FOCUS: ‘We are lying to ourselves’: Teens speak out about the poor media coverage of Black Lives Matter

After May 25, several protests took place across the nation, demanding justice be served for the murder of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. People of all backgrounds continue to come together to honor him and many other unarmed Black men, women and children who were wrongfully murdered by police.

“Whenever people who are being wronged are not seeing change from the politicians, people have to take matters into their own hands to get justice, to be heard,” said one protest speaker Amir Abdul Malik Ali, an Imam in Oakland. “When you look back at history, most major achievements came from protests.”

One milestone achieved by protests is the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Racism seems an evident problem in America, and people continue to fight against it. According to freshman Eudora Woldesilassie, protests help spread awareness about prevalent issues.

“Protests and the BLM (Black Lives Matter) movement are so important because everyone should be aware of how horribly POC (people of color) get treated to the point where they can’t even go to a grocery store, sleep in their home, eat Skittles, play with a Nerf gun, or go on a jog,” Woldesilassie said.

Although 93 percent of protests were peaceful, according to The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, mainstream media outlets, such as CNN and Fox News, have regularly reported the few violent protests and underreported the peaceful ones. By exclusively reporting the violence, many people have perceived the protests and the Black Lives Matter movement as inherently violent, without understanding or researching the real cause.

“It’s a lot of media manipulation,” senior and Black Student Union President Karei Higgs said. “When certain media outlets nitpick and choose specific parts about protests or BLM to their audience, it’s usually negative and the audience perceives it as a negative movement overall without being able to experience it themselves, or without looking further.”

According to Ali, this type of media portrayal is extremely harmful to minority groups.

“The media will emphasize the effects of injustice, such as protests, without emphasizing the cause that is racial injustice,” Ali said. “Once you deal with the cause of it, you are getting to the root of the problem. When you deal with the effects, you are nowhere near the root of the problem.”

Despite its rise in popularity this July, BLM protests have been occurring since 2013 when the movement was founded. Since then, it has been regularly vilified. One instance was in 2016, when then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem to protest the mistreatment of Black people in America. This peaceful protest was taken out of context by many people, according to Ali.

“Now say Colin Kaepernick did something violent, they would have been upset about that,” Ali said. “He did something peaceful, and they still got upset about that.”

According to Higgs, the BLM movement is vital because it is one that stands for justice, peace and equality. It is more than what the media portrays it as and is something people of all backgrounds must actively participate in.

“There are people walking down the street saying that they want equality, they want equity, they want rights, they want justice,” Higgs said. “If we sit and blindly believe that America is doing the right thing, then we are lying to ourselves.”