A Study of Discourse Community Through BLM Movement

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A discourse community is a group of people who share a set of goals, which are basic values and assumptions, and ways of communicating about those goals. The ability to communicate is very important to a discourse community. It is important because without communication the community would not be able to convey information to each other, and they wouldn’t have the knowledge they need to do their jobs. An example of this would be the Black Lives Matter organization. I will be using John Swales’ six criteria to show that this organization is indeed a “discourse community” (Swales 215-227).

Goals

John Swales, an American linguist, has given six criteria for a community to be considered a discourse community. One of criteria is that the community must have an established goal and purpose. Black Lives Matter discourse community has a specific set of goals and purposes that have long been established as the heart of the movement. Black Lives Matter is an international activist movement that originates in the African-American communities. The organization was started on the 13th of July in 2013, after the acquittal of George Zimmeran for the death of black teen Trayvon Martin. The organization was founded by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi. The purpose of creating this organization is to rebuild the black liberation movement and affirm the lives of all black people – specifically black women, queer and trans people, people who are differently abled, and those who are undocumented and formerly incarcerated. They focus on those marginalized within black liberation movements, imposing a call to action and response to state-sanctioned violence against black people, as well as the virulent anti-black racism that permeates our society. The organization focuses on the social movement of systematic racism and gun violence issued to the African-American community-especially to the men. The organization opposes the systematic racism that has existed in the United States for centuries, and even though slavery and Jim Crow laws have been abolished, Blacks still do not have the same rights as whites, which causes tension. The goals that the organization is trying to reach are ending the aim towards gun violence and police brutality against African Americans Police brutality is one of several forms of police misconduct, which is usual towards African Americans

Communication

Through the interview I conducted with one of the members, named Charlene Jameson. I was able to get information on how the community communicate with each other. The primary platform they use for communication is social media. Social media is websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking. Jameson states that social media is the best platform to use for many reasons. One of the reasons she states is because it helps them to reach a wider audience, which could sometimes help celebrities to endorse them, such as Beyoncé. Another way they communicate is through protesting on the streets and having rallies. Jameson mentions that these protests and rallies are always peaceful and non-violent. She states that they mainly go out to protest to reach out to the black community to help them feel safe again and heard for once.

Genre of Communication

They mainly use Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Through the interview, I learned that their major social media website they like to use is Twitter. Twitter is a free social networking microblogging service that allows registered members to broadcast short posts called tweets. Twitter members can broadcast tweets and follow other users’ tweets by using multiple platforms and devices.

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The second interview I conducted was with Jade Wadley. Through the interview with her, she told me that social media serves as a source of live, raw material and information. Social media helps the organization to assemble people and correlate their movements in real time. And it can also push back and inform “fake news” and media narratives with the click of a button. Through the interview she also explained to me the negative effects of using social media in the community. Despite the success the organization had in getting their information out, it has also become a platform where they are harassed and cyber attacked. There was an article that she brought up that showed how they are affected by cyber-attacks. The article states that, a subtler form of aggression has recently caused problems for nationwide advocacy groups like Black Lives Matter, and that is cyberattacks.

Cyberattacks can take the form of basic DDoS attacks, which make requests on a server until it is overloaded and can no longer handle its web traffic, denying access to legitimate visitors. Black Lives Matter was targeted by a group called Ghost Squad, which bills itself as “anti-racist. “The attacker claimed that “individuals in the BLM movement were acting no better [than the KKK].” Although the social media platforms have negative effects the good, outweigh the bad. Social media helps them reach people quickly and to spread awareness.

Participatory Mechanisms/Threshold Level of Members

Most organizations have a website that is used to spread to the world what kind of material and information they can offer. This will help interested individuals on what they can expect from the organization, but also to help the members in the organization to give feedback. The Black Lives organization has twenty-six different chapters across the United States and Canada, which can be quite hard communicating at once. To solve the problem, they created a website. On the websites the members are allowed to see upcoming events in other states, they are able to access tool kits on how to solve problems within the chapters, and are also able to contact other chapters. The organization believes letting chapters’ contact each other is very significant, because it allows them to give each other feedback and strategies on how to get communities attention. The website also allows new members who want to join to do it on the website. In 2013, Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi formed the Black Lives Matter Network. Alicia Garza described the network as an online platform that existed to provide activists with a shared set of principles and goals. Local Black Lives Matter chapters are asked to commit to the organization’s list of guiding principles, but operate without a central structure or hierarchy. Alicia Garza has commented that the Network was not interested in ‘policing who is and who is not part of the movement

Lexis

The Black Lives Matter organization uses many political slogans to demonstrate “black lives matter.” A political slogan is a memorable phrase which is often used in political speeches, marketing, or advertising. One of the many slogans are, “I can’t breathe.” The origin of the slogan comes from when Eric Garner was held in a chokehold on Staten Island on July 17, 2014, by New York City police officer Daniel Panteleo, he yelled 11 times, “I can’t breathe.” “I can’t breathe” has become a slogan for the people, led by young African Americans, who have taken to social media and the streets to protest the killing of unarmed African Americans, challenging a system that fails to indict and calling for greater equality. The dying words of Eric Garner symbolize the black community’s situation. “I can’t breathe” speaks from the grave and describes the circumstances faced by many who are being choked by a system that treats different races and classes of people unequally.

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