By Maira Ito
Editor - Ashleena Bilal
On Tuesday, June 2nd 2020, social media timelines were packed with black photos with the hashtag #BlackOutTuesday. While the trend originally began as an incentive to spread awareness for the Black Lives Matter cause, it did quite the opposite, covering up pages with important information on ways to donate and petition.
How did this start?
The problem initiated with the death of a 46-year-old father, George Floyd, born and raised in Houston, Texas. He was described to be a “gentle giant” (in accordance to his tall stance of 6 ft 6in) in a multitude of tributes. Floyd’s death was caused from continuous restraint on his neck from the officer that stopped him. A medical examiner on June 1st classified the death as a homicide, led from “cardiopulmonary arrest from restraint on the neck”
Why was he stopped?
George had a history of arrests, once from armed robbery in a home invasion which led to a 5-year sentence. Multiple years later, he seeked purpose for a new life, one of peace and no violence, now working as a truck driver and bouncer. In an interview with Alkazeera, his boss recalled being one “with a good attitude” and “always cheerful”.
However, after COVID-19 became a prevalent issue, where jobs were lost as a consequence, Floyd lost his source of employment, mostly being stuck at home. On May 25th 2020, he was stopped on Monday evening, due to allegedly matching the description given by the owner of a store as the individual who attempted to counterfeit a $20 bill to buy cigarettes. The officers, however, did not have any proof it was him, in exception to the vague description the shop owner gave.
In a brutal video it is extremely visible that George is on the ground, hands behind his back, with Officer Derek Chauvin pressing him against the concrete ground near his car, not letting the 46-year old breathe.
“I can’t breathe” was constantly repeated from the male, just until his heart stopped beating due to suffocating. This event wasn’t the first time police used their rank as an incentive to brutally act against minorities.
In accordance with the video being released on social media, numerous protests were released imitating George’s last words in attempts to spread awareness of the cause. The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter was trending on multiple platforms (Instagram, TikTok, Facebook etc.) with people - even social media influencers and athletes - posting links and information to petition and donate for the cause. The cop who arrested Floyd, faced a harsher prison sentence, and those who assisted him and sat beside the cop car with no remorse on their face, also got charged.
However, many of these so-called social media activists don’t do nearly as much as a small percentage of those who actually post. Going on Instagram and seeing the numerous and continuous posting of the matter with helpful links, many feel the need to blend in and act within the majority. They click on their timeline and search the hashtags, posting the first couple photos or quotes they come across, satisfied with their work and happy to see they contributed to the cause. This laziness, the choice to turn a blind eye, is a privilege that many have and it's a gross misconception and elucidation of our generation- a generation of freedom and equality no matter skin colour and race.
This privilege that people possess, of not informing and fading with the majority created an uproar when the “BlackOutTuesday” hashtag became trending. Many seeing the numerous dark posts felt the need to affix in order to not be left out without researching the appropriate tag and reason for it. B.O.T was created in venture for people to take a break from typical and ordinary social media handles and posts, to educate and advocate. Nevertheless, countless turned a blind eye, posting it with the wrong tag-overflowing the BLM page with black squares instead of the useful information it originally contained, restricting the sight of informative posts designed to elevate the less involved. Regardless, the misinterpretation of uninformed posts already manifesting damage.
How can police brutality actually be addressed?