Wednesday, I was so upset by the news of Alton Sterling, I wrote a lengthy post about how Black people—black men, especially—face a greater threat in their daily lives than the rest of the U.S. population.
Around 1:30 AM, I shut my laptop, climbed under my covers and proceeded to slip into a rather fitful sleep.
Less than seven hours later, I awoke to the news of yet another fatal police shooting—committed by a white officer—against a black man.
My immediate reaction was to climb back under my covers and take a “grief” day.
I mean, honestly. It feels like we just can’t win.
Black men who are unarmed get killed.
Black men who are already subdued get killed.
Black men who try to be upfront about legally carrying a weapon get killed.
Black men get killed.
I used to avoid talking about race, racial tension, interracial relationships, etc., because I don’t like controversy. Unfortunately, the only way to deal with controversial issues—I mean really deal with them—is to start talking about them. And that’s just the start.
Collectively climbing under the covers and refusing to face the pain does nothing—worse than nothing, it permits the worst kind of actions to continue unchecked.
Or, as Elie Wiesel so poignantly stated:
“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”
“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”
And he definitely knew a thing or two about oppression, torment, and hatred.
Anyway, after reading the news, I numbly autopiloted myself to Facebook.
There were a few posts about the shootings from my understandably outraged friends, aka my black friends.
It made me wonder, how many of my non-Black friends are even paying attention? What are they feeling? What are they saying?
So, out of sheer curiosity, I decided to look at the recent posts of every single one of my Facebook friends. I wasn’t really expecting an authentic view of how people feel, but rather hoping for a glimpse into who’s actually participating in the conversation.
Obviously, this was not an objective analysis. I’m pretty selective when it comes to my Facebook friends, and I figure the majority of my friends are at least sympathetic to our cause, even if they’re not actively posting about it.
Still, if Facebook is the most popular social media platform, then I figure what better platform to get involved in the conversation? What better time to share, and connect, and express solidarity?
Well, I hope that people are finding better places, times, and ways to participate in this conversation, because they’re certainly not using Facebook. Not my friends, anyway.
Yeah, the results are pretty much what I expected, but still disappointing.
First of all, it became strikingly clear pretty quickly that the vast majority of my friends are white females. (It’s almost embarrassing.) And they’re by far the most active user demographic. So, that “skewed” my results… except it didn’t really, because it’s not like being a white female exempts you from being part of humanity and caring that a community of your peers is continuously brutalized for no other reason than that they don’t look like you.
Anyway, here’s the breakdown:
Active users = Posted or shared something to their own timeline.
Participation = Posted specifically about one of the recent police shootings or the current state of race relations.
- Of 342 Facebook friends (I told you I’m selective), 143 were active in the past 48 hours.
- White friends were the most active (85); white women especially (62).
- Black friends had the highest rate of participation (60%).
- Mixed race (two or more races) friends showed the second highest rate of participation (25%).
- Male and female friends across races were equal in their rates of participation (23%).
- Asian friends showed zero participation, but they were also the least active.
- Black female friends and Black male friends were the only demographics where at least half of the active users participated in the conversation (73% and 50% respectively).
- Of all my friends who participated in the conversation (34), all except 1 expressed outrage and/or support for the Black community. (The other expressed solidarity with police.
Since I don’t have baseline data (because again, this is completely subjective), I can’t say how normal these outcomes are. But my hypothesis is that they’re pretty average.
Plus, doing this right after the 4th of July may have affected overall activity and interest, which is understandable. I mean, after all the posts about vacations, and family, and puppies, and freedom, who has the energy to dive right back into real life issues like inequality and injustice?
But as I mentioned before, even though I pretty much expected this outcome, it’s still worrisome.
If Blacks are the overwhelming majority of people trying to engage in this “conversation” with our peers via the most popular media platform, then what impact are we actually having? Who is really paying attention? Even if our friends of other races are reacting to or commenting on our posts, what are they doing to actively engage and unite with us in the struggle? Sure, it’s just social media… but it’s just social media! If they’re not even with us on Facebook, then where are they? Can we really expect to get anywhere without their participation? I’m pretty sure that history has taught us the answer is no.
But history has also taught us what happens when people are silent. So I will continue to bombard Facebook. I will take a side. I will protest. I will stand for those who cannot. And I will work for change. Because Black Lives Matter.