Performative activism diminishes important causes instead of promoting them


Tasha Kibue

Celebrities making the Black Lives Matter Movement a trend, is not activism.

The year 2020 has brought many tragedies and has shed light on the oppression that people of color have endured for many years; especially Black people. Police brutality continues to be a huge topic in the black community. After George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor’s murder, and the cruel deaths of countless other Black men and women at the hands of the police, the topic has been addressed even more.

When the topic of racism and societal change was brought to the world’s attention, many social media influencers, celebrities, and brands took it as an opportunity for them to steal the attention for themselves, thus the term “performative activist.”

A performative activist is an individual who does not genuinely support a movement, and has surface level knowledge on the topic. They broadcast the donations they make to organizations and other actions they take to the media hoping to gain recognition for their support of a community or goal.

Black Lives Matter protests were diminished to photo-shoot studios, and hashtags. Black Lives Matter became a competition where they competed to get a prize for the “person-who-donated-the-most.” Black Lives Matter quotes were copied and pasted by big companies and brands. It became a trend. But “BLM” is more than just a trend.

You may ask: “What if those social media posts were genuine?” It is easy to identify when a person is faking their activism. Like when they 1) only post when their fans ask them to address political or social issues, 2) only post when their mutuals post about the issue, and 3) only address the issue once because it’s popular and move on. It’s clear that the messages that were being produced by some celebrities and companies weren’t genuine.

Black Lives Matter has been active long before George Floyd. Black lives mattered during the slave trade, and continue to matter. The topic of systemic brutality and racism in America is all too familiar. So, why did people only post about police brutality after Floyd’s death? They had to have been aware of all the other times police unjustly killed or injured black people, right? How about all the racially motivated deaths of the many black men, women, and children long before Floyd and Taylor?

Performative activists do not educate themselves on the topics they post on the media. They willfully have surface-level knowledge on the issues and surface-level empathy. These “activists” are also very selective about what they feel comfortable with posting; further proving their privilege and ignorance.

For black people, Black Lives Matter isn’t something they can just choose not to participate in. They continue to show that their lives do matter, and that the movement is a serious topic for their community. They are forced to be in conversations about race because of the color of their skin. Genuine activism and ally-ship involves more than just throwing money at the problem, and posting about it on social media.

You have to accept your privilege, recognize your own personal and cultural bias, and use your voice to speak for communities that are often silenced, without contributing to that silence. Support the movement and talk about all elements of the problem, especially if it makes people uncomfortable. Learn and understand the issues you believe in. This is authentic activism.

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