Mary Kraus, Staff
On June 2, 2020, 28 million people posted pictures of black squares on social media to show their support for the #BlackLivesMatter movement and the Black lives lost to police violence. While the intention of this day, known as Blackout Tuesday, was to show solidarity and call attention to racism, in reality, these blank posts clogged up feeds and hashtags for weeks while simultaneously gaining no progress towards justice for Black people.
The pinnacle of anti-racism efforts should not be spontaneous declarations of “allyship” and “wokeness” on social media. These posts can be considered virtue signaling, as they serve primarily to show that the user is moral and falls on the “right side of history,” or performative activism, as the user is speaking out on social justice issues simply to appeal to their audience and peers. Ultimately, these posts redirect attention away from the community the user is claiming to support, and right back towards the, typically white and privileged, user.
However, social media can still be a useful tool for social justice activism if proper preparation and thought goes into the post or repost. We must always be asking ourselves both our intentions for posting and what impact it will have. Am I posting this to show something about myself, or about the community I am advocating for? Does this post have substance; what is it that my audience is learning? Does it motivate readers to do something beyond reading and learning? Especially helpful posts are those which serve as a resource for information and have a call to action.
Truly fighting against white supremacy and racism requires a commitment to work beyond the posts. Don’t get me wrong — awareness and education are very important, but they get Black people no closer to actual, tangible liberation. Reposts can make people more knowledgeable of the work to be done, but they do not break down the social norms and overarching institutions that serve white people while simultaneously harming Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC).
There are other steps we can take from our phones that have more of an impact than just a like and a share. We can sign petitions — more than just the few that are trending. We can call and email federal, state and local representatives to demand their support for certain movements or pieces of legislation. Oftentimes, there are even pre-written scripts that we can access and use for direction and convenience. We can do our research and choose not to spend our money at companies that promote white supremacy, discredit the Black Lives Matter movement, exploit the working class and benefit from prison labor, instead opting for ethical and Black-owned small businesses.
One of the best ways to liberate Black people is to eliminate the racial wealth gap. White people have 8 times the median net worth as Black people, and Black people are twice as likely to be in poverty. So, the best way to get Black people more money is to, well, give them more money. The rise of digital activism makes mutual aid easier to participate in than ever. Mutual aid differs from charity in the sense that it does not require a third-party organization to transfer funds and the recipient retains their independence with ability to spend the funds however they see fit according to their needs and situation. I know most of us could spare one morning of Starbucks coffee; why not try redistributing that wealth instead?
There are actions we can take beyond the phone screens, too. White people can self-reflect on ways we continue to benefit from white privilege, even though we may be against it morally. We can attend classes, workshops, and online events that teach us to put our social justice passion into action. We can physically attend protests to make sure that demands are not silenced and ignored. Perhaps most importantly, we can address racism every time we encounter it at home, school, work, or elsewhere. Microaggressions, contrary to the term, are, in fact, incredibly discriminatory, violent, and harmful. Tolerating racism and remaining silent in the face of racism makes us part of the problem, not the solution.
There are hundreds of other actions I could recommend, but as a white person, my last suggestion to you is to diversify your feed. As white people, we cannot possibly comprehend the lived realities of our BIPOC friends and neighbors. We must listen to Black voices, support them, and amplify them. Some of my favorite people on Instagram are Avery Francis (@averyfrancis), Mithsuca Berry (@mythsooka), Michelle Nicole (@passionandpower), and Monique Melton (@moemotivate). Check out their accounts, give them some follows, and send them a few dollars too, while you’re at it. Some of their content may be free, but that doesn’t mean that their labor should be.
White people possess white privilege, therefore the power and responsibility to destroy racism is in our hands. This article is a call to action for every single white person reading this and every single white person you know. The bottom-line is we need to do more — all of us, not just some of us. Significant and sustainable change is only forced through consistent and persistent effort. If 28 million people called on their governments to defund the police, donated their extra income and called out racism every time they witnessed it, we would probably accomplish a lot more than painting a social media platform black for one day.