Written By Aké Kibona
It’s normal for the media to highlight scandals and questionable activities within organisations. Not only is it normal, but technically that is their job. As news outlets, they have the job of presenting the news to the public. However, they must do so using the facts and evidence behind their claim when delivering such news, not drawing on semantics to reel readers in. Big headlines that misconstrue the facts, using emotional language, and buzzwords, create a sense of fear and uncertainty.
All of these things are tools that were utilised in the depiction of the Black Lives Matter organisation.
It’s important to notice how I’ve used the term organisation and not movement, copying the actions of the mainstream media. To shut down any claims that they were being racist or anti-BLM, they decided to separate the organisation from the movement. Even though they are well aware that the movement and the organisation are simply synonymous when one thinks of Black Lives Matter, they will think first of the movement and mentioning the organisation will seem a given when saying the movement, and vice versa. Therefore, when media outlines wrote headlines such as “ Black Lives Matter Organisation secretly bought a $6 million house” or “Black Lives Matter Need to Open Up About Their Finances”, – they knew exactly what they were doing.
They were placing doubt in the minds of people sitting on the fence.
Those who are unsure of what position they should take on the matter. As well as that, they’re giving ammunition to those who already are against the movement. Yet, if you question those outlets, they’ll tell you that they’re not against the movement but simply against the organisation.
At first, when I first came across this, I didn’t pay much attention to it, assuming that most would either already support the movement and sniff the propaganda or that once people saw the headlines and read the articles, they’d come to understand that it was all semantics. However, I realised this was not the case while scrolling through my TikTok page on a random Monday afternoon.
I came across a video by the black menaces: they’re a group of students at BYU (A Mormon university in America) that interview fellow students on their campus about “political” issues, such as racism, LGBTQ+ rights, religion, etc. Most of the time, I find humour in their content. Even though it’s worrying to see adults being so blatantly ignorant, it's funny because the responses are straight out of a TV Show. However, this one video had a student respond to the question, “Do you support Black Lives Matter”. I expected an answer that wasn’t yes. It's something along the lines of “I haven’t thought about it much” or “umm, I don’t know” or just a blatant no. I even expected them to answer with a long paragraph that explained nothing about their views on the question. However, what I did not expect, and what was actually said, was a pretty reasonable explanation of her disapproval of the financial aspect of Black Lives Matter. I wasn’t sure how to react, so I go to the comment section.
In the comments, various people are laughing or confused about why she would bring up the financial aspects of the movement. Many of them are probably unaware of the recent headlines roaming American news outlets. However, I was aware, and her response concerned me. Not because of the views the answer depicted but simply because the media had managed to turn a human rights movement about the one thing they love most… money. Even worse, people were engaging with their content and using it to rationalise their beliefs on human rights.
No doubt capitalism is an essential and ongoing structure in society; but, it should not be the deciding factor on how we treat each other in the world. It is understandable if you’re against a person’s decision to buy a $6 million mansion with charity donations quietly. I, too, was confused, and even after hearing that it was supposedly a black creative haven, I had questions on whether that money could have been used elsewhere. Part of me respects the media because they’ve managed to use their writing to persuade or influence a significant group of people, which all writers yearn for. However, that respect would never overcome the disgust I feel that a human rights issue has been brought down to a question of capitalism.
Then after further consideration, I realised that the movement had not only been shifted to capitalism but was constantly being shifted away from human rights. This constant re-direction of the BLM movement shows the discomfort people face when talking about race inequality. In a world where talking about money, gender, and sexuality has been normalised, race is something that people dare not touch. Whether it’s the fear of slipping up or being cancelled – people, especially the media, hate talking about the race inequality happening in our society. This discomfort leads to purposeful mis-directions of the conversation. Leading people into a cycle of simply talking about progress and not doing anything about it, or even worse pure avoidance. There are many times when conversations surrounding race inequality will have people responding with “But the world is changing” or “it’s such a complex issue – there are so many aspects about it”. Rarely do we see people tackle it headfirst and talk about the victim. Instead, as the conversation shifts, the perpetrator becomes the victim. In this case, society is the assailant that we slowly sympathise with. The mention of race inequality causes people to feel sorry that society must change to keep up with trends. Yes, equality is viewed as a trend. The way the media plays around wigh it and manipulates it, equality is a trend. Unfortunately, like most trends, race equality and any movements surrounding it become things that people choose to like or dislike.
Therefore, the same way fashion trends come and go, the BLM movement is weaving itself in and out of society, with the media being the main manipulator – deciding whether it’s in trend or not. Since people are no longer dealing with a human rights issue, they can pick and choose what part of the equality they agree or disagree with. In this instance, they chose that they don’t agree with the trend’s financials. Completely ignoring the whole movement and what it represents, they choose not to take a holistic view but narrow on this one (quite irrelevant) part of the movement. I must admit that I did also question the financial purchase but that didn’t lead me to dismiss the entire movement and the entire ethos of the organisation. I still support Black Lives Matter and their fundamental belief that all lives should be treated equally, independent of race, religion, sexuality etic. However, many have found themselves manipulated by the media and engrossed in this scandal, following the financial statements of the movements rather than following the movement’s work.Too busy focusing on that 20 dollar spending to notice that Patrick Lyoya was shot in the head by a white policeman in Michigan State. Too concerned about whether charity donations funded their Starbucks trip to see that Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Philando Castile and many more still have not had their justice. The media is powerful and clever in depicting information in the best way possible to cause more rifts and chasms between society but don’t buy into it. Don’t forget that this is not a financial issue; it’s not an economic or political issue. It’s a human rights issue, an issue of equality for all, not just for some.