Social media has transformed the black experience; we are now able to connect and share stories from across the world in a matter of seconds. It has made our world smaller, and many positives have come from it. For example, the hashtag #UkBlackOwnedBusinesses recently trended on Twitter. It was an impromptu opportunity that allowed many black British business owners, to share and connect their businesses to an interested audience, who perhaps may not have known that they existed. I look forward to and cherish these moments - seeing black people come together and sharing their greatness, in a world that quite frankly doesn’t want to acknowledge the value of black life.
However, my social media experience with heart fulfilling moments like #UkBlackOwnedBusinesses are usually short lived. There was a time there wouldn’t go a day on my social media feed without videos of black people fighting, men degrading young women, young children disrespecting themselves and others being shared. I fell victim and became accustomed to that one dimensional and racial stereotype of black men and women. Where were the creatives, professionals, entrepreneurs and other people contributing to positive change? I took a break from social media and re-educated my mind. On my return, I made a conscious effort to unfollow and block anyone (even friends) who cared to share and perpetuate anti-blackness or what I deemed to be a negative stereotype of blackness.
The deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castille have brought about outrage and a lot of talk on social media. Video footage of their executions spread like wildfire. I had to stay away from Facebook when Mike Brown was executed; my heart sank, my soul left me, and I felt helpless. I knew straight away not to watch the most recent videos. I care deeply about the world we live in, especially black life; I knew my mental well-being was at stake. I didn’t need to watch a video of black people dying to be left feeling outraged and full of the need to vent.
I studied psychology at university and was well aware of post-traumatic stress, and the stressors, which can cause it. If soldiers who are trained to kill are at high risk of suffering from mental health issues being exposed to violence; how would an untrained person react? My thoughts then went to my younger sisters and nieces, what if they are on Facebook and decide to watch the video? How would their young minds interpret their deaths? Did they watch it alone? How would they value their life?
Seeing someone murdered, is not a healthy thing to witness, especially being killed because of the fickle notions that are attached to the colour of one’s skin. This is not a Hollywood movie; this is real life. People need to know the atrocities that occur in the world but shouldn’t we be sensitive in how we share these stories?
Our children are watching. I will not partake in sharing dead black bodies, but I will spread awareness of the issues we face. We are or should be aware that black people are being killed and mistreated daily all around the world (due to racism) - South and North America, Caribbean, UK, Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa. Black people have become a commodity and disposable asset since the day of slavery. Popular culture, Hollywood, music videos, fashion, pretty much all facets of society have all contributed to the notion that black people are not human but livestock ready for public consumption. We have become desensitised to the value of black human life through the educational system, media, and judicial system. It is now at the point we can share videos of black people being murdered, their slain bodies, covered with blood, for trend sake. Let me pose a question to all, would you watch a video of a loved one killed on social media? for it to be used as a prop to share with an unknown person’s view or political stance.
Pornographic videos are deemed unsuitable for most social media platforms and will be blocked and removed without hesitation but not the killing of black people. There is something wrong here.
Racism is not new; racism didn’t die with slavery; it is still ‘alive and kicking’. Black people know this as fact, as we experience racism daily, maybe not on the scale of physical violence:
- Racial profiling - being followed by security in a store,
- Hypersexualisation and fetishization of black woman and young girls
- Hearing unwanted remarks at work but having to bite your tongue not wanting to appear like the “aggressive black person.”
Quite easily, the list can go on. The majority of the times, it happens without the presence of video footage, but I’ve witnessed on a few occasion a community (of all colours) come together to empathise and support each other. For example, Siana Bangura (writer and activist) who shared her experience of her racially aggravated attack on a train - the Twitter community came together to support her through her time of need.
Acts like these remind me that black life is valued - but to whom?