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Students should think about privilege before reappropriating hashtags

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Twitter has been providing users with messages no more than 140 characters since March 2006. With roughly 316 million monthly active users and 500 million tweets sent per day, Twitter’s impact on both social media and everyday life does not seem to be heading downhill anytime soon. The injection of the hashtag into the vein of American pop culture is to this day, one of the crowning achievements of Twitter’s success

In more recent years, social activists have taken to using the hashtag to their advantage. Just one tweet with a powerful enough message can be see by any of those 316 million monthly users at any time. In particular, after the death of 18 year old, Michael Brown of Missouri, #BlackLivesMatter became viral overnight. Many users tweet #BlackLivesMatter in conjunction with stories of oppression, racism and police brutality. People find solidarity with strangers they may never meet over seventeen characters. With tweets coming in every few seconds sporting the hashtag, it’s a good example of how this feature helps get causes out.

With every important hashtag, more and more parodies and offshoots of the originals seem to come out of the woodwork. Some Marshall University students in particular have taken to using #GreekLivesMatter in response to Huntington Police Department’s recent clearing of frat row parties on Fifth Avenue. HPD said that students cooperated and no one was hurt in the clearing.

After the murder of Brown, people in Ferguson were subjected to riot gear, tear gas and rubber bullets. At least 13 people were injured and one person was even killed during the riots.

To even use #GreekLivesMatter is essentially to compare the events of this past week to those of Ferguson and that is simply wrong. Students need to check privilege and be enthusiastic about the fact that authorities did not harass them, like many African Americans who use #BlackLivesMatter have to deal with everyday. That’s not to say a hashtag can’t be used to express whatever distaste students have for the incident but consider the lives of the 170 African American citizens that were taken in this past year.

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