When it comes to the tragic and mysterious death of 25-year-old Shanquella Robinson, one thing has been clear: Black people on social media have been crucial in moving this case along by keeping it in the public eye.
It is Black Twitter, after all, that has been diligent in identifying and keeping the pressure up on all of Robinson’s friends who accompanied her on the trip to Cabo, Mexico, that she would never return from alive.
“Social media has been around and has been used as an amplification and social justice tool for almost a decade,” Sherri Williams, a professor of race, media, and communication at American University told NBC News. “Black folks know that mainstream news media has a history of completely ignoring our stories. So we’ve been using these tools to amplify our stories ourselves. And it works! We see this cycle of mainstream news media basically following the chatter on Black social media.”
“Shanquella Robinson’s story teaches us that Black people still recognize the power of Black digital activism,” Williams continued. “But mainstream media still has a way to go in terms of, not only diversifying its news force but also in terms of paying attention to what is happening in communities that are not white.”
Meanwhile, Robinson’s mother, Salamondra Robinson, said that while she never would have given up on seeking justice for her daughter whether Shanquella’s story went viral or not, she greatly appreciates the scores of social media users who have gotten involved.
“It feels really good to see the help coming in,” Salamondra said, explaining to NBC that she doesn’t believe her daughter’s death would have gotten so much attention from law enforcement or mainstream media outlets if it weren’t for Black folks on social media.
“I never thought she wouldn’t get justice because we were going to try to go all the way,” she said. “But I appreciate everything that everybody’s done, however you’ve played a part in it.”
If not for Black people on the interwebs, Shanquella’s case might very well have been written off as a death caused by alcohol poisoning, and her autopsy that reportedly said she died from a spinal cord injury might have been completely ignored, as would the video that purports to show her being brutally beaten.
“I never expected it to go viral, I never do anything with the intention of going viral. I was emotionally invested in the story,” hip-hop blogger Amina Kane said of the response to her sharing a photo of the victim and tweeting, “Rest in Power Shanquella Robinson”
“My initial thought was, ‘It’s unfortunate that something traumatic like this has to go viral,’” Williams continued. “But I’m happy this is going viral because now people are going to talk about it and things are going to happen.’ There’s power in numbers. Black social media is extremely powerful.”
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