Hundreds of people in Middle Georgia State University’s auditorium on Thursday evening were issued a warning.
“This conversation should not be easy,” said Andre Nicholson, an assistant professor who moderated a five-person panel on the topic of Black Lives Matter. “It should make you uncomfortable.”
There are a lot of misconceptions about the slogan, which comes from the national Black Lives Matter organization formed in response to the 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin.
History professor Andrew Manis said there’s a great need for America to be reminded that black lives matter.
“When you look back through all American history, if white America had not implied … that black lives mattered very little, if not at all. … No one would feel compelled to say that even black lives matter,” said Manis, the only white panelist. “The slogan and movement are defensive responses to a long and relentless history of white supremacy.”
Adria Goldman, panelist and associate professor, said the Black Lives Matter movement is “an attempt for black people to become part of a larger conversation.”
“All people need to educate themselves on what the movement is for,” Goldman said. “It’s more than a hashtag. … This is not a moment; it’s a movement.”
Panelists gave varying answers when asked whether they thought social media fueled the fire for racism.
Websites like Facebook bring “more awareness to the truth of the matter because media can skew things in a way where it seems like it’s justified,” panelist and student leader Aaron Lewis said. “It’s spreading the truth and it’s spreading it in a faster way than anyone expected.”
Gwenette Westbrook, president of Macon-Bibb County’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the Black Lives Matter movement didn’t just start.
“We’re just in a new day and time,” she said. “We’ve got a different type of generation that’s leading this” movement.
Police brutality and mass incarceration were also topics in the discussion, which lasted longer than expected as people were invited to stay and ask questions.
“If people don’t change their actions, nothing will change,” 20-year-old student Damian Danielly said on the way out of the theater. “If people don’t want to take the time to listen to other people, then how can you proceed on handling the problem?”