Slacktivism and being woke for clout (post Sandra Bland)
On May 31st, protesters in Washington D.C bypassed the 11PM curfew and almost overran the White House gates after police berated unarmed protestors with tear gas to ‘establish law and order.’ Like many protests in 2020, this protest was sparked by the death of George Floyd. And like many radical homos in 2020 my friend and I wanted in on the action. On June 1st my friend and I traveled impulsively to Washington, D.C. to participate in this potentially insurrection starting protest. We stayed at a lesbian’s house one of which I had known and been friends with since college. As we awoke from our drive to D.C. we dawned camo and black from head to toe; wore face covers; and brought huge Black Trans Lives Matter and Black nonbinary flags to walk with. We were welcomed by hoards of honks from agreeing drivers, Black gays expressing approval, and “yeah!” from a group of wmws (well meaning whites). We hopped into the protest during a chant and almost immediately was asked to lay to the floor. We would lay for the amount of time George Floyd laid on the ground in remembrance and to agitate the gentrified neighborhood around us. We stood up after our display and headed to a government building to gather and show our strength in numbers. I turned my camera on and aimed above the faces of the protestors and quickly turned in a circle to capture the essence of the moment. “Black Lives Matter. AGAIN! Black Lives Matter! AGAIN! Black Lives Matter!” I took the short clip and added it to a ten slide Instagram post making a call for White folks to take responsibility for their own revolution against White supremacy. For them to actually be those wmws they think they are. And PAY reparations! But here we go again with the performative activism.
The Fucking Black Squares
Of course two Black women started this trend. The #TheShowMustBePaused.com about page states:
While the purpose of the #BlackoutTuesday Black boxes were so eloquently summarized it was taken and co-opted…for clout on social media. Folks began to add other hashtags to their posts most notably #BlackLivesMatter and #BLM hashtags. Folks began adding #BLM into their bio and linking resource lists on their page. Large corporations to smaller businesses began to integrate the elevation of Black owned businesses and partners into their media. It became the norm for large corporations to condemn racism via social media, to make amends for how they contributed to white supremacy in their past, and transparency surrounding their relationship to Black consumers. Content platforms began to elevate Black creators (in a month outside of February) and offer them specific resources in an effort to seem like they were apart of the anti-racist future. But all of these efforts did not come without valid criticisms.
Oh no baby…you white.
Criticisms of performative activism online immediately began to flurry in - the hashtags were clogging up the collections of resources activists use; white guilt became the center of activism conversations; mutual aid funds popping up out of nowhere and going defunct; and loads of instagram slide infographics. Pages like @so.informed (Formerly @soyouwanttotalkabout) created by wmws started to gain traction for breaking down socially complex issues into bite size instagram slides that could be accessible to users on and off the platform. But…of course this also served as a distraction and weak attempt to take a stance in the fight for anti - racism in America. Most ironically the page was originally ran anonymously with no pictures or names of the administrator(s) to be found. After several infographic posts began to go viral many began to question who was behind the page. Mia Mercadoo adds; “It then came under scrutiny for its name, which caused confusion given its similarity to writer Ijeoma Oluo’s best-selling 2018 book So You Want to Talk About Race,.” A white woman - running a page about social justice - using a name stolen by a Black author - with information gathered by Black researchers. Sounds about right. No one was really surprised until she announced a book deal…telling. Critics of this deal including Ijeoma Oluo immediately began to question why it was that an anonymous page promoting the memification of white centered race conversations is worthy of a book deal when Oluo had already written a book on race. After several failed notes app and instagram slide apologies from the white woman who ran the instagram page - she finally added her name to the page, her race, cited her direct sources, apologized to Oluo, changed the instagram page, and committed herself to learning along the way. She still runs the page to this day.
Slacktivism is white violence but what ain’t?
Black boxes, instagram slides, and twitter threads aside: more has to be done. This isn’t the first time a Black person was murdered by the police. It won’t be the last. This isn’t the first time a Black person in need has created a GoFundMe. It won’t be the last. This isn’t the first time Black people get run over (metaphorical and physical) by white ideas, people, and worst of all their feelings. And it will not be the last. Continued weary attempts by wmws to interrogate their racism continue to fall. As Tim Engles mentions, “a white anti racist is an oxymoron.” Therefore centering race around the politics of white emotions will always fail. To be anti - racist means to question everything. To live in a constant state of discomfort. And white people seem pretty comfy bitch. Posting a picture in a Black Lives Matter shirt or donating $10 to an org you heard of in passing once every blue moon is not anti racism work henny. It’s just cosplay. A performance. Where all the actors are terrible and all the popcorn is stale. Tim continues, “Social media interaction in aspiring white allies – tends to inspire impulsive, shallow, and solipsistic modes of self-aggrandizing display, steering aspiring white allies all that much more strongly toward “slacktivism” rather than effective activism.” So listen up future anti racists: The work can not be done solely online. There are MANY ways to activate a community - stop relying on the internet.
Reparations and Revolutions
Tokenization and slactivism have created a very murky online activism space. Fake activists out here abusing their power and hogging resources. White activists overstepping Black folk. People of color being antiBlack. It’s disgusting. Y’all still following Shaun?? King??? Eat my ass. We need reparations but that will need to be facilitated with those in power. And waiting on white people to change their mind? Call me Harriet bitch fuck a wait time. As someone who offers resources for folks 2020 was so fucked up. So many false revolutionists and fake anti racists offering help they could not deliver on. So many mutual aid funds opened rapidly and closed just as quick. Protests continued to be led on average by queer and trans folks of color and youth. Race work continues to center white fragility (fuck that book) and continues to question, “how do we get white folks more interested in anti racism.” Now in terms of tangible efforts toward anti racism…things are happening. Policies are still white centered, transphobic and homophobic as fuck (looking at you all the states outlawing trans kids) and also wildly individualistic. But I read on Twitter that regimes end every 250 years and America’s 250th bday is in 2026 sooooo we don’t have long I guess? How do you think race relations in America are different from 2010 than in 2022?
I’m not waiting for and have never waited on yt folks to free themselves from concepts they created that never worked for them anyway. Instead I will continue to live my revolution. Revolution is praxis and not only on social media. It’s important to stay active in your community. Take care of your closest community members. Make small changes. They might add up to big moves - or not. At least you made an effort.