As a digital sociologist, I examine the ways humans interact with technology and how this shapes our social world. For the past year or so, I focused on #BlackLivesMatter. Now I have switched gears to looking at #SayHerName. I am currently analyzing 463,957 tweets on this call to action that centers on Black women as victims of police violence.
Why Must We #SayHerName?
Blacklivesmatter started a dialogue about police violence against Black people in the U.S. after the death of Trayvon Martin. The call to action reached mainstream attention after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Since then, the movement has grown to an international, decentralized platform for antiracism.
Nevertheless, as the movement grew, so did the focus, intent, and perception of what one means when they say ‘Black Lives Matter.’ Even though three Black feminists started the movement, Black men are the focus of #BlackLivesMatter , including on Twitter. This is where #SayHerName comes in:
The African American Policy Forum, along with the Black Youth Project 100 and several other community organizations, rallied together to plan the event. The groups say the #BlackLivesMatter movement — which launched in response to the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012 and has inspired thousands of people worldwide to raise awareness around the injustices affecting black people — has become especially focused on the lives of black men, with women and girls seemingly an afterthought.1
I learned more about #SayHerName at the ‘Protesting Racism’ plenary this past August at the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association. Dr. Kimberele Crenshaw spoke on the campaign and shared this heartbreaking video.
#SayHerName: A Transnational Black Feminist Dialogue
So far my results have shattered preconceived notions that I had about #SayHerName. For instance, I assumed that #SayHerName was a conversation largely by and about Black women in the United States. Instead, #SayHerName is an ethnically and gender diverse conversation about Black women across the world.
Here are the themes I’ve gathered so far:
- Black cyberfeminism: The idea here is that Black women use digital technology to be agents of social change. This includes using the hashtag as a site of solidarity and coalition building.
- Black and independent media as antiracist institutions : Black and independent media dominated the top retweeted users. Mainstream media outlets, however, were underrepresented.
- Black womanhood as transnational: #SayHerName is not just a conversation about women in the U.S. Black women in Europe, for instance, are also victims of police violence.
While #SayHerName may not dominate the mainstream narrative of Black social movements, this campaign demonstrates how the activism of Black women creates a space that gives voice to the experiences of women of color.