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draft 1 #blm: access, education, and information

rb.richx's picture


  • disseminating information about antiblackness in the ever-changing united states, and the transformative power of this information

the #blacklivesmatter movement, as shulman states in his keynote, “update[s] a radical democratic imagination that characterized the great theorists of black power, the american new left, and many second wave feminists.” the idea of “update” is something interesting here to me, given the inherent quality of the #blm as part internet activism – an internet in which “updates” have a certain meaning and connotation about new online information and its availability to the public.


  • what does internet activism mean to you?
  • what makes internet activism relevant to a larger audience?
  • how do we "update" theories and texts like du bois and tocqueville to be relevant to our modern existence and issues?



pieces of the essay as it stands:

du bois, in many of his writings – though i will here focus on excerpts from the souls of black folk – addressed some of the ways in which voices of black individuals went unheard. in his forethought to his essays, he writes, “i have sought here to sketch, in vague, uncertain outline, the spiritual world in which ten thousand thousand americans live and strive. … i have… studied the struggles of the massed millions of the black peasantry, and… sought to make clear the present relations of the sons of master and man.” (3)

in what ways has the state of black voicelessness changed since du bois’s time of writing? yes, slavery has “ended”, new laws of protection have been created, and the idea of our society as one post-racial is spreading because no longer can just anyone lynch black people publically. instead it’s the white police officers who can really only do public lynching, and it’s incarceration instead of slavery that often hinders voices – an incarceration in which communication to “the outside” is gashed and distorted into a limited and warped voice. while black communities have access to some education, it is mostly poor. how many of the cries of “diseased and dying” black folks continue to go unheard and un-communalized?

“whisperings and portents came borne upon the four winds: lo! we are diseased and dying, cried the dark hosts; we cannot write, our voting is vain; what need of education, since we must always cook and serve? and the nation echoed and enforced this self-criticism, saying: be content to be servants, and nothing more; what need of higher culture for half-men? away with the black man’s ballot, by force or fraud,—and behold the suicide of a race! nevertheless, out of the evil came something of good,—the more careful adjustment of education to real life, the clearer perception of the negroes’ social responsibilities, and the sobering realization of the meaning of progress.”

through much of du bois’s writing in this piece, he calls for self-realization, authenticity, social involvement, and, to do all of this, education. much of his writing is inherently not theoretical; his work centers on describing social conditions of his fellow “voiceless” black community of the time.

to compare, #blm movement was created by black women out of “a real deep love for [their fellow black] people” (n+1). alicia garza asserts that the movement is about “shifting the narrative from a help narrative: it’s not about black communities needing help, right? it’s about investing in and resourcing black communities to be able to do for ourselves.” thus, the purpose of the movement is much the same as du bois purpose in writing – a call for self-realization, for involvement, for education, and to uplift the voices that go ignored.

social media is, within the u.s., considered a common access to all. however, much the same as with any voice, some are given more thought and strength through follows, retweets, etc. – and any of these messages can be censored(/removed) by someone with higher power. hashtags frequently allow there to be a sense of community, a sense of being heard through some link in knowledge despite physical distance. this networking is what allows #blm to thrive, for people to have a “space for our folks to be able to tell our stories, share grief, share rage, collaborate together. people are in motion right now, and we have a real contribution to offer.” (n+1) the subversive use of networking in this way harkens, in my opinion, to the spirituals du bois scattered throughout his writing; they are sociological, political, personal, cultural, creative, educational – and push on white supremacy in order to express their community.

i do not believe that either du bois or the women who created #blm want to enact violence against non-black oppressors. there has been somewhat of a division of people regarding #blm because some do not care about or actively support the destruction of property– which, in a time where black lives are still not seen as important as property under the white supremacist capitalism that we live under, is seen as violence. however, this destruction of property is also greatly overestimated, as it has been proven in several situations that this “violence” was done by white opposition.

in some ways, it is hard for me to imagine #blm as a way to spread radical violence, such as gun use, in the face of the heavy militarization of police. however, it is apparent to me that gun violence in the u.s. grows still after more and more threats in schools and universities. so why hasn’t gun violence or other types of force been utilized by #blm?

a bit of a sidebar here: bomb threats were a pretty big issue at my and surrounding public schools. gun threats less so, but guns still had a heavy presence in that southern community, in which hunting and the right to bear arms are major parts of the culture. while i’ve been alive, i cannot think of a single time these threats have been acted on. when a threat was issued here over gun violence, i couldn’t find it within myself to take it as seriously as many of my classmates, and i imagine that these things are related. the threat of violence is not uncommon, i think, in poorer areas, and so does not imbue an extreme sense of fear in me unless there is any sort of follow-up. in comparison, destruction of property does not scare me beyond the assurance of having a place to sleep -- perhaps because i own so little. the destruction of property is only worrisome to poor communities when, i believe, there is a threat on sites of community building and organization.

in this way, i think #blm stands out. there are no threats to people or their property because these collaborations, marches, and networkings are frequently happening within the black communities themselves. when these marches and disruptions are more public, it is not with a threat of violence, but of changing the ways in which we live, the ways we incarcerate, the ways that we allow white supremacy and the existing hierarchies to remain untouched, rather than a threat of terror. at no point yet has a faction emerged that carries guns. not once is it mentioned by the women of #blm. because the nonviolence is such a fundamental to the movement, i cannot see a division occurring, such as that within sncc, that breaks the movement down. similarly, as chris lebron writes in his opinion piece, this sort of “radicalism” within #blm does not pit those who say we must love white supremacists against those who say that we must put an end to all white supremacy and that black people have every right to defend themselves against it. the whole movement focuses instead on, as lebron puts so succinctly, “where is the love for us [black people]?”

part of this harkens to the conversation between michael hardt and alvaro reyes, who call attention to the lack of dependency on a single or few set (often charismatic male) leader(s) within the movement. while the queer black women who created the movement may not have intended to not be “heads” of the movement (because the work of queer black women is so frequently erased), the result has been a great deal of community organizing rather than an inherent power dynamic.

the #blacklivesmatter movement, then, has many unstated tenants, which revolve around rejection of traditional and hierarchical leadership, around empowerment, around the education and help of all who can involve themselves, around non-violence. this brings to my mind mia mingus and tocqueville. tocqueville comes forth because at least about this, he “called it”; the very foundations of the u.s. are on the backs of black slaves, and there will be continued oppression because the damage is done. #blacklivesmatter calls to light the ways that education and oppression are continued and didn’t end with the civil rights movement. and mingus posed to us, as activists and organizers in her recent address at bryn mawr, to envision and enact as much of our ideal world as we can. is #blm doing just that, but in a way that goes unspoken by many?


smalina's picture

Some pieces you might find interesting that I read/watched for my Technology, Education, and Society class. 

Check out pg. 11 on ideas surrounding oppressed groups on social media:

And this video on the power of #BlackLivesMatter tweets: