#BLM Analysis – Persuasion and Social Movements Book
Chapter 3 – Spreading Awareness of the Issue (Racism)
In the words of Wil Linkugel, R.R. Allen, and Richard Johannesen: “A problem is not really a problem to an audience until they perceive it as such…”
Until awareness of an issue is present in the minds of the audience, they will not see a problem.
What is the iconic line in The Matrix? “There is no spoon.” In a way, the audience that is unaware will see a spoon and say that there is a spoon present. Only when they become aware that the spoon is not really there or is an illusion do they say that there is no spoon.
That is the primary job of social movement groups. They are not seeking attention or publicity for the celebrity status or “just for the Hell of it.” They seek understanding that there is, indeed, a problem and the group attempts to bring this knowledge to the masses. The goal is to make society aware there is a problem, or that “there is no spoon.”
The Black Lives Matter are not fighting the police and are not out to kill whites. They are struggling to bring awareness that racism still exists in American society, and that there must be change to resolve this issue. (There is escalation of this racism within the police force, as evidenced by the increased uses of deadly force against black suspects and citizens.)
Chapter 4 – Between Social Unrest and Enthusiastic Mobilization
The Black Lives Matter movement has roots and rumored origins from the Ferguson events (the shooting death of Michael Brown, and the civil unrest and mistrust between the black citizens and the police force). 2014 and 2015 were some of the biggest years for the movement, where Stage 1 of Genesis became Stage 2, Social Unrest.
Videos leaked, comments exploded, riots ensued, and more lives were lost. The movement grew like wildfire, and attempted mass recruitment and public awareness of the injustices of blacks murdered by police.
Now, it is 2017, and the mainstream media is losing interest in the civil unrest of black protests against police brutality and murder, in favor of covering the political tensions following the election of now President Donald J. Trump. The Black Lives Matter had lost the major outlet of news coverage, but they continue to spread the messages of injustice thanks to social media. Now, they stack between Stages 2 and 3, Social Unrest and Enthusiastic Mobilization, respectively.
At Stage 2, they continue to recruit and agitate the public, outraged at the injustices of police officers slaying blacks while on the beat. At Stage 3, they see an underlying issue within the social and political systems of the U.S., and attempt to bring these issues to light.
If more support was given to the BLM movement, then they could be at Stage 3 fully, with Stage 4 (maintenance) in the works. Unfortunately, most of the public is becoming bored or growing tired of these messages – Stage 4 is in jeopardy. Unless the BLM movement can find a way to plug the hole and fill the gap, they may lose more ground and their ship could sink entirely.
I am not saying that the BLM movement is already doomed or has been doomed from the start (the latter is not true), but I am saying that they are in trouble. If they cannot adapt or find a way to reinvigorate the public’s interest in their message, then their cause could become caput and their voice would be lost.
Chapter 6 – The Social Reality
The Black Lives Matter movement speak and act to gain public recognition of the social reality of America, to interpret it on multiple perspectives, and to take action (with just cause to take said action).
First, they need to spread awareness. If they make empty claims, the movement would be dismissed as attention seekers and as a publicity stunt; they would be considered “hollow” for lacking evidence or instances of proposed injustice. On the flip side, if their claims have evidence or impact, then society will see this possibility and begin to question itself. Is there another reality within our own reality? Is there a reality co-existing in another reality, which some people are aware of and others are not?
Second, the movement seeks understanding. Denial of this other reality is a common reaction, or the society may not necessarily see the impact of this other reality, or worst of all, they may say “that is not my problem.” The Black Lives Matter’s claims are fruitless is they do not convince people that there needs to be change, so they spread awareness first and then follow-up with understanding. They ask society to look at the issue from difference perspectives and views. A police officer killing a black civilian does not have the same impact on a white civilian as a black civilian, so understanding this difference is key!
Once awareness AND understanding are achieved, the Black Lives Matter movement can strive for the third step – action. It is important that this action is justified, has a goal, and has means to achieve it. Taking action simply to take action is a fallacy – it is Begging the Question in a physical manner.
When the actions are appropriate:
The action is justified, as that black suspects and civilians are being targeted by police for unnecessary or excessive suspicion, and they are often met with excessive force for minute things or mistakes. In the worst cases, police gun down black suspects and citizens without proper reasons to do so (resisting arrest or fleeing is not a reason to shoot a suspect).
The action has a goal. The marches and the protests are not merely done for the sake of it, but to bring more awareness and give justice to those whom were killed by police. Any unrest the Black Lives Matter causes does not have a secondary objective that strays from the cause. Protests and riots of the movement may involve looting, but looting is not the goal nor it is the intention. Looting is an unwanted by-product of protests and riots, and to make it the goal would distract from the goal of justice for the black lives that were slaughtered by police.
The actions has means to accomplish the mission and to achieve a goal. The Black Lives Matter movement has resources – namely people and social media outlets – to spread their message and achieve their goals. With enough push for change and proper utilization of their available resources (and possible resource expansion), the BLM movement could succeed in their mission to end police violence against black citizens and use appropriate force on ALL suspects.
On a final note, I would like to point to a book I have been reading for SOCI 232 – Social Problems (with Dr. Castro). The book is Social Problems, by Joel Best. In this book, Best lays out the process of social groups and movements in a social problems process. The process goes something like this:
Claimsmaking → Media Coverage → Public Reaction → Policymaking → Social Problems Work → Policy Outcomes
I believe that the Black Lives Matter have shifted across the spectrum of the social problems process throughout its struggle. I may appear to be repeating my point with Chapter 4, but I would like to add that BLM at one point had Public Reaction in their pocket and was attempting to go towards Policymaking. Unfortunately, it seems that the BLM did not have any people in Congress or other policymaking institutions to help them achieve new policies, nor were they able to convince others policymakers of their struggles. They appear to have failed to penetrate the policymaking bodies, at least for now. They also have lost a lot of their media coverage, as news networks have moved on to other topics (like the Presidential Election of 2016) over the struggles of blacks against racism in the police force.
The saving grace appears to be Twitter and other social media platforms. Without those prospects, the BLM could already be history as a movement with potential that faded away. The BLM movement is still alive, but from face value, it appears they have fallen back into the Claimsmaking process with strives toward Media Coverage and Public Reaction.
The question remains if BLM will recover and regain its lost ground; however, what is certain is that the movement is not dead. It could be argued that it is on the brink, but it is still in the game as of now. For now, BLM is still an entity, and it will continue to spread the word of “#Black Lives Matter” until it succeeds in the mission to end police brutality and murder of black people, or until the movement dies completely (which is unlikely).