come to our own conclusions through our own evaluations. Authorities and those who report news don’t always have our best interests in mind. 

Police Accountability

When a normal civilian commits a crime they are investigated, prosecuted and sent to serve whatever sentence they were given. However, according to data from Philip M. Stinson, “a criminal justice professor at Bowling Green State University, who collects one of the most reliable data sets on police prosecutions, only a handful of police officers are charged with murder or manslaughter every year.” This is a huge issue and despite our efforts to make a change through the BLM movement and through pushing for police reform, there has not been much change statistically. It is very difficult to ensure that we see a major change being made within the police force.

Police in Riot Gear (Photo: Pexel.com)

Many things come into play and a major issue is that despite police officers getting charged or facing lawsuits, the police departments do not discipline or make them take accountability in any way. If a police officer is no longer able to work in a department, they can just work at another with no problem. If they get sued and they have a lawsuit against them that they must pay for, the city or police departments pay for them without an issue. as it will not harm them financially. With all the protection they get from just being a police officer, it is no wonder that they get away with the things they do. According to FiveThirtyEight, “Stinson has found only 110 law enforcement officers nationwide have been charged with murder or manslaughter in an on-duty shooting — despite the fact that around around 1,000 people are fatally shot by police annually, according to a database maintained by The Washington Post.” It is important that we consider everything and not only push for them to be prosecuted, but also to push for departments to make them take accountability. 

Social Media’s Effect on Youth

Today most young people spend a lot of time on social media and on the internet. They depend on social media to get information and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Many people and activists turn to social media to communicate to the masses and use social media as their tool. There are beneficial as well as negative aspects pertaining to social media and how it affects how people learn. With the right resources and intent to learn on your own, you can educate yourself on important issues like police brutality and racism. However, everyone and every source is not always spreading credible information, so it could lead to people being misinformed if they just believe one source or many sources without seeing other perspectives. I interviewed a couple of young people to talk about their experience and opinions on the issue. 

Kevin Herman*, 16 years old

What is your race? Have you ever experienced racism or police brutality firsthand?

K: “My race is African American. Yes, I have experienced racism and police brutality firsthand.”

Could you describe an instance where these things have occured?

K: “A instance where I experienced racism would be when I walked in to a white neighborhood I was called a ni**er and was told to leave. A situation where I experienced police brutality would be when a Hispanic police officer pushed me to a car and then pulled his weapon on me while he accused me of stealing and possessing a firearm with no evidence.”

For the second instance with the Hispanic police officer, could you elaborate on what was happening beforehand to him pushing you into a car?

K: “I was running down the street with my friends to get to the mall and the police officer drove his vehicle in front of me to stop us from running. He said us running was suspicious after we told him we had to go to the mall and put my friends and I in handcuffs. After he put us in handcuffs, he pulled my friends away and pushed me into his car door.”

Do you think the internet has helped spread the message that police brutality and racism are serious issues going on around us?

K: “Yes, I do think the internet has helped spread the message that police brutality and racism are serious issues going on around us. I feel without the internet movements like the BLM movement would have never begun and if they did they would’ve never become as big as they are now.”

Do you think this has been beneficial or negative or both?

K: “I think these issues being brought to the light and movements being started have been both beneficial and negative. Police brutality and racism aren’t issues that can just be ignored as much as they were before due to the movement. The BLM movement is forcing a change. However all the negative protests and riots are destroying businesses properties, which shows that this movement has been beneficial but negative due to the chaos.”

Elianny Hernandez, 16

What is your race? Have you ever seen or experienced racism or police brutality first hand?

E.H: “I am Hispanic. Yes one time when my mother was walking me to the bus stop a black man angrily told her “fix your face c*acker”

When did you discover racism or police brutality? Was it through that experience or some other way?

E.H: “As a student I was always taught that racism existed, and as I got older I was taught it still existed and [I learned] through the internet.”

Do you think the internet has helped spread the message that police brutality and racism are going on around us? Do you think this was beneficial or negative?

E.H: “I feel like the internet spreads a LOT of information and awareness but it’s neither good nor bad. The reason for this is because yes it was good people were spreading awareness, yes it was good people were supportive and spreading information, but the negatives would be that people were also spreading misinformation or very biased information with no sources. So it’s very hard to tell what information was good or not.”

Do you think the internet could be a good place to learn about issues like this through thorough research?

E.H: “Yes I agree with that.”

These youth have shown that they agree with social media being a great source of information and that it has helped with the BLM movement. They have also made very great points while talking about their experiences and viewpoints on the issue. Social media has been a place young people can rely on to go further than the textbooks, further than what they show on TV. They can see what is happening today through personal accounts on social media or through a multitude of videos where they can get a bigger picture of what actually happened. Social media is an outlet,  an important one that we need to use and work with to achieve what we are striving for.

Give Your Support 

There are many ways you can continue to support the BLM and fight against police brutality. Educating yourself and others is the first step. It is important that you actually understand what you are fighting for instead of blindly following along. You can donate and sign petitions of organizations that are helping the BLM movement as well as support black-owned businesses.

BLM Anti-Racism Cards (Photo: Pexel.com)

You can take a few minutes out of your day to dedicate it to help solve the issues ahead of us. You can help spread awareness through art and many other ways. Help make a change:

        

Ways To Learn

Between the World and Me – A book by Ta-Neishi Coates, a letter to his son pursuing the question how to live freely in a black body.

Educate Yourself Today – The National Museum of African American History and Culture is providing free resources on racial inequalities through various ways.

Allyship Starter Kit – This spreadsheet lists different categories and resources for becoming an ally to the black community.

Make A Change, Sign Petitions

Color of Change – Support Color Of Change, the largest online racial justice organization in the country, and help to fight to end the war on Black people in our country.

Pennsylvania Innocence Project – This organization works to help and support those who are wrongly convicted, which is overwhelmingly people of color.

The Movement For Black Lives – This group works to empower black individuals and to push their vision of black lives where the war on black ends.

Donate

The Know Your Rights Camp – This organization wants to advance the liberation and well-being of Black and Brown communities through education, self-empowerment, mass-mobilization and the creation of new systems that elevate the next generation of change leaders.

The Minnesota Healing Justice Network – The Minnesota Healing Justice Network is a collaborative network of over 100 community healers, bodyworkers & birthworkers, therapists & herbalists, artists & educators, nurses & more centering the wellness of Black and Brown families through mutual aid, health equity, and solidarity.

List Of Organizations You Can Donate To – Reclaim The Block has created a google doc that includes a list of organizations to donate to.

Support Black-Owned Businesses

Beauty Bakerie – A single black mother and breast cancer survivor, Cashmere Nicole owns a makeup company.

Ethel’s Club – A Black-woman founded “social and wellness club designed to celebrate people of color both online and IRL.”

Sami Miró Vintage – A black-owned store brand that sells vintage clothing and pushes for “eco- conscious boundaries”

You can find more black-owned businesses to support at: 

https://samimirovintage.com

https://www.marieclaire.com/fashion/a32729106/black-owned-businesses/

https://tinyurl.com/y568bdzj

* This name is a fake name used to protect the identity of the person interviewed.

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