We have been quarantined for three months now, some of us completely isolated from our friends and family. But it wasn’t until these past few days that I felt completely alone.
When George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin, I was disgusted—but I wasn’t shocked. I already knew America didn’t care about Black people like me.
But that didn’t stop me from feeling hopeless, and without my usual support network, I turned to social media for solace, for community, for change, before realizing that even with social media to connect us, there are gaps that cannot be filled digitally.
But for some reason, I keep scrolling. It’s like I’m looking for an answer, in the black Instagram squares, in the bail fund donation links, in the long lists of documentaries on police brutality. I keep refreshing my Twitter feed for the latest hashtags and trending topics; it’s like I’m trapped in a 24/7 newsroom, constantly waiting for something to happen. I keep checking the accounts of my favorite and least favorite celebrities, waiting for them to speak out. And when they do, I pick apart their every word, asking myself, was this heartfelt enough, was this authentic enough?
It’s pathetic. Not just the time that I’ve wasted on social media, but the fact that I find more comfort from Charli D’Amelio telling her 12-year-old-fans that Black Lives Matter, than from Joe Biden tweeting that this country needs powerful leaders, that, presumably like himself, “can recognize the pain and deep grief” of communities of color. Have I really lost this much faith in institutions?
I keep scrolling for someone, or something, to give me racial equality. But nothing ever does. And nothing ever will.
That’s the problem with social media. You can keep searching and searching for a revolution, but you’ll never find one, because the revolution isn’t something searchable. The revolution isn’t even online.
“For me revolution was never an interim thing-to-do,” said civil rights activist Angela Davis. “It was no fashionable club with newly minted jargon, or new kind of social life, made thrilling by risk and confrontation. Revolution is a serious thing… When one commits oneself to the struggle, it must be for a lifetime.”
Revolution isn’t a trendy Instagram post. Revolution isn’t even necessarily a protest, either. Revolution is the complete overthrow of an unjust system, transforming both society and its people.
“In order to create a world where human beings can live and be healthy and create, we have to completely revolutionize the entire fabric of society,” Angela Davis explained in a 1972 CBS News interview. “You have to overturn the economic structure where you have a few individuals who are in possession of the vast majority of the wealth in the country that’s been produced by the majority of the people. And you have to destroy this political apparatus, which under the guise of revolutionary government, perpetuates the most incredible misery on the masses of people.”
My problem with social media right now is the same problem many people had with television during the civil rights movement. While media exposure brings awareness to an issue, it can only do so much to change an issue. Just like the TV stations of the 1960s, major platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are incentivized to control the narratives spread on their platforms. Even celebrities and internet personalities have their own financial motivations, feeding into the same capitalist system that oppresses Black bodies, defeating, at least to a certain extent, the power of their “anti-racist” social media activism.
In these moments, I’m reminded of a song by American soul and jazz poet Gil Scott Heron: “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” Originally written in 1970, the song is a call-out to Americans who felt freedom could be achieved from the comfort of their living rooms, with their eyes glued to a TV screen that never really accurately represented Black people in the first place. This is the opening stanza:
“You will not be able to stay home, brother
You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip out for beer
during commercials, because
The revolution will not be televised”
In 2020, our definition of “television” may have changed, but Scott-Heron’s message still rings true: we can no longer sit at home, staring at our phone screens. We need to stop scrolling. We need to stop searching for an answer and start making an answer for ourselves.
We need to be out there, not just on the streets protesting, but in political spaces and institutions, demanding to be seen, demanding to be heard. We need to be actively dismantling racist systems. We need to reform the criminal justice system. We need to abolish the police, eliminate death sentences, and decriminalize drugs. We need to redistribute wealth. We need to create better support networks for Black people. We need to restructure our education systems so that everyone understands America’s history of white supremacy. We need to stop waiting for equality; we need to create equality ourselves.
By Kiddest Sinke
Photo by Mark Felix for The New Yorker