The Global Reach Of Social Movements


This year has seen domestic movements receive significant international attention. Movements, like Black Lives Matter, have dominated news feeds on social media, which has allowed these movements to gain more support and publicity, both domestically and internationally. Social movements are actions taken by civil society in order to address a particular issue within society, such as inequalities. Through these movements, individuals are given the opportunity to participate in the political sphere, thus allowing their voices to be heard. Black Lives Matter is a movement, which started in the United States of America (USA) and, according to their website, is a “response to the sustained and increasingly visible violence against Black communities in the US and globally.” It has spread throughout the world, with other countries forming similar movements, which are not only actions of solidarity, but also an action towards addressing their own domestic issues surrounding race. For these other countries, Black Lives Matter has provided a model for them to follow in their own pursuits for racial equality.

In July this year, hundreds of Parisians protested the death of Adama Traore in police custody. #JusticPourAdama and #BLMFrance become dominant on social media and this protest signaled the beginning of Black Lives Matter France. For France, this movement was able to start a conversation about race in a country that has struggled with its colonialist past. The French Black Lives Matter coordinator stated that “French media are able to see colours in other countries and write a story headline that a black person was killed by the police in the US, but they are not able to do that in France.” Brazil has also seen the influence of Black Lives Matter. There are several organizations that are fighting against police and racialized violence. These groups were able to connect with other activists across the globe, including Black Lives Matter activists in the USA. London saw an increase in the Black Lives Matter movement after Brexit, which saw an increase in hate crimes, as well as anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiments. Discussions about state violence, racism, and the oppression of black people are not new in Britain. For these activists, they have acknowledged how these issues are not domestic, but rather international. Imani Robinson, an activist from London, stated that “we should be talking about anti-blackness in our own context because anti-blackness is not an America-specific phenomenon – it’s global.” Australia’s Black Lives Matter movement has an indigenous element to it. Many indigenous activists have shown their solidarity with the Native American-led protests at Standing Rock. After this movement and the Black Lives Matter movement in the USA became publicized on social media and in news feeds, Aboriginal Australians renewed their efforts to give attention to the violence inflicted on their communities. For South African’s, their response to Black Lives Matter comes from their understanding of the issues, as there are similar cases within their country. They have drawn significant parallels and inspiration, which is being used to amplify their own campaigns. As such, there has been significant student activism against local issues surrounding race.

While each of these movements has been adapted to the local conditions, they are movements, which are aimed at addressing issues of race. These movements have involved existing organizations forming coalitions in order to address issues surrounding race, thus bringing visibility to their cause. For a lot of these organizations, the issues surrounding race are similar and they tend to focus on the inequalities in the justice system, particularly surrounding police brutality. These different contexts are using the American Black Lives Matter movement as a model in order to address local issues that do not receive significant attention. Furthermore, these different campaigns have created connections with each other, which have enabled them to not only stand in solidarity but also gain more support for their local battles. Black Lives Matter is a social movement, which has gone global, something, which is occurring more frequently.

Increasingly, social movements are acting with the global level in mind. International connections between social movements are not a new phenomenon and are something, which is becoming more common. The spread of social movements throughout the world can be explained by the increased interconnectedness of its citizens, something that is a consequence of the extensive globalization process of the past several decades. More and more domestic movements are being publicized through social media and other news forums. This publicity has given these campaigns more strength and enabled individuals from across the world to show their support. The prevalence of social media has been a positive force for enabling these movements to continue their action towards addressing domestic inequalities. Social media has shed light on various issues occurring around the world and this publicity has enabled these movements to gain momentum, which leads to a solution for the issue. These movements are forming networks of connections, which are enabling them to comprehensively address issues that are common throughout the world.

Civil society is often an important and defining feature of campaigns, which seek to address inequalities and the disenfranchisement of groups within a country. As more and more politicians turn towards the right, it is important that the power of civil society is not forgotten. These movements have the potential to bring about positive and constructive change, thus addressing issues of inequality within society. The publicity of these movements on social media has further enabled them to create connections with the rest of the world. These international connections are important simply because it connects these movements into the broader agenda. For a lot of these movements, they strive for similar goals and as such, publicizing them as an international movement has the benefit of increasing the strength and legitimacy of it, as the movement can be considered one aspect of a larger issue. More often than not, one movement can act as inspiration for another and it is the use of social media, which has enabled these movements to spread throughout the globe.

Attention to forgotten issues within society is essential. Without the appropriate attention, these issues become ingrained within that society, thus making it difficult to change them. Civil society is an important and necessary aspect of ensuring that these issues are not forgotten and gives a voice to those who are disenfranchised within that society. Black Lives Matter has shown the power of social media and its ability to not only publicize these issues but also to inspire other nations to start the conversation surrounding racial inequalities. It is a positive example of how a social movement works in the current international sphere and has brought attention to issues that do not receive enough. Every member of a society deserves to have their voices heard. Furthermore, it is a basic human right that every individual within society is treated the same. The power of civil society in bringing about change should not be forgotten or underestimated, as these voices have the ability to bring attention to issues that are otherwise forgotten.

Lillian Wetherspoon