When we look at the history of African-American protest, one of the most prevalent issues being challenged is racial profiling and institutional brutality. And when the topics of racial profiling and institutional abuse of power, namely police brutality, are discussed, two facts become abundantly clear: (1) the two are closely related. The tendency of police in the United States to show a bias towards specific groups and the even more disturbing tendency of police officers to use unnecessary physical force against those specific groups unfortunately tend to go hand in hand. (2) The issues are not as recent as some would think, with the major evidence of this being the ubiquity of said matters in popular African-American media culture throughout history.
However, it is important to acknowledge one fact: Movements and reactions to fight racial profiling and police brutality against African-Americans have become increasingly strong with activist groups having managed to use popular media to their advantage to spread a message of awareness and resistance. The fact that almost all modern liberal news providers have sections for the coverage of issues related solely to African-Americans proves that there has been a surge in media interest in the matter as well as the movements which are created as a counterculture to the popular zeitgeist of apathy and obedience to a system which still promotes institutional racism and shows a terrifying tendency to systematically disregard the lives of African-Americans.
Music has always played a major role in the fight against racial bias, especially covering issues of racial profiling and police brutality. From Jazz to Rap music, African-American musicians have, for many years, chosen to use music as a way to challenge political and institutional systems and have been successful in spread their message of discontentment and anger. The discontentment is directed not only at a system which expects obedience from groups it chooses to disregard and systemically prejudge, but also at one which discourages support for their cause. Apart from entertaining people, music is often used as a tool to help people either see the misrepresentation of the African-American community and to encourage changes or to help people who are at odds with their own identity, see that they are, in fact, being misrepresented and prejudged and how to go about finding healthy ways of dealing with those feelings and fighting the issue.
In recent years there has been an increase in media interest in the matters of racial profiling and police brutality as well, largely due to technological advances such as smart phones and cameras making it a lot more likely to catch police in the act of physically assaulting or even killing African-Americans. Such as was the case with Trayvon Martin, a young African-American whose killing encouraged people all over the United States to come together in an attempt to assemble a countermovement against racial profiling. This movement started as a hashtag on the social media forum Facebook and was called #BlackLivesMatter.
The movement encouraged musicians in the American music industry to challenge institutional systems in an attempt spread awareness of people losing their lives due to racial bias. It can be claimed that this recent increase in activism has a lot to do with mainstream music scene while the music scene is profiting from the exposure of the matter. This almost symbiotic relationship between the social activism behind #BlackLivesMatter as the major representative of modern day ‘black’ protest and the mainstream music coverage of the matter and how both have created social change will be shown in this analysis by investigating some prevalent examples.
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