It seems that we’re entering a new civil rights movement, with the outcome yet to be decided. It’s incomprehensible that in 2016, when we can send satellites to orbit distant planets and discover gravitational waves that explain the history of our universe, equality is still elusive. But the fact of the matter is that, for many, race is still an uncomfortable subject. DeRay offers his thoughts as to why.
“I think that some of it is that the conversation requires action,” he says. “If you think about reparations, at its core it’s about acknowledgement and repair. It’s about telling the truth about what happened and then doing something about it. Then we have to remember that there are people who benefit from the status quo and who have a vested interest in making sure that it isn’t interrupted. Being honest about the racist history of this country, and the presence of racism right now, demands a different type of action and a different type of response. And there are people who feel like they’ll lose something if the status quo is disrupted.
“We know that we didn’t invent resistance and we didn’t discover injustice in 2014 in Ferguson. But what we have access to this time around is a different set of tools. We know that we exist in a long tradition of struggle, but social media and technology have allowed us to build communities, mobilise differently and allow the truth to spread,” he concludes.
And it’s true. Social media has been instrumental in spreading the messages of Black Lives Matter and spotlighting injustice across the country. When DeRay was arrested at a protest in Baton Rouge in July, he live streamed it to his 500k Twitter followers, with many noticing that prior to his aggressive takedown he had down nothing wrong. Recently the harrowing Alton Sterling and Philando Castile shooting videos have gone viral, and while for some it stops at hashtag activism, for others these have been the key to opening up their eyes. As difficult as they are to watch, is social media helping to establish the truth? DeRay thinks so.
“We aren’t born woke, something wakes us up,” he explains. “For some people it’s a video, for some people it’s a news story, for others it’s a tweet so it depends on the person but without these videos being spread on social media we wouldn’t be having this full of a conversation. That doesn’t mean that every person has to watch every video, but they help to convey the intensity and enormity of the trauma and damage that is being done here.”