In 2013, a Florida court acquitted George Zimmerman, who killed the 17-year old Trayvon Martin because he looked suspicious, of murder and manslaughter. Following this decision, a hashtag erupted on Twitter, #BlackLivesMatter.
Using the hashtag to gather people, starting with the African-American community, protests were born all across the nation. Soon, Black Lives Matter would become what it is today - an organization dedicated to not only ending the unlawful killings of black men and women but to "rebuild the Black liberation movement". It's no surprise then, that Black Lives Matter has been hailed as the second-wave of the Civil Rights Movement.
However, a key difference separates the movements. In the 1960s, media and the newly popular television played a major role in the Civil Rights Movement. The coverage of the protests, marches, and events helped shine a light on the racism and segregation in the United States many had refused to believe existed. In fact, local Southern newspapers determined to block out any of the movement found that they were no match for national newspapers, radio, and television shows. Why does this make the Civil Rights Movement different than Black Lives Matter?
Because Black Lives Matter was just labeled a terrorist organization.
Following the murder of five Dallas police officers by Micah Xavier Johnson, both national and local outlets, directly and indirectly, blamed the Black Lives Matter movement for the actions of a lone-wolf. Yes, a terrorist, but a lone-wolf nonetheless. Judging by headlines in hours and days following the incident, you would think Black Lives Matter truly was a terrorist group intent on destroying the white race.
I'm not even exaggerating:
— New York Post (@nypost) July 8, 2016
More irresponsible journalism, this time from @memphisnews.
Exactly what purpose does this headline serve? pic.twitter.com/IFzgikODeZ
— Meredith Clark, PhD (@meredithclark) July 10, 2016
Rush Limbaugh, also nationally known, went as far as this on his national radio show:
"They're a terrorist group, they're quickly becoming a terrorist group committing hate crimes...I found a story from March, I think, of 2015, in which President Obama welcomed two founders of Black Lives Matter to the White House and commemorated them and their efforts and praised them as being better organizers than he is."
The Rush Limbaughs of the 19th century had the same objections when Abraham Lincoln invited Frederick Douglas to the White House.
To be fair, Limbaugh is widely known for his bias opinions. Yet, he wasn't the only voice to suggest the movement was responsible for the attacks on the white police officers, Texas state representative, Bill Zedler, had this response:
Clearly the rhetoric of Black Lives Matters encouraged the sniper that shot Dallas police officers
— Bill Zedler (@Bill_Zedler) July 8, 2016
Even Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick blamed the protestors and previous marches when he went on an angry tirade about them, which included calling them hypocrites for literally fleeing gunfire:
"All those protesters last night, they ran the other way, expecting the men and women in blue to turn around and protect them, what hypocrites!"
It seems as though these voices, along with the people who agree with them and have signed a petition to label the movement as a terrorist organization, think that the confrontational approach of the Black Lives Matter inspires violence. If these were the criteria for terrorism, then Donald Trump, whom Lt. Gov Dan Patrick has endorsed, is also a terrorist organization.
Obviously, times are tougher for reporters and journalists in the new age of media. Smartphones can be both a blessing and a curse. But, it's not too much to ask for factual reporting and unbiased approaches, especially when it could endanger the lives of millions of Americans. Again, I'm not exaggerating. When the NY Post calls the Dallas shooting a "Civil War", it is ignorantly pitting two races against each other, like the actual civil war. At a time when tensions are higher than they've been since both the actual Civil War and Civil Rights Movement, journalists, politicians, news anchors, bloggers, and any media sources have a duty to share the truth with their audience. The majority of those covering the Civil Rights Movement did exactly that, and they helped change the face of segregation in America.
To label Black Lives Matter as anything but a movement whose seed is the extrajudicial killing of a 17-year old boy with a hood on his head and skittles in his hand, whose activists are Americans tired of racial hatred and black killings, and whose goal is to take back the voice of the oppressed and silenced Black lives in America, is terrorism in and of itself.