#BlackLivesMatter—Getting from Contemporary Social Movements to Structural Change

California Law Review Online, Vol. 12, Reckoning and Reformation symposium. (2021). Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works. 2387.

39 Pages Posted: 8 Jun 2021

See all articles by Jamillah Bowman Williams

Jamillah Bowman Williams

Georgetown University Law Center

Naomi Mezey

Georgetown University Law Center

Lisa Singh

Georgetown University

Date Written: June 2021

Abstract

From the haters and hackers to propaganda and privacy concerns, social media often deserves its bad reputation. But the sustained activism that followed George Floyd’s death and the ongoing movement for racial justice also demonstrated how social media can be a crucial mechanism of social change. We saw how online and on-the-ground activism can fuel each other and build momentum in ways neither can achieve in isolation. We have seen in the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, and more specifically the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, a new and powerful approach to using social media that goes beyond symbolic “slacktivism” and performative allyship to mobilizing people for social and cultural change. In this essay, we use empirical data to support a new theoretical model that illustrates how contemporary movements can use social media to build awareness, educate, and most importantly, promote the kinds of offline action that can lead to deeper structural change. In this case, BLM effectively leveraged social media to fuel and facilitate mass protests and broaden social awareness. In 2020-21, we have seen this begin to inspire deeper social, cultural, and legal change, in ways that previously felt like distant hope.

Keywords: social movements, racial justice, activism, public policy, reform, policing

Suggested Citation

Bowman Williams, Jamillah and Mezey, Naomi and Singh, Lisa, #BlackLivesMatter—Getting from Contemporary Social Movements to Structural Change (June 2021). California Law Review Online, Vol. 12, Reckoning and Reformation symposium. (2021). Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works. 2387., Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3860435 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3860435

Jamillah Bowman Williams (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States

Naomi Mezey

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States

Lisa Singh

Georgetown University ( email )

Washington, DC 20057
United States

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