#blacklivesmatter by Cashmyra Rozendaal
Equality or equal rights is a very broad subject. We live in a world full of different people and for some reason people get treated differently. Sometimes we are not completely aware of these differences and sometimes they are very clear. This article will be about the goal ‘equality’ as a megatrend. There has always been a lot of inequality in the world and although it might not be as clear as it was in the past, it is definitely still present. There is a difference between changing laws and changing the entire mentality of a people, changing a society and its structures and norms.
America’s history of slavery is well known. In 1619 was the first record of Africans brought to America as servants or slaves. African Americans lived in segregation with almost no rights at all. Although slavery was abolished in 1865 and in 1875, and the Civil Rights Act was enacted, it only seem to have a minor influence (Knight, 2009). The laws were different, but the people controlling them and the people living with them, had not changed. Slavery was not allowed anymore, but what does it mean to be free? Was freedom an achievable goal? Most people continued to live their lives the same way they did before. Although they were not slaves anymore, they still did not get reasonably paid or taken care of.
During the Second World War, a lot of African Americans were sent to the frontlines. During battle they witnessed first-hand that white people were just as human, fragile and importantly – just as scared as they were. Illusions of white people as superior were dissolved in the levelling situation of facing death together. Further, after putting loads of bullets in blue eyed people, the whole myth of this superior oppressor perished (Litwack, 2009). As soon as they returned to their homeland, back into the oppressed state, they realised something needed to change.
Most Europeans identify the Civil Rights Movement in the United States with Martin Luther King, and his famous ‘I have a dream’ speech. King was all about a nonviolent approach, but slowly the Civil Rights Movement became more aggressive. We became more aware of the social differences around the sixties. This was also influenced by documentation. Photography and television made it possible to show the horror all around the world. This might be the beginning of the megatrend.
If we think about this trend on a micro level, there are examples of artists who released (protest)songs about the inequality. In the sixties, there is the perfect example of Nina Simone who wrote ‘’Mississippi Goddam’’ in 1963 (Kernodle, 2008). More recent is ‘’Blood on the Leaves’’ by Kanye West. He even sampled a fragment of Nina Simone’s song ‘’Strange Fruit’’. Simone is not the original songwriter. ‘’Strange Fruit’’ is based on a poem by Abel Meeropol and he describes lynch parties in America and how bodies are swinging in the tree like a strange fruit (Blair, 2012).
On a meso level, the so-called consumer need, which might sound a bit odd in this context, it is about gaining actual rights. Like the right to vote. Or to be treated equal. Although racism is forbidden, this doesn’t mean that it doesn’t excist.
A mega trend lasts quite some time and today #blacklivesmatter is an important movement. The hashtag and the movement started in 2012 and is still going strong today. It is possible to state that this trend is still on its peak. Perhaps it did get out of our sight at some point but it is quite easy to state that the actual fight for equality has never ended.
Do you think that it is a mega trend? Or do you see a clear difference between the protests in the sixties and today? Did the movement fade out around the eighties?
Blacklivesmatter. http://blacklivesmatter.com/ (visited 15-09-2016)
Blair, Elizabeth. ‘’The Strange Story Of The Man Behind ‘Strange Fruit’,’’ in NPR Music, September 2012, http://www.npr.org/2012/09/05/158933012/the-strange-story-of-the-man-behind-strange-fruit (visited 15-09-2016)
Kernodle, Tammy L., ‘’‘’I wish I knew how it would feel to be free’’: Nina Simone and the Redefining of the Freedom Song of the 1960s,’’ Journal of the Society for American Music 2,3 (2008), 295-317.
Knight, Gladys L. Icons of African American Protest, Trailblazing Activists of the Civil Rights Movement. Santa Barabara: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2009
Litwack, Leon F., ‘’’’Fight the power!’’ The legacy of the Civil Rights Movement,’’ The Journal of Southern History, 75,1 (2009), 3-28.