The death of George Floyd seems to be the tipping point for Americans as they protest against the continued injustice and police brutality against African Americans. Floyd uttered the same famous last words, “I can’t breath” of Eric Garner who died six year prior from a banned chokehold. It took five years and many protests later for Garner’s killer, Daniel Pantaleo, to be fired from the New York Police Department but he was not subject to a criminal charge.
I am seeing now more than ever people posting and tweeting about Floyd’s story and encouraging others to take a stance. A petition to charge all officers involved in Floyd’s arrest with murder has over 6 million signatures and counting. Unlike Pantaleo, Derek Chauvin, the officer who drove his knee into Floyd’s neck, was arrested only four days after the video of Floyd’s death surfaced online. The other three officers who assisted in the handcuffing have been fired from the Minneapolis Police Department, in the meantime, while protests continue across the country.
While I am all for the viral takeover of the Black Lives Matter movement, why does it take your favorite celebrity posting about it on Instagram for you to acknowledge racial inequality? Are you reposting an advertisement from your favorite company because you agree with the message or because it’s catchy? Do you care about Black people as much as you claim others should or are you just jumping on the bandwagon of appearing “woke”?
I wish America loved Black people as much they love Black culture. Everyone and their mothers during this pandemic are in love with TikTok and its viral dances, such as the “Renegade” which was originally created by fourteen year old Jalaiah Harmon to a hip-hop song called “Lottery.” If we focused on music alone, Black artists are dominating the charts right now, as four Black female artists occupy Billboard Hot 100’s top two spots and Black artists occupy the other seven out of eight top spots this week. Black artists dominated the nominations for the 2020 Grammy Awards and majority of the Grammy’s performances were by people of color. On top of it all, non-Black pop artists who adopt Black culture (with no clear credit to where credit is due) have achieved incredible commercial success from listeners across America and the globe.
If you are a personal friend of mine, you might have heard me
talk rant about this pop star before. Miley Cyrus released an album called Bangerz in 2013 for which she requested a “black sound,” working with hip-hop producers such as Pharrell Williams and Mike Will Made-It. Claiming to relate to Lil Kim and loving hood music, Cyrus used blackness to successfully shed her formal Disney Channel image and re-establish her music career. Bangerz ultimately secured Cyrus her first and only Grammy nomination and Cyrus was even named 2013 Artist of the Year by MTV.
One of 2019’s biggest hits include Ariana Grande’s “7 Rings” from her fifth studio album Thank U, Next. While I can’t deny the song is super catchy, I also can’t deny the controversy around the accusations of plagiarism from not only one but three different hip-hop artists. The most hip-hop leaning track Grande has released to date debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and is her longest running number one single. The song was nominated for Record of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance at the 62nd Grammy Awards.
Hip-hop and R&B artists make up more than thirty percent of all music streaming activity, more than double of the next closest genres, Rock and Pop. In addition, hip-hop and R&B producers are behind some of the most popular hits in those latter genres. Black people and culture are popular and embedded in not just music but all facets of American society. While we as civilians may not be able to fully control America’s justice system, we can reflect if we are practicing the messages we preach on social media, and we can engage in thoughtful discussions about racial inequality. We can aim to not only celebrate but also advocate for the fair treatment of Black Americans.
Racism will not end with hashtag #blacklivesmatter tagging chains or Pinterest-worthy illustrations of George Floyd. If you are unable to join a protest, donate to the affected families or justice organizations. If you are unable to donate, share your story of racism you have experienced or witnessed. If you are unable to share a story, please be mindful in what you post and share something that you
feel know will enlighten your followers to do their own research and be the next step towards enacting change.