In 2017, a US Teen was accepted into Stanford University after writing #BlackLivesMatter 100 times on his University application, with the university stating that they were inspired by the sheer passion, determination and courage shown by him. Black lives Matter (BLM) is an international activist movement campaigning against the ill-treatment of African-Americans and was founded following the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman. Boasting both heavy approval and criticism, many satirical images and videos flowed around the internet reaching many demographics. Pro-Black Lives Matter satire attempt to undermine the police and their unlawful brutality as well as the political system for letting the accused walk free. This differs from other satirical texts, which drive the message of focussing on ourselves and those in need. That all lives matter, that people have the right to feel valued and wanted. Regardless of the social and ethical disputes, there is no denying that the BLM movement has been able to divide not only the nation but also the world. Because of this, satirical cartoons were created to effectively portray the two arguments and convince either parties. Two examples of this will be critically analysed later on in this essay.
On February 4th, 1999, a 23-year-old immigrant, Amadou Diallo, was mistakenly shot 41 times outside his apartment in New York, for the suspicion of being a person of interest for rape allegations. Sparking national outcry, protests were started in order to bring awareness and bring justice on the police officers, without success however. The first satirical text, called Amadou Diallo, is a pro-BLM point of view that incorporates effective aesthetic features to drive the message of a racist society. Depicting a grieving mother and father at the burial of their son; Amadou Diallo, the author has provided the effects of police brutality on both the community and family.
In satirical texts, aesthetic features play a vital role in connecting the audience with the media. In this cartoon, the author has implemented key features such as absurd situations and symbolism to challenge certain cultural, ethical and social attitudes. The absurdity of the situation incorporated through the language stresses the need for change. Evident when the father over the loud speaker says “Attention Police! I am about to reach into my pocket for a Kleenex! I will make no sudden moves! My Hands will be visible at all times! Please do not, repeat, not open fire…” The term ‘kleenex’ used, depicts a tissue; a common item needed for funerals. The fact that the family feels needed to differentiate between a gun and tissue boasts a concern on safety, as the family don’t feel safe enough to reach into their pocket to use a tissue, for the misconception of a gun. This presents a cultural and ethical challenge, in the cartoon the parents are depicted to be of African-American descent, creating a racist nature to be created and connected to the police department as they believe that those of an African-American decent will be violent. The author has implemented this effective aesthetic feature because it questions the American value of safety while undermining the police and their decision making.
Another aesthetic feature is the symbolism used. In the cartoon, the father is shown looking behind him, instead of focussing on saying goodbye to his son respectfully. This is because the police were at the funeral, pestering the mourning and innocent parents. The symbolism here is that circumstances are irrelevant for the corrupt police and that they will always be there to ‘serve and protect’. This presents a social and moral issue, as the disrespect of the police coming to a funeral leads audience to believe that no matter the situation, no matter the disrespect, the police will always be there to pester an innocent black family.
The cartoonist has implemented both of these techniques to build a comprehensive satirical text focussing For-Black Lives Matter. This is because he used pathos and the audiences feelings to start a reaction of change in the reader’s eyes. This creates a positive attitude towards the campaign, and a negative attitude to the police. This cartoon challenges the values and attitudes of those who believe they are safe. Through this, the cartoonist effectively forces the reader to reconsider their stance on safety and mistreated African Americans.
The second satirical text represents the hypocrisy of protests and the idea of protests without action — people who protest to act like heroes, but in reality, advocate for the wrong change. According to The Black Lives matter campaign, “It became clear that we needed to continue organising and building Black power across the country”, but has this movement sparked the right change? Titled ‘Do Black lives really matter?’ This satirical cartoon discusses a movement neither for or against the Black Lives Matter movement. Merely, it brings to light the fact that there are already people in the community who are treated as though they do not matter.
Portrayed through the media of a cartoon, aesthetic features are used to tie an emotion to the readers and propose the idea of the hypocrisy of the protests. One such feature is the use of items possessed by either parties, that is the homeless man and the protestors. In the satirical text, the protestors are seen with Apple devices and new clothes. This differs to the ripped jeans and the sign made out of a card board box. Another aesthetic feature is the positioning of the characters; in the cartoon the homeless man is depicted to be in the shadow of the protestors. There’s an essence that he is invisible to the eyes of the protestors. The author has done this to show that in the world there are people that go unnoticed, that in the normal world we make things look invisible because we don’t want to change it. In this case, the author is bringing this point into the satire to make readers aware of the real situations. The positioning of the individuals are critical in making this satire effective as it is seen that the protestors are waving around Black Lives Matter signs, in front of a starving black homeless man. A third aesthetic feature was witnessed through the use of colour. In the cartoon, the teenagers are seen wearing bright colourful clothes, depicting them as high social class individuals. However also illustrated in the cartoon, is the homeless man on the ground begging. This depicts the homeless man in a low social class portraying him as nothing in society with nothing to share. Looking up at individuals asking for opportunity.
The author has used these techniques to boast the concern of protesting for the wrong type of change. In modern day society, people go unseen. The world only sees what it wants, not what it has. This creates a negative attitude towards the Black Lives Matter movement, and paints all of their supporters as hypocrites.The cartoonist effectively forces the reader to reconsider their stance on the Black Lives Matter movement, in the hope that people make the right change in society, for society.
Whilst the techniques used in the “Do Black Lives really matter?” effectively convince readers to make the right change, the Amadou Diallo satire was far more compelling as it used the audiences feelings to question the American value of safety. The aesthetic features used in both were completely different, each focussing on a unique message, impacting on a different part of society. The first text focussed mainly on the language and the extreme circumstances of a case of police brutality on an African-American teenager. This context allowed for the idea to be created of injustice on African Americans and positively portrayed the BLM movement. This differs to text 2, which focussed on the positioning of the characters to depict the inequality and hypocrisy of the phrase “Black Lives Matter”. The authors incorporated these themes to question the audiences beliefs of protesting for the wrong type of change. In conclusion, both of these effective satirical cartoons demonstrate how a nation’s ethics can be divided by a crisis. It also shows how satire can be used to manipulate messages about society and race, and convince people to change their views in support of the cartoonist.