After watching Michelle Alexander’s Tedx talk, “The Future of Race in America”, I was really struck by a point she made where she referenced iconic activists such as Martin Luther King, Ella Baker and Rosa Parks. Alexander stated, “I believe we have to pick up where they left off and do the hard work of movement building”. This really made me wonder about activism today, and specifically, the reason as to why we do not see the same kind of influential figures that risked their lives in order to stop injustice. At first I thought, maybe it could be that people don’t realize the degree to which racism still exists today? But then I began to consider how social media plays a role in our social spheres and how effective it really is when addressing social issues. Though sites like Twitter and Facebook can be great for sharing and addressing social issues among the masses, can’t these sites be somewhat silent platforms for addressing social issues? There are highly influential organizations and individuals on social media platforms, but there are also thousands of people whom simply “favorite”, “share”, “retweet” or “like” posts- and can we really call all of those people “activists”?  Alexander stated that “nothing more than a major social movement” is what we need to end this injustice in the justice system, so is a “retweet”, “favorite”, or even a “share” really enough?

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3 responses »

  1. cvillene6052 says:

    I think you bring up a really good point about visibility. With the internet there is just SO MUCH that I think many can’t (or don’t want to) sort through what is a movement they want to be a part of. I also think the internet, while connecting so many people to social issues, is very isolating and is all about the individual. A person can only do so much when they are alone behind a computer screen. It’s difficult to gage a movement’s true, committed following without the presence of actual bodies – when instead all you have to work with are ‘likes’ and ‘favorites’ as you said. I think there is something to be said for that kind of support, through. While it may not evoke any grand social change, I think it helps the individual decide what they think is important and what aligns with their values. Maybe the likes and favorites will add up and that person will understand what it is they care enough about to change.

  2. hannahginsberg says:

    I completely agree with the points you brought up and the questions you asked. I 100% don’t think a tweet, Facebook status or share is enough but I think it could be a good start or a place to at least share things to a community of ones friends and peers. Although, I think the issues of the New Jim Crow that Michelle Alexander brings up need much more attention than just social media. Yet, since we are in the era of technology and most people use social media to an extent it could be a starting point.

  3. sjendoubi17 says:

    I had similar reflections when I was watching Alexander’s Ted Talk, but watching the news coverage in the media in the last year, as well as the clips we saw on Monday night, show that those who try to become activists are vilified and criminalized further. I think there is so much burden placed on activists nowadays because they have to live up to these legends that they may be dissuaded and feel disheartened. And even if they do pursue this avenue their efforts are never sufficiently appreciated, which makes it even more difficult for them to make a large scale impact. Perhaps we can start using social media to shed light on these activists in a positive way.

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