Ouch! That hurts, doesn’t it? Paper Cuts are our short, erratic and slightly painful updates on current local and national events. This round, the NYPD stopped policing and it took days to for the media to report on the murder of three Muslim students.
Following the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, the Black Lives Matter movement has only strengthened in numbers since its inception. The movement itself, often described as “leaderless,” has led to protests across the globe in cities such as Paris and Tokyo. What’s hardly addressed, however, is that the hashtag that launched the movement was started by three queer Black women.
The hashtag was co-founded by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi in July 2013, after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting of Trayvon Martin. Since then, the trio has made an active effort to call out the blatant erasure of their narrative as queer Black women. According to Garza in an article written for The Feminist Wire, focusing on the straight, cis Black men of the movement only further invalidates the lives of Black women as well as queer, trans and disabled Black folk who face the same injustice.
According to Elephrame, an idea-sharing network based out of Chicago, almost 900 Black Lives Matter presentations have been held worldwide since Garz, Cullors and Tometi coined the hashtag. For Garza, emphasizing intersectionality is not only necessary, but dire. Lives lost like Tanisha Anderson, Yvette Smith, Rekia Boyd, Tarika Wilson and so many others serve as a reminder that the criminalization of Blackness is not reserved for Black men.
Social media efforts like Black Out Day have made sure not only to commemorate the lives of those lost as a result of police brutality, but to celebrate the solidarity among Black people through selfies, .gifs and videos. With the goal of celebrating Black beauty and fighting against negative stigma, the hashtag has become another tool to emphasize the strength inherent in community.
The longevity of movements embracing diversity within the Black community is a constant reminder of the mainstream media’s erasure of Black excellence. Being mindful of how the media focuses on riots instead of efforts started by influential Black women and men alike helps to demonstrate a systemic problem that news outlets continue to exacerbate.
By Damian Gonzalez
I imagine it went like this: a board room, midday. Executives in business-wear steeple their fingers over a glossy conference table. They’re spitballing in the wake of a lucrative but scathingly documented Pumpkin Spice Latte season, where Starbucks became closely associated with a quality that the media calls “basic.” Which, from what they can gather, is an unsavory combination of unflinching privilege and pack mentality.
Just think of where we began! A young executive cries, recalling the days when Starbucks was a scrappy, independent cafe in the Pacific Northwest. Once, we stood for something. Social awareness; community. What do we stand for anymore? Well-groomed heads nod in agreement. An executive takes a sip from his Ethos-brand water.
Then, someone brings up the Black Lives Matter movement. Kids on Twitter have been going bananas about that, he says. What if they let America know that they also see the struggle? That Starbucks™ is sensitive to serious social issues? Purchase their product and show you drink coffee from a company that wants to change the country’s social landscape. A purchase in solidarity, someone says, geniusly.
So they decided it would be in their best interest to start a conversation. They’d do this by foisting onto their already minimally paid workers the task of writing “#RaceTogether” on every drink, in hopes of prompting people to — I guess? — talk about America’s complex and deeply rooted racial inequality.
Starbucks cut the campaign two weeks in, after receiving a wave of backlash so severe it forced a senior executive to deactivate his Twitter account. People said it was devoid of meaning. Others said it was a nice gesture. A lot more people pointed out that, in its vagueness, its essential emptiness of meaning, it was offensive to those staging real action against injustice. Starbucks issued an apology and, weeks later, came out with a new campaign providing a year of free online classes to Starbucks employees at
All of this, ironically, was a pretty basic move.
By Samantha Schuyler