Gaslighting at Scale

When George Floyd was murdered by police officers in the summer of 2020 something strange started to happen...white people started to care about systemic racism.


In fact, a simple Google Trends analysis can show you the speed at which this care and interest spiked, lets check it out:



George Floyd was murdered on Monday, May 25, 2020. His death started to reach major news outlets and social media accounts closer to the end of the month. And the highest recorded interest in the search term "systemic racism" in the United States was recorded on June 2, 2020.


Yet (in no surprise to activists who have been working in racial justice for decades) the interest almost immediately began to wane. You can see above, a steep drop off within two weeks. And the numbers are now nearly non-existent.




Have you ever performed a google search for systemic racism before? If you do today (4/5/2022) you might come across the following definition early in your search results from Wikipedia:


"Institutional racism, also known as systemic racism, is a form of racism that is embedded in the laws and regulations of a society or an organization. It manifests as discrimination in areas such as criminal justice, employment, housing, health care, education, and political representation." Wikipedia


So, maybe Americans stopped searching for the term dramatically after June of 2020 because once they learned of its existence they started fighting against it at scale? Perhaps the action switched from Google to Twitter or Instagram?


Well, you likely won't be surprised to find that "trends" for #systemicracism and #blacklivesmatter on Twitter and Instagram nearly identically mirror the search trends on Google -- that is to say, a brief flurry of aggressive caring followed by a quick decline and a long tail of apathy.


Here's a screenshot of the Twitter trends for #blacklivesmatter from May 2020 - present pulled from here.


Okay, so if our "benefit of the doubt" guess (that people stopped searching but didn't stop posting) wasn't right, we are left to hop to a second "logical" explanation...perhaps systemic racism improved? Perhaps in the loud outcry for justice following the summer of 2020 people of all ages, races, and demographics banded together to fight the self-proclaimed common enemy and victories were won at scale?


Maybe?



Here's where you start to learn why the global majority in America is exhausted to their very core: things did NOT get better for non-white Americans following the protests of summer 2020. In fact? Nearly everything our country claimed to care about and be fighting for in those summer protests has gotten worse since 2020. Even many of the "solutions" have fallen short.


Below, we'll link to articles and headlines that BIPOC Americans have been forced to see daily. all while the search trends and interest in systemic racism and Black Lives have all but disappeared:


(source: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/cities-vowed-2020-cut-police-funding-budgets-expanded-2021-rcna9864)



(source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/2022/02/09/fatal-police-shootings-record-2021/)



(source: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2022/01/11/decembers-jobs-report-reveals-a-growing-racial-employment-gap-especially-for-black-women/)



(source: https://philanthropynewsdigest.org/news/corporate-pledges-for-racial-justice-fall-short-analysis-finds)



(source: https://www.philanthropy.com/article/reports-of-a-massive-increase-in-racial-justice-funding-paint-a-distorted-and-dangerous-picture?utm_source=Iterable&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=campaign_2906885_nl_Philanthropy-Today_date_20210921&cid=pt&source=&sourceid=&cid2=gen_login_refresh)



(source: https://www.culturebanx.com/post/falling-off-social-justice-funding-plummets-to-just-5-of-donation-share)


Have you heard of the term "Gaslighting?" Do you know what it means?


Psychology Today defines Gaslighting as: an insidious form of manipulation and psychological control. Victims of gaslighting are deliberately and systematically fed false information that leads them to question what they know to be true, often about themselves. They may end up doubting their memory, their perception, and even their sanity.


Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian-American, and all Americans who are a part of the Global Majority -- that is to say not white -- have been experiencing Gas Lighting at scale since the founding of this country, and most recently since the death of George Floyd and the subsequent protests and public outcries. We're seeing, merely two years later, that much of the manic response to this country-wide crisis was no more than a PR stunt.


To attempt to make this relatable at the personal level -- imagine if you were abused and your closest friends and family found out. They all gathered together online and in person to demand justice for you and to decry the abuser as the enemy. But. Within two weeks they stopped showing up and stopped posting. Within the following weeks and months your abuser was back and abusing you worse than ever before. And no one was showing up anymore. No one was posting or sharing. Even as you showed up with bruises and clear signs of physical and emotional distress -- even as the facts were clearly supporting your side of the story -- interest dissipated. Instead of joining your rallying cries for justice -- those early supporters had moved on completely (at best), or were accusing you of getting special treatment because of your initial abuse, or were even joining in with the abuse as it became more normalized.

This is what Black Americans and other Americans of color are experiencing daily in our country, in our cities, in our workplaces. All of this on top of a global pandemic and escalating global violence.


So what do you do to continue to show up for the issue of systemic racism that has only gotten WORSE since the summer of 2022? You do more than let #systemicracism and #blacklivesmatter start to trend again (though they should).


YOU MAKE SURE THAT YOU -- if you're a white American -- are putting money, resources, and power directly into the hands of BIPOC Americans. There are MANY ways to do this -- but obviously we're partial to engaging directly with the Family & Friends Fund as we teach philanthropists to distribute money and POWER to BIPOC leaders.


We are looking to reinvigorate this movement in Fort Wayne, IN in the Spring and Summer of 2022 -- if you'd like to join us, please sign up for a our mailing list and follow along on social media.


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