How #DefendBlack Counters the Subversive/Mixed Messaging in #BLM
by Mallory Burke
March 12, 2021

Impact Over Fame’s #DefendBlack campaign distinguishes itself as a guerrilla campaign designed to agitate and provoke deep analysis of the strategies with which we are fighting systematic whiteness. #DefendBlack refuses to promote defeatist, complicit messaging akin to “Hands up, don’t shoot” or the “I can’t breathe” slogans of late. We don’t need another protest or hashtag. What we need is uniformed action.

Last year’s smear of murders committed against Blacks at the hands of police, forced American society to recognize that in-fact we are not living in a post-racial society and underlined the necessity of social and criminal justice reform in redressing systemic racial inequality in years passed.  The ruthless and well-documented killing of George Floyd and late summer protests prompting the nearly ubiquitous response from people on all sides of the color barrier that indeed, BLACK LIVES MATTER (#blacklivesmatter social media campaigns flooding timelines, along with black-out days, and statements professing solidarity from nearly every major corporation.)  In the wake of Floyd’s murder, the slogan that came to follow, “I can’t breathe” became nearly synonymous with the entire #BLM movement, however antithetical it seemed to promote the pain of our oppression.  For so many, the “I Can’t Breathe” merchandise represented alignment with the #BLM movement, however, paid little attention to the bigger message we were promoting, when wearing our masks or tees.  Similar in theme to the “Hands up, don’t shoot” the messaging promotes acquiescence, subservience, and the horrific actions taken by individuals, in the name of “duty” or sanctioned within the parameters of government institutions.  By repeating these slogans which highlight our shared pain, we are promoting inferiority, compliance and worse, repping our opposition’s victories. 

#DefendBlack is a campaign hoping to inspire action in our communities by putting the power back in our protest and highlighting the natural, human instinct towards self-preservation and to claim our right to life.

Every “I can’t breathe” t-shirt or face mask promotes our pain instead of our power.  A tangible, physical reminder we pay to promote, wear and share, reiterating our trauma. #BlackLivesMatter campaigns, their popularity and the overwhelming organizational “support” seem incomplete.  The “trendiness” is downright offensive, when we discover yet another “Black Lives Matter” t-shirt, produced by a foreign-owned company, who has no relation to the message or the people it’s meant for, but instead seeks to capitalize on the moment.  After seeing brands and companies promoting the co-opted slogan “in support”, I can’t help but wonder as to the point of it all: merchandise offered for purchase at a superstore with a history of unequal pay and subversive policies.  

We are not affecting policy in meaningful ways and promoting perspective shifts around recognizing the creation of the systematic infrastructure that creates this environment, and dismantling said infrastructure.  Protests, viral media campaigns, and painting slogans on the street don’t change the structures in place that keep us subordinate. People do. Actions do. Voting blocks do.

ImpactOVERFame founder Farrah Fawx, speaks to the agency of auditing our dialogue and verbiage to enhance and support a message that promotes, not punishes our position.   “Words are spells, representing what we’re claiming and manifesting as ours.” she says. 

“We must be aware  that our voice can play for or against us. Are we representing the victory of the oppressor or defining a proactive agenda that validates our humanity and empowers our community?”

The systemic inequities in the form of policy, culture, media, public thought continue to yield a deafening blow to any attempt at achieving actual racial equality. 
#DefendBlack, a call to action by non-profit organization Impact Over Fame, urges us to stand in solidarity, ACT with intention, and work together to create an agenda that forces the narrative of Black Plight, back into Black Power.


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