One of the most interesting things I have learned on this Mitchell year is that the African American civil rights movement helped fuel civil rights movements in Northern Ireland. That is one fact that was either left out of my history book, or I was to oblivious about the world when I was 16 to know how big of an impact events in one part of the world can have on another. While learning about the way Martin Luther King Jr affected the events leading up to the Troubles in Northern Ireland, it was crazy to see civil rights issues appearing on my BBC news app.
There are moments when you think that things have come so far since the Civil Rights movement in the sixties, and then watching the news it seems like there is still a long way to go. With all of the recent media attention bringing civil rights issues to light, I am wondering if in 50 years when historians look back on this time period they will say that this was the birth of the second civil rights movement in the United States. In the history books will it say that the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Michael Brown sparked an uproar that caused politicians to acknowledge the racial tensions that had not been fully solved from the first movement? Instead of meeting on the steps of the Lincoln memorial to rally, this movement has been largely fueled by social media sites such as Facebook. The sit-ins of the first civil right movement have turned into the facebook shares, hashtags, and re-tweets of the current movement. The Justice for Michael Brown/Eric Garner community facebook page received 29,862 likes. A post on November 22, titled “Ferguson Grand Jury Has Returned a Decision on Mike Brown Case…” received 471 Likes, 53 comments, and 326 shares. If each person who shared the facebook post had only 50 facebook friends then the article had the potential to appear on 16,300 News Feeds. When you factor in other sites such as Instagram, and Twitter the impact social media sites have had on this movement is tremendous.
The civil rights movement is strong in the United States, and being in Ireland I started to feel like I was missing out on being a part of history. But then I realized that every article I Liked, or Shared made me apart of this movement. Thinking that someone may see that I shared an article, read it, and they could potentially share it too made me feel that although I was in another country I was still a small part of the solution to the problem.
When you are up close to the problem it can be difficult to see how large of an impact things have. When Trayvon Martin was killed I was in the United States and thought of it primarily as a problem against minorities in the USA. When Michael Brown and Eric Garner died I was in Ireland. Here it is clear that this is not the “Black-White” issue that some people have tried to label it as.
Sitting in my kitchen and talking with other international students about the tragedy of these deaths has shed light on a bigger global issue. This is an injustice issue. I believe Martin Luther King Jr. said it best…”Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”