BLM 2020, and the news

Jun 07, 2020

Black Lives Matter. And they truly do, but if we're going to get political here, buckle up everyone, it may be a bumpy ride!

The internet is, as always, going insane. One legitimately important news shows up somewhere in the world, and there's nowhere you can look without running into it. Several days ago, a horrible moment of police force was captured on camera. We all witnessed a human being die while struggling to say he can't breathe as an officer pressed down his knee onto the victim's neck. This was then followed by multiple protests and further news about significantly concerning developments by the US leadership. The protests are clearly warranted not because of the event, but due to events like this being recurring in the US.

This is what happened, and I understand why. I also agree with the protesters, even though I may not financially or vocally support their movement. I fully agree that a mantra from 2013 should be brought up again to the streets. I don't provide more support because the distance between me and this problem is much greater than the internet makes it look like. I don't normally promote the movement, because I live in a country with almost no black people, and on a continent where I have not really seen hints of systemic racism towards black people.

America's greatest power is great marketing and PR. It is by far the greatest asset they have, the ability to influence others with via stories. If a politically charged problem is indeed strong in that country, it tends to become a strong movement in other countries as well, overshadowing local problems. This extends beyond support, but also towards third parties bringing critique to the table.

Trapped in our filter bubbles, we don't see the full battle of ideas. We don't see all sides. Instead, we may see ridicule or name-calling. Jokes, memes, and straw man arguments. We may see single images taken out of context with an inflammatory headline. "Is this what a peaceful protest looks like?" with an image of black people burning a car, and no source or even a year of when the photo was taken, and no mention of anything else that may be happening in the same scene outside the frame. The same can be said for news running the other direction. It is absolutely impossible for us, sitting thousands of kilometres away to confirm the deluge of information we are subjected to.

Yet, we still see glimpses over, and over, and over, and over again. In a city where I can count all the black people I've ever encountered on one hand, almost everyone I've talked to has an opinion about these stories. And we all acted in one form or another, sharing an article, posting a joke, or offering a word of support for one side or another.

I hope this doesn't come as whataboutism. "What about X, that's also a problem we should solve X instead?" That's not my intent as I feel all Americans are confronted with this problem and all should solve it as a community. But for us, living an ocean away, is the whole story distracting us instead? It is hard for me to not see the hypocrisy. And it is easy to see the lack of balance between US problems, and local ones. It is obvious how much of our attention is spent on this.

What irks me most, however, is the lack of nuance I see when dealing with this issue from afar, or the lack of acknowledgement of the position we are in. It is too easy for me to say "I support the underdog" when I'm not in the race.

To this day, I haven't even spent a minute searching for the equivalent local issues. Police injustice. The closest newsworthy matter is a general opinion that one branch of the the police is rougher because it used excessive force in the capital at certain protests (while the same branch marched along the protesters in other cities). To this day I hadn't thought of researching further.

To this day, I would not have searched if local police treats our own minorities unlawfully. If black Americans are being harassed, could it be the same here in Romania for Gypsies for example? The official statistics about police activity are not sorted by ethnicity (and I for one don't think it's a issue). It's hard to point fingers and say "well, you should have sorted it how I wanted" when there are thousands of ways to categorize data, and when they still have to protect the privacy of the people mentioned there. I have also not seen the issue dominate the news. In light of that, until I see journalists investigate it, I should consider it not a problem for my own sanity as I navigate this world.

But more importantly, say it was true, would I have cared? Would I have stayed on the same side if I was part of the story? If it was instead about a disreputable local minority being pressed down to the asphalt until they ran out of air? Would I have kept internal consistency and fought for the local underdog under the same circumstance? I'd like to think so, but up until today I hadn't even bothered to do a google search... instead I let this news consume my time, about the same problem thousands of kilometres away.