You've probably seen the phrase "performative" thrown around the TL over the last few days. Here's a breakdown of what that actually means.
(Valerie Muzondi/Rowdy Magazine Art Director)
Over the past week, we’ve seen the younger generation navigate social media as a true means for tangible, meaningful, lasting change.
The rise of digital activism has allowed us to weaponize our voices in the fight against white supremacy. We’re constantly sharing information and challenging the status-quo (and our not-so-subtly racist family members on Facebook) to fight for what’s always been right.
White people and non-Black POC will never be able to understand any trauma that the Black community goes through when the recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Nina Pop and David McAtee prove how meaningful change has yet to be made in this country.
So the least we can do as Zoomers is fight for what's right, rallying behind the Black community and amplifying their voices and content on our own platforms.
Non-Black people can use our Instagram to highlight small, Black-owned beauty brands. We can use our Facebook to combat the spread of misinformation perpetrated by that one angry Trump supporter that’s somehow on our friend list. We can log onto Twitter to be plugged in, real-time to protestors on the ground who are being violently attacked by the police.
But what we’re NOT gonna do is post a black square, think “Yup! That’s enough activism for today,” and log off.
What we’re not gonna do is repost those “Tag 10 friends #BlackLivesMatter,” Instagram stories that feel like those drawing fruit challenges started at the beginning of quarantine.
Both actions take a max of 5 seconds to do and feel absolutely mindless.
Let’s be frank: all activism, in its pure intentions, is good activism. Anything we can do helps in some sort, but we must do better.
Being praised for doing the bare minimum isn’t just going to cut it anymore.
When demonstrations began last week, a little voice in my head was telling me that some white skater TikToker would make an aesthetic video of it.
I definitely was onto something.
First off, what the fuck?
Second off, this wasn’t the first time we saw the Black Lives Matter movement adopted and customized into an “aesthetic,” that would be palatable to white people and non-Black POC.
So after #BlackoutTuesday unfolded on Instagram, Twitter had a word. Users pointed out that more black squares were posted than signatures on Color of Change’s petition for Justice for George Floyd (Which, if you haven’t signed, it’s hyperlinked.)
So when non-Black mutuals post a Fyre-Fest reminiscent tile on their feed with a black heart and no additional information … is it really doing anything?
A tile is fine, whatever, but where are the petition links? Where is your donation? Where was the support for the movement a week ago when you were posting selfies of yourself at the beach? Where was your concern for the Black community when you posted a MAGA hat on your Insta page in an attempt to be funny?
Let’s discuss: If you didn’t care about Black lives before this week (or even if you were silent) why do you suddenly care when everyone seems to be “jumping in on the bandwagon?”
Think about the intentions behind your posts. Do you really care about the Black Lives Matter movement? Or do you just want people to think you do, so your reputation doesn’t sink?
Justifying between these two mindsets is what determines where your true allyship really exists.
Some non-Black folks may be reading this and thinking to yourselves, “Hey! Stop being so judgmental! I’m doing something, right?!”
Although I’m sure you had pure intentions, small steps of solidarity like this shouldn’t be praised because no meaningful action comes out of them.
If you’re taking the concerns of people who are calling into question your ulterior motives for posting and calling them “dramatic,” or “pushy,” they may not be far off.
We should all know by now that silence is complicit, but so is passiveness.
I’ve seen a surge of non-Black folk calling out people for shaming them or being too “aggressive” on social media. The argument has been phrased as “So what if they’re not posting? That doesn’t mean they don’t care or they’re racist!”
That’s absolute, complete utter bullshit.
White privilege goes past the physical –– it also includes your social presence. Black people, especially Black women, are not given a seat at the table for proper media representation.
If you, as a non-Black person, are “too scared,” to get it wrong and be called out, at least support THEIR voices and content as they speak against white supremacy.
Even if you’re too scared, the idea of being a passive observer in this situation radiates peak fragility.
As author Mireille Cassandra Harper put it best in her guide to true allyship (which should be your summer required reading), “Coming to terms with your own privilege will not be a pretty or fun experience. It is necessary to feel feelings of guilt, shame and anger throughout this process.”
So get it together. Suck it up. Not posting isn’t about your fear of getting called out, it’s just a bullshit excuse to separate yourself from the privilege you have. It’s time to get over your fear of being labeled as performative and demand overdue justice.
If you would rather choose to remain silent because you don’t want to educate yourself and listen to Black voices before posting, there’s no helping you. If you would rather stay out of the conversation because you don't want to be “too political,” boy, do I have a newsflash for you.
Racism isn’t a political issue. This is a completely humanitarian one. If you’re choosing to bring partisan politics to combat the notion that Black people should not be murdered because of the color of their skin in 2020, you’re severely misguided.
So after listening to my angry words, you may be thinking, Well, shit... what can I do?
Speak up, meaningfully. Educate yourself. Share videos of Black voices speaking up on your story. Find out what small Black businesses you can support. Read a book. Listen to a podcast (Don’t white people love podcasts?) Call-out your friends and family. Sign petitions. Call. Email.
If you do choose to use your social platform to amplify Black voices and the Black Lives Matter movement, please, for the love of God, don’t do it to boost your own ego.
And if you’ve read all this and are still sticking by what you’ve done… Well… The Silence In This Bus Is Astronomical.
Black Lives Matter. ACAB. I said what I said. Bye.
Ana Escalante is Rowdy Magazine's Editor-in-chief. She likes podcasts, comfortable sneakers and yelling about being a Capricorn. You can reach her on Twitter @AEscalante22 or email her at email@example.com