#MizzouHungerStrike. #ConcernedStudent1950. #BlackLivesMatter. #ShoutYourAbortion.
I’m sure you’ve all heard or seen one of these hashtags, whether it was in August during the Ferguson unrest, or it was yesterday referring to the hunger strike that went on at the University of Missouri campus. Many people think that in order to be considered an “activist,” you have to participate in strikes, sit-ins, or marches, but did you know that hashtags are now imperative to the success of activism campaigns?
Last week, Jonathan Butler announced that he was going on a hunger strike, stating, “Justice is worth fighting for,” and that he would not eat another meal until the president of the University of Missouri, Tim Wolfe, was removed from office. Tim Wolfe has been under major fire the past few months for refusing to respond to the racial tensions that have been happening on the Mizzou campus. After Butler announced his strike, the university and the entire U.S. exploded with support. #MizzouHungerStrike began trending on Twitter, and people from all over were showing support for Butler’s cause. Not long after, a group from the University of Missouri known as #ConcernedStudent1950 showed their support via social media. This past week, thousands of people have joined the cause to stop racial tensions on the Mizzou campus. But the final straw for Wolfe was when the Mizzou football team joined the cause and refused to play until he was removed from office. Monday morning, Tim Wolfe resigned from office at the University of Missouri. One student, one football team, and thousands of voices via social media were able to remove a man who wasn’t doing his job from office. The virtual voice of today’s generation was heard loud and clear in Columbia, Missouri, and that sent Wolfe packing.
The strike at the University of Missouri was only one example of hashtags creating a change online. #BlackLivesMatter has brought on thousands of people to the cause. #ShoutYourAbortion has encouraged women to not be ashamed of their choices to have an abortion. So, not only have hashtags been able to help a movement get the momentum it really needs to be heard, but they’re able to bring awareness to issues otherwise ignored.
Hashtag activism, dubbed “hashtivism” by its supporters, has received a lot of critical reviews since it began. People say it’s a cop-out due to people not wanting to show their support in real life. However, do those saying it’s a cop-out not see that the ones using hashtags to support their cause (millennials) are not only showing their friends what they support by posting it online, but they’re showing the entire world what they believe? Using such a popular activist hashtag such as #BlackLivesMatter automatically marks you as a supporter of the cause not only to your “real-life” friends but to the people you’re connected with on social media. So, those who say it’s a cop-out obviously have no idea what kind of power social media holds.
#BlackLivesMatter, despite some of the hatred it has received, has proven to be one of the most powerful campaigns this nation has ever seen. It’s encouraged people to stand up for their rights, freedoms, and to not allow people of any race or ethnicity to treat them any different based on the color of their skin. People should be able to proudly say “I am white,” “I am black,” “I am Hispanic,” or however they identify themselves, and not be afraid of backlash from people with different colors of skin.
The same goes for the strike that happened at Mizzou. It’s shown students from universities all over the United States that they can make a difference at their school. It has shown students, especially those at Mizzou, that they are all entitled to the best education that they can receive despite their race. These hashtags empower people to finally make a difference in a world where a change is needed.
#MizzouHungerStrike, #ConcernedStudent1950, and #BlackLivesMatter are only a few of the activist hashtags that I’ve followed very closely. However, I do believe that they are the best examples one can have of what an activism campaign should look like. Yes, the movement that happened at Mizzou did have a lot of supporters on site, and yes, the #BlackLivesMatter campaign includes a lot of people doing marches, sit-ins, and strikes. BUT, the amount of people supporting the cause online because they are unable to attend these “real-life” movements are invaluable to the movement of these causes. These online voices were, and will continue to be, a huge force in these activism campaigns and any future campaigns to come.
Don’t be afraid to show support for a campaign that you whole-heartedly support, but be aware that with a campaign as popular as #BlackLivesMatter, or #ShoutYourAbortion, you will receive some backlash from those who whole-heartedly are against it. However, if you renounce your belief due to that backlash, you may receive more adverse reactions than before. Hashtivism is a great way to support a cause for something that isn’t happening near you such as the events in Ferguson, Columbia, or many other places around the world. You can rise up and share your opinion and feelings on activism campaigns from thousands of miles away. And THAT is why hashtag activism is key to the success of activism movements.
Hashtivism is here to stay and it’s something that I foresee changing the way that modern-day activists get their message out to every demographic. The future of activism is here, and this is only the beginning.
By: Harley Crawshaw | @harley_crawshaw