The Black Lives Matter movement is a movement that has been around for a long time, and has had both a positive and negative influence on people of different audiences all around the United States. In the past few years, BLM movement has exceeded most expectations as far as their appearances in the news and social media. When doing my research on the Black Lives Matter social movement, I looked at three different platforms of data on the media, plus a chapter from Persuasion and Social Movements, and then a mashup article by Karenga called Understanding African American Rhetoric. All of these sources have given me the opportunity to dive deeper into my argument on why there isn’t enough clarity in the Black Lives Matter movement and why they’re not persuading the publics enough to get the support they need. The first article that I looked at was by CNN, and it was called, Is Black Lives Matter Blowing It? I looked at different tropes and schemes that were displayed in the text, as well as fallacies and arguments that were structured by Perelman. Then, I looked at a set of tweets that went along with the #SayHerName movement, which focuses on the women who have been victims of police shootings or other brutalities in our society. I also looked at the fallacies, figures, and Perelman arguments used throughout the tweets. The video that I was researching was a TedTalk that was an interview with the three founding women of the Black Lives Matter movement, in which I was able to only find more sets of arguments using the figures, fallacies and Perelman arguments. I also used the chapter from the social movements book and the mashup article by Karenga as a method to strengthen my arguments.
In the CNN article, I only use a couple of tropes and schemes. The first one that I found was a trope, and it was erotema, which is just rhetorical questions. Although there were many other devices that I could have used, I chose this one in particular because I think that showing the use of rhetorical questions shows the message that the author was trying to get across. There were multiple questions that were asked throughout the whole article, but I wanted to focus on the ones that were shaped around leadership in the movement and Black Lives Matter adapting. Since those two ideals are the main purpose of the article anyway, it seemed appropriate. For example, “Can you name one or two leaders from the movement?”, “Can BLM adapt?”, and “Will a ‘leaderful’ movement that refuses to speak white American language adapt?”. These are all rhetorical questions that are making the reader think, and since you can’t actually answer the question to the author, they want to imply the fact that we should be thinking harder than we usually are about the subject. The second figure that I chose to use from the BLM article is the metaphor, “Today, more people live in media cocoons where they listen only to political voices they agree with.” I chose this specific metaphor because it once again illustrates the point that the author is trying to get across to the audience. I also think that the phrase ‘media cocoon’ is not only accurate in regards to the Black Lives Matter movements, but also in our everyday lives because our society lives on social media nowadays and it’s such a large part of our lives that it's all we know and it’s what we go to first.
The fallacies that I looked at were also able to portray the message that the author is trying to get across to the audience through the article about BLM. The first one that I found was a weak analogy fallacy. A weak analogy fallacy is when the two terms in the analogy are weakly or unrelated to each other. So in the article, the author makes another a point about going into a battle without any contact with the enemy and then goes straight to saying that “movements that don’t learn to adjust often fizzle”. First, they’re talking about battle plans for a war and how necessary it is to have contact with the enemy in order for someone to win, and then go into saying that movements will fail if they don’t adjust, or “get in contact with the enemy”. The analogy doesn’t work because you can’t make a comparison of war to racism. They’re two completely different ideas with two completely different outcomes. However, this was the only fallacy that I could find because the article does such a good job of portraying the argument to the audience. They made it clear that the BLM is not adapting the way that they should be and go into detail about the different reasons as to why it’s not working. Therefore, my argument almost creates itself through this article.
There were many Perelman arguments throughout this article, but one of the ones that I feel like stood out the most was justice. Although this is a very vague term that can be used loosely in various situation, it fits very well with the theme of the article. Perelman’s definition of justice is a rule which requires identical treatment for beings or situations seen as the same. There are quite a few different instances in the article where justice is emphasized, one of those being where it talks about Martin Luther King Jr. grounding his appeals for justice in the language of the Bible. There is also mention of MLK using language to sway white Americans into actions, which is why the previous mention of justice makes more sense and builds up the argument against BLM adapting or not adapting. The other piece of Perelman arguments that is used in this piece is the amplification of presence. This means that the authors are drawing attention to the argument premises by dividing the whole into smaller parts. This works well for the article because it breaks things down on a level where people who don’t understand BLM can have a better understanding. In the introduction of the article, the author gives a basic and brief explanation of why BLM has not been adapting well, and then proceeds to give four additional reasons and more detail throughout the rest of the article. This makes it a lot easier for people to understand, because as the author mentions in the article, not everybody understands what the BLM movement is. So it’s very helpful to have everything broken down and into more detail so that other audiences can have a better understand of not only the argument being made, but what the movement is doing as a whole.
For my social media, I analyzed the #SayHerName campaign, and looked about forty to fifty tweets in total. I only chose a couple of them to use for my analysis, but I looked at the stream as a whole and that’s how I got my data. The #SayHerName campaign focuses around the fact that people do not acknowledge the black women who are being killed, only the black men. I noticed that there were many events that were being posted about and marketed for the fallen black women. Amongst the stream of tweets that I looked at, I found that there was often and appeal to misleading authority fallacy. People would often make a reference to different topics about certain people who died, how they died, why they died, or that a speaker was coming to an event, in the movement, yet the people who would tweet those things have no way of being credible sources to even display that information. “If marriage equality was worth a national campaign, hundreds of dead trans people is worth so much more”, is a quote from one of the tweets I found that isn’t credible enough. Sure, it may be a true statement, but whoever is tweeting something like this needs a lot more credibility in order for people to jump on board with it and believe it. I also chose this specific tweet to look at because I personally did not know that transgender women were struggling with this problem as well. It’s important that other people become aware of this too. Since I was looking at such a large section of tweets, it was difficult to find some solid fallacies because there’s only so much that can be said using only one hundred and forty characters.
So for the Perelman arguments that I found, one of them was interpretive schemes. A lot of times throughout the feed, I found where there were minimal words in the tweets. This was to allow people to interpret things in their own ways, but also in the way that the tweeter was trying to get a point across. The people tweeting, although they may not have planned this, structured their tweets so that they are almost forcing the audience the think for themselves and create their own ideas about the Black Lives Matter. If they wanted to get their point across, then the way to do it was to invoke thinking. The other Perelman argument that I found throughout the tweets was reciprocity. Reciprocity is the demonstration that beings or situations are the same. The Root tweeted “We will always #SayHerName, even when no one else will. Black women are not forgotten”. The reciprocity comes into play because this tweet is trying to unite everyone and make them all feel equal, which is what this entire movement is about. Many women and men tweeted about how they were going to be there for the women who had been murdered. It is creating a sense of community that may not be seen in other places. I would also like to point out that they say “when no one else will”, they are acknowledging the fact that most people don’t know about the black women who have died. I’m sure there are many people, just like me, who have no idea who some of the women are. And it’s a sad but true fact. There just isn’t enough media about the women who get killed, but that’s what this campaign is for.
The video that I looked at was a TedTalk that was interviewing the three founders of the Black Lives Matter movement. I only looked at the last eight minutes because it was a long video, but in those last eight minutes, I found a hasty generalization fallacy. A hasty generalization is a conclusion that is drawn from too small a sample of evidence. The women talked a lot about the leadership involved with the BLM and how “leaderful” it is, but don’t really have any credible sources to back them up, as well as small sample of evidence. Although I’m sure many people have referenced to the leadership of the Black Lives Matter movement before, there is still no credibility aspect to it if we don’t have the evidence. One of Perelman’s arguments that I found was severance. Severance is when act and essence are totally separated. This also links back to their discussion of leadership in the interview. They have an essence of leadership, especially with the way that they are talking about it and how it inspires them and they want to inspire others through the movement, yet their acts are not correlating with what they are saying. There are no examples or any evidence of their leadership skills that is talked about with the three women during the interview, thus separating their act and their essence. If what they’re saying and what they’re actually doing isn’t linked together, then how are they able to make an argument about leadership in the first place? The second Perelman argument that I found was model. A model is persons or groups whose prestige confers value on their acts and should be imitated. This is what the leaders of this movement are striving for, and the women talk a lot about in their interview. At the end of the interview, the interviewer asks “If you could have the audience do one thing, what would it be?”, and their answer was to join something and start something if you have the chance. They are trying to set an example for other people and encourage them to do these great things, yet they are not able to accomplish the things they want the way they want, because they are not adapting to society. Because they are not making their purpose clear to most audiences, how are any other people able to benefit from these ‘role models’ that they’re claiming to be.
The chapter from the social movements book that I looked at was Chapter 3: The Persuasive Functions of Social Movements. I chose this chapter on persuasion because I think a lack of persuasion is a big part of the argument and what is going wrong with the movement. One of the key points that I found from this chapter was that “A problem is not really a problem to an audience until they perceive it as such”, which I found to be very relevant, because the leaders are almost in denial of the fact that they aren’t living up to the movement’s potential. It’s an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality, and they don’t want to admit that things are going wrong, so they will keep avoiding it until it gets so bad that there’s no going back, and this is one of the major problems of why they aren’t reaching their potential.
The mashup article that I decided to analyze, Understanding African American Rhetoric, by Karenga, was focusing on African American rhetoric in the 1960s and the leaders of the time succeeded or didn’t succeed with their methods. I thought that this article would be a good one to use because it seems as though BLM isn’t using their African American rhetoric to their advantage, and the introduction of the article talks a lot about how they did things in the sixties and some of the methods that they adapted to. Someone said at one point that “African-derived concepts such as nommo were introduced to make sense of black orature”, and I’m using this quote to emphasize that back then they were trying to reach out to the white audiences and get them involved by giving them information and the black orature and what that meant. If whites don’t know what’s going on, then they will not be interested. This will not only help with the rest of the white population, but it will help with all races of the United States population.
"Understanding African American Rhetoric." Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 May 2017.
Gloria. "#SayHerName Hashtag on Twitter." Twitter. Twitter, 05 May 2017. Web. 09 May 2017.
Blake, John. "Is Black Lives Matter Blowing It?" CNN. Cable News Network, 02 Aug. 2016. Web. 09 May 2017.
Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi. "An Interview with the Founders of Black Lives Matter." Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi: An Interview with the Founders of Black Lives Matter | TED Talk | TED.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 May 2017.