Civil Rights and Social Media

by Will Rich

Issues from the past are still concerns of the present. Police brutality, murder and controversy are still rampant in 2014. With the wave of technology and social media, issues are flowing left and right, which could possibly bring change sooner than later.

The original civil rights movement became a major political campaign throughout the 1950s and '60s as African-Americans battled for equality. Leaps and bounds have been made over the last fifty years, but the recent cases of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, have led some to believe that the battle of equality has still not reached its full potential.

With no indictment in both cases tempers have flared between African-Americans and the American justice system, which brings the possibility of a new civil rights movement.

Cathleen Rice, Junior, African-American Studies minor at Winthrop University, believes there is a possibility of a civil rights movement in the near future. "The way things are going now for black Americans there is indeed room for a new civil rights movement," Rice said.

In the past sit-ins, marches and boycotts were major milestones, but with new tools including the internet, a new movement could have a completely different look. Social media allows opinions, ideas and emotions to spread very quickly with ease. Instead of organizing an event over a period of months, anyone can simply post a powerful video, picture or blog and reach just as many if not more individuals. reports that over 40 percent of the world's population has connection to the internet, with 74 percent of users on social media sites.

Sites such as Facebook and Twitter lead to bigger conversations through retweets, favorites, sharing, and hashtags. For example, an edgier version of the sit-in called a die-in has emerged. This occurs when students gather in one place and lie down as if they were dead.

Die-ins have occurred in the past, but recently became viral after being picked up by social media sites via pictures and videos. Now the idea has spread across the country at a rapid rate, and has influenced others to try it. The exposure of such events is bringing awareness, but for some this is not enough to spark a campaign just yet.

"Right now it's too early to tell but they are making headlines on social media and the news so it may be possible that it can evoke Black Nationalism," Rice said.

Over the last month social media has been packed with civil rights issues. Hashtags such as #ICantBreathe and #BlackLivesMatter have ran wild the last few weeks. Pictures and videos of athletes wearing 'I Can't Breathe' T-shirts have been shared and scattered throughout, leading to more exposure.

Though social media has proven it can be used as a useful tool, there could be some negatives about using this format to push an agenda. Terry Johnson, an Animation major at Savannah College of Art and Design, believes that social media could build bigger barriers between the opposing sides.

"I think it might divide the people even more," Johnson said. "Take the Michael Brown case, you could see that there was a strong separation between the people who believed that the officer was in the wrong and people who believed the officer had every right to kill the guy."

With social media comes an opposition of online users that will argue and spark debate, which can always lead to altercations among any cause. Stories can be blown out of proportion, which can lead to a loss of key facts, but this is something that is virtually unpreventable.

For example, there is a Facebook page entitled 'We Are Darren Wilson.' This page is considered to some to be the opposition of black inequality.

With post leaning towards the side of Darren Wilson the police officer that shot Michael Brown, there is room for disagreements. The truth about these sites is that there is no way to stop them, everyone has a right to support either side of an argument.

Overall, it seems that if a new civil rights movement were to emerge that social media will play a role. With the ease of use and the ability for a message to go viral at any time, there is a possibility that social media could become the number one tool used to fight for equality.

With so much interaction social media has changed the world, and if used the right way could definitely be used as a tool to solve the race tensions that are still present. "Social media will basically do the same thing it is doing now and spread around information that people share. It just depends on whether it's for the movement or not," Johnson said.

Civil Rights and Social Media by Will Rich

© Copyright 2014. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be duplicated or copied without the expressed written consent of the author.

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