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#BlackLivesMatter and the Democratic Campaign Schism

It's a difficult, frightening time to be African American. For more than a year police shootings, brutality and other nasty incidents have been drawing racial equality (or the lack thereof) into sharp question. People have taken to the streets from Ferguson to Baltimore and many other places across America to protest the ever-increasing list of injustices against black people as well as other racial minorities. #BlackLivesMatter has become a banner for it.

In some ways, social media has actually played an instrumental role in bringing these issues to the forefront. This recent spate of incidents isn't anything new, but social media has brought the debate to a far wider audience than ever before. The heartbreaking footage of Eric Garner being forced to the ground moments before he died appeared independently on YouTube long before the mainstream media got hold of it and in the case of the Michael Brown shooting, numerous videos were uploaded and people speaking up on Twitter and Facebook told a very different story to most of the papers. With each new story, more and more people have been rallied to the cause.

As a result, #BlackLivesMatter has transcended a mere hashtag trend and become a huge, active equality movement, and one that has its sights firmly on the Democratic candidacy race. The campaigners interrupted two of much loved candidate Bernie Sanders' speeches to make it clear that his tendency to lump racial inequality in with economic inequality simply was not enough. Sadly, this action turned Twitter into a battleground as hundred if not thousands of incensed Sanders supporters lambasted the campaigners for threatening his campaign.

The man himself responded rather differently. As well as tweeting about his unyielding support of racial equality using both #BlackLivesMatter and #SayHerName (which refers to Sandra Bland, who he also mentioned during a speech), Sanders invited the campaigners to take an active role in his rally in LA on Monday night. Suddenly, inequality was the focal point of his entire campaign and a massive contingent of new supporters were throwing their weight behind him, flooding the Los Angeles Sports Area was rapturous applause.

Los Angeles Times
Meanwhile, clearly taking all this into careful consideration, rival candidate and current frontrunner Hilary Clinton agreed to meet in private with the #BlackLivesMatter core after an event in New Hampshire, when it became apparent that they were planning to crash it. The meeting allegedly culminated in an agreement by Clinton's campaign staff to work with BLM going forward.

Both of these things make it all the more obvious that equality movements, fuelled by social media and increasing exposure, will play a vital role in the upcoming presidential race. Whoever ends up running for the democrats, they will need #BlackLivesMatter on their side. In particular, black women are the most loyally democratic voting contingent in all of America, they played an invaluable role in winning Obama the election in 2012.

Social media has enabled grassroots campaigning to become a far more influential force over politics than it's been in a very long time. On a smaller scale here in the UK Jeremy Corbyn, a candidate for the Labour Party leadership who had originally been perceived as an outsider with little hope of a real shot at the win, has surged ahead thanks to massive amounts of support from the young left, much of it coming from Facebook and Twitter activity.

It's been a year now since Ferguson and people are still out marching in the streets, over the weekend another 18-year-old was shot by the police during a particularly heated exchange and since then a state of emergency has been declared in Missouri. This is not going to stop any time soon, but the willingness by both Sanders and Clinton to at least have an audience with the campaigners shows how vital a role they will play as the race continues to gather momentum. The scope of racial inequality across the USA is vast and deeply entrenched and it will take more than a new president to remedy it, but for the first time in a long time, there's hope on the horizon.

Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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#BlackLivesMatter and the Democratic Campaign Schism Reviewed by Unknown on Wednesday, August 12, 2015 Rating: 5

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