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The Hypocrisy of Perception



Four years ago, the image of Ieshia Evans was taken during a Black Lives Matter protest in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The image flourished in popularity becoming viral overnight and was revered as one of the most iconic images related to the Black Lives Matter Movement. Some would say a picture is worth a thousand words, and they would be right. The significance and importance of the image “Peaceful Warrior” exemplifies the underlying message of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) Movement. The roots of the movement stem from compassion and humanity, it is roused by the treatment of the black community as a whole and strives to enforce social and political change through peaceful statements of protests all identifying the disproportionate treatment toward people of color. The image itself is peaceful, but also depicts the difference between the side Ieshia Evans stands on and that of which the law enforcement officers coming forward to arrest the young protestor. The wall of officers on the left also influences the understanding of the underlying message displayed by this picture. The officers are dressed in full body armor, while Evans stands unarmed, unafraid, and determined despite the risk arrest may bring. Additionally, the power distribution is uneven representing how the ability of the police against black individuals is uneven, and the overall treatment of the black community is unfair. The image is also a change of pace for representation of the BLM Movement as other pictures depict protestors in direct conflict, or action against law enforcement perpetuating the stereotype that the movement and their protestors are the ones inciting the violence when it is more often the officers initiating such a response.


Despite the potential for a shift in perception, influenced by the image as well as the resonance of the nonviolent movement, BLM is still continuously vilified for their acts of protests. BLM Protestors are treated more violently by law enforcement and political figures, often accused of violence and disorder throughout the movement’s protests. A picture may be worth a thousand words but the words of those with power actively ignore the depth presented by the image as well as the message of change the movement is protesting for, shifting peoples’ perceptions of the situations and protests at hand.


In contrast to the image “Peaceful Warrior,” the image above on the right shows the rioters from a Trump rally infiltrating the Capitol Building on January 6, 2020. Not only did these individuals commit several crimes upon attacking the Capitol, but the intention of many was clearly to harm the Congress members working within the chambers. These men and women were shown directly confronting Capitol police, one even aiming to hit the men guarding an entrance with a steel pipe. Even further, these people were able to gain entry to the building and they did not face the retribution or violence that the BLM protests were subjected to. These men and women believed a legitimate election was illegal and were aiming to force Congress members to submit to their will, a vast contrast to the goals and motivation for the BLM Movement.


Now, while the actions of these rioters prompted a second impeachment of the president, various arrests, and many individuals--of political note--disowning their actions, the actions of the rioters were still supported by many with the same mindset regarding the election, which prompted more security for the Inauguration of President Joe Biden. The attackers were also not outrightly labeled as terrorists by many reports and news stations, despite their actions, an attack against our governement, aligning with the definition of domestic terrorism. And finally, the reaction to the images and attack on the Capitol, shows that those with authority, those with power, are supportive and loyal to white supremacists.


While a picture is worth a thousand words, some would say, or rather understand, that perception is far more powerful. Perception is a tool and it influences more than we would care to admit or care to think about. Yet perception is also used to blind individuals to the truth of the matter, skewing the impact and reception of varying events or in the case of these images, protests.























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