The Power Behind #BlackLivesMatter in 140 Characters or Less: A Rhetorical Analysis of #BlackLivesMatter Tweets in July 2016
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On July 5, 2016, Alton Sterling was fatally shot by police officers in Baton Rouge, LA. On July 6, 2016, Philando Castile met the same fate. In retaliation of the events, on July 7, 2016, Micah Xavier Johnson, a Black male, opened fire on police officers in Dallas, Texas killing five officers and injuring nine others. Considering the events that occurred over the 3-day span, this study rhetorically analyzes 100 tweets that addresses the events. This study used Sysomos, a social media management and analytics software, to collect 100 tweets over an 8-day span between July 5 through July 12, 2016. The tweets collected involved the keywords: Black Lives Matter, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Dallas Police Officer(s). This study uses Leland Griffin’s (1952) social movement criticism with a Critical Race Theory lens to address the tweets. Results suggest that during the time frame analyzed, the movement was in its second life cycle phase, the rhetorical crisis, and as the data suggests, altered between both a pro-movement and an anti-movement classification. Results further indicated that the use of social media, specifically with the use of hashtags, within the movement created a lack of direction and identity for the movement. This study examined the use of hashtags, emojis, and images attached to tweets to suggest how Twitter users create narratives and use emotions to address their feelings and opinions towards the events that have occurred.