Social Media and Solidarity: A Different Form of Activism 

Featured Illustration: Anirban Ghosh

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A reflection written a week after George Floyd’s murder…

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The brutal murder of George Floyd, a 46-year old Black father, at the hands of Minneapolis police officers has notably sparked a massive revolution in the Black Lives Matter movement now transpiring into global solidarity, activism, and advocacy for the abolishment of structural racism, specifically in North America. 

While the traditional form of activism many are accustomed to, which is no less prevalent in the current movement, are images of protests, rallies, and speeches, in the likes of Martin Luther King and Angela Davis, I’ve observed a new pattern scrolling through my Instagram feed.

It’s not novel to see hundreds of reposts of images depicting war, climate change awareness, and solidarity for victims after major catastrophes but that is simply what they remain: reposts and images time and time again. With no call to action, no true empathy, and normally a plea to appear self-righteous amongst our followers. 

Maybe it is because the murdering of George Floyd was so cruel, so graphic, and the arrogance of the officers involved so blatant that such an inspiring movement was formed.

We all see something in George that we see in our own fathers, brothers, and friends — a gentle giant, a deep smile, a loving man. 

Thus, a new digital movement has commenced, aligned with images of Black solidarity, numbers to call, petitions to sign, books to read, documentaries and shows to watch, and protests to attend; a movement that pushes a call to action at its forefront. As I scroll through Explore, I have access to resources and videos from Black activists, commentators, politicians, and leaders on what I can do to actively make change from my home.

While the self-righteousness associated with self-proclaimed activism on social media may very well exist in the current BLM movement, I would argue there’s a difference in normal advocacy for change. This movement is not only bringing awareness but actively pushing to challenge those in power. 

Nearly 15 million people have signed a petition calling Justice for George Floyd aimed at local officials, $12 million+ raised for Floyd’s memorial fund and family affairs, and millions of posts bringing awareness to this very issue. Could this success have been accomplished at a time of lockdown anywhere else than these budding platforms?

My personal favourite coming out of social media-based activism is calling people out on their bigotry. Within my own feed, I’ve seen my friends speak out against those from our very school/community who use racial slurs or defame the movement with arguments of “All Lives Matter”. I personally have shared my experiences as an Indian female living with colorist attitudes that transpire into anti-blackness in Asian communities.

But as the movement continues to widen and reach new successes, we must all sit back and reflect. When the hashtags begin to fade away and we recommence in posting our daily lives, will we continue with allyship, or live as we used to in ignorance? 

How is the movement looking now, nearly 2 months after that historic summer day?