Upon seeing the senseless killings of both Alton Sterling and Philando Castile this past week in America, I was immediately angered and disgusted. Being a Caribbean citizen, I did the only thing I thought I could do to aid in the fight against gun violence by American police officers against black people, in particular. I posted a photo and caption to social media with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. Nothing major.
On the same day I posted the photo with the hashtag #BlacklivesMatter, a friend expressed his annoyance at such hashtags and asked that we as individuals get into more action and stop relying on hashtags. Hashtags, in his opinion, do nothing. I agree with him to some extent. Especially since many people do believe that once they tweet and put a hashtag on social media that the problem is magically solved. They believe that they are instantly absolved of any responsibility.
Unlike my friend, I do believe that hashtags have their place. Whilst hashtags are indeed important, they are not the ultimate solution. They are a necessary branch in any revolution to take place in this ever-changing technology driven world. Look at the role technology played in the Arab Spring. As someone said on Facebook, hashtags get the word out to people who are unaware about what is happening. Believe me, there are many people (black people included) who have never heard the names Keith Childress, Bettie Jones, Miguel Espinal, India Kager.
A click on a hashtag can change that. That said, many of us seek comfort in ignorance and there is no merit in turning a blind eye to international affairs. There is a certain level of selfishness in this tendency. Many of us do not know because we do not want to know. Our circle of friends do not discuss such things. Our thinking does not allow us to consider there is a world outside of our flashy social media driven lives.
Another issue I would like to highlight is the retort to #BlackLivesMatter that #AllLivesMatter. Well, duh. Of course all lives matter. In my opinion, although this hashtag is used by many with the most positive of intentions, it is a cop out in many instances. It is standtamount to responding to a claim that slavery was wrong by highlighting the haloucaust. Apples and Oranges. It is insensitive and in many instances does not address the issue at hand. #BlackLivesMatter is a platform that needs attention because unlike #AllLivesMatter, black lives mattering does not seem to be a given. Ask the families of the aforementioned names. We do understand that every life matters. My four year old sister understands that.
It blessed my heart to see a fellow Barbadian march to Capitol Hill on Thursday with many others. It is very easy for us Caribbean citizens to have a "not my business, not my moneys" outlook on such matters. So what can we do? We cannot be satisfied to simply say "I am happy that I do not live in the United States". We cannot be satisfied to respond by saying "All Lives Matter". This is not an American problem. A issue with black people is a global issue. If at any time, a race does not feel that their lives are important, that is not a "black people issue" or an "American issue", it is a human issue. I cannot tell you what you should do because I do not know where your power lies. I can however tell you that as I write this submission, my power lies in the pen - this keyboard. In many instances, the pen is mightier than the sword. So I shall write. I shall write from thousands of miles away from America on an issue which is physically happening in America because as a human issue, it affects us all.