As social media users scroll through their feed to share the latest photo and video of a Black life being taken, those same users don’t take a second to think how they’ll affect the next person who’s subject to witnessing the graphic content.
People need to learn all sides of racial injustice and comprehend its calamity, there’s no doubt about that. One cannot simply throw their fist into the air and shout “Black lives matter!” and turn away from learning the many layers of Black history in the United States.
Without learning that the inherently-white foundation of U.S. history has caused the lethal maltreatment toward Black and Brown people, non-Black people won’t understand the deep rooted meaning of the Black Lives Matter movement at all.
Consequently, it’s not enough to watch and share the gut-wrenching murders of Rayshard Brooks, George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery then caption it with, “Why aren’t big news networks covering this?!”, when there’s already a story about it on CNN or ABC.
Some would think that sharing videos and photos of Black people being hounded, physically assaulted and murdered would prove the deadly point of America’s white supremacy. And that it would also further the condemnation of those responsible for such racist atrocities.
While all those misfortunes hold some truth — as the people responsible for the murders of Brooks, Floyd and Arbery are in the process of facing legal consequences — their filmed demise have not stopped making rounds in search bars. Type one victim’s name on the web and the words “death” and “video” accompany them automatically.
It’s one thing to have graphic evidence of a crime. It’s another to carelessly pass it around as if it was helping the situation — when, in reality, it’s damaging the mental health of the Black and Brown community. These horrific videos fail to do justice to the victim’s death and transform into trauma pornography.
Steve Lillebuen, a Canadian author and journalist, said that there’s concern revolving around the idea of people becoming numb to the violent and graphic aspects of death.
“Our fascination with the macabre has always been there, but are we becoming desensitized to such violence when it transforms from fiction into the real thing?” Lillebuen said. “Responsible journalists, who aim to find balance and sensitivity when reporting on serious crimes by adding context, holding back or blurring the most offensive parts, have been pushed aside by this crowd of gross-out seekers.”
It’s not the first time social media has failed to respect the final moments of the deceased, and it definitely won’t be the last.
Another prime example dates back to last summer, June 24, in which a Salvadoran father and daughter were found face down near Matamoros, Mexico, across the river from Brownsville, Texas.
“The image of Martinez and his daughter lying face down in the river shocked the world and highlighted the human plight of the crisis unfolding along the U.S.-Mexico border,” according to CNN.
Sure, these videos “highlight” the unfair ordeals people of color face more than they should, but that’s about it.
Immigrants from Latin American countries are still dying just before touching their sacred soil. Black people are still being wrongfully prosecuted in their own homes and being murdered in front of their loved ones.
It begs the question of whether people are really sharing the videos and pictures of dead people of color to prove a point, or, if they are sharing to prove that they are “woke” and aware of what’s going on. At this point, it feels like the latter.
It’s tiring to see people who share the same color of your skin be murdered. It’s tiring to see their corpses and think, “They look like me.” It’s tiring to see it shared around Twitter with phony captions and unnecessary emoticons.
Overall, the view count won’t make any significant changes, so don’t share those videos. If it’s on your Twitter feed, it’s most likely already on someone else’s and so on. It’ll burn into the brains of many who've already watched it; don’t let it burn into the screen of your phone, too.