Samiha: What is performative activism and how do we avoid it?
Samiha: A lot of it does tie in with our last conversation which was about how people that aren’t black speak over black voices. Another thing is that a lot of people claim to support Black Lives Matter and they will post about it on social media but when the time comes when they actually have to bring it into their actual lives, they hesitate. I see people post random posts that say “Black Lives Matter,” but then they go be friends with racist people, or they see discrimination happen but refuse to speak up. I also feel like a lot of people will post something that says “Oh yeah this happened,” but they won’t distribute any further resources or care to do anything else but post once or twice. It’s clear that they use the movement as an accessory.
Sam: Yeah, I agree. The people who will post stuff on social media to make them look good or use Black Lives Matter as an aesthetic aren’t helpful at all. There are people who participated in the whole black square thing and they haven’t posted anything else, that doesn’t help. That doesn’t encourage change, it’s just a square. How you can not be a performative activist is to listen, to fight in ways that aren’t just on your phone, and to go out of your way to not be friends with questionable people. By encouraging your family, friends, and community to be anti-racist and to vote, to attend protests, actively make change happen without just sitting there and passively agreeing with it without actually doing anything.
Samiha: Another thing is, yes educate yourself, but to educate others as well. Spreading what you know and having those discussions with people can help people realize the reality of our country and what changes should be made.
Maia: This is a question for you guys, have any of you gotten in an awkward situation where you saw someone’s Instagram and went and had a conversation with them and you bring up the problems they were talking about, they have no idea what you’re trying to get at? I had this situation happen to me when I talked to someone who had posted a black square. It was extremely awkward and there was a huge shift from their social life to their actual beliefs.
Samiha: Yeah I definitely have, the things they post on social media are all things they post to make themselves look better and it’s never parallel to their actual beliefs. They will just leech off of what they see other people do but not actually put in the effort towards whatever they’re trying to preach about. They treat it as a cute trend instead of a huge movement.
Maia: Yeah, so where is the line with that? Is there a line between those who are just following it because of the trend and those who are actually into it? Where does the line go and who is most effective? Yes, it doesn’t make many changes like what Sam said but it did bring awareness. More people saw it because it became a ‘trend,’ so did that help the movement?
Lydia: I think with the rioting and it being a social movement, in some way, was good because it brought more attention to it and brought more awareness. More people got on board faster due to that. But in some ways, by making it a social media trend, it made people think of the movement as less important than it is. It spread this concept of it just being a social media trend rather than an actual movement.
Sam: Yeah, and the reason it became such a trend that only lasted for a couple of weeks or whatever was those people who thought “Oh I will post this one thing because everyone else is doing it even though I don’t actually understand and I am not going to educate myself. I am not going to change anything about MY behavior.” Part of me thinks the time where everything was at an all-time high was good because it brought a lot of attention to it. But the problem is that when a lot of people think of the movement now, they just think it’s some social media thing. When in reality it’s so much more that can’t even be covered in a short amount of time.
Samiha: We have six minutes left so I am going to combine a bunch of questions and use them as our final question: how can we push for change when politics is all about compromise? Do you think the reaction overall was enough? What change do you still hope to see in our community and on a grander scale?
Maia: We really want the whole system to be re-built to create the most anti-racist system that we can. We want to be re-educating people and changing the media, we can do this by not only educating the general public but political leaders and campaigning and voting for people who believe and address Black Lives Matter.
Lydia: While we’re trying to not make this movement so political because it’s a matter of rights and morals, I do feel like, as Maia said, we need people in power to believe and support it in order to make a change in favor of it. That can lead to direct laws being passed that will stop oppression from happening. Those are the changes we need to see.
Sam: In order to answer the question of if we think the response was enough, I would say no. I don’t think we have enough and nobody has done enough because we haven’t solved this problem. It is not a short-term issue and we can’t solve it in a few months. Yes, we pushed for change, but we haven’t seen everything we wanted. Breonna Taylor still doesn’t have justice as do so many other innocent black men, women, and children who have been murdered or harmed. Especially in those first couple of weeks, we all thought “Oh maybe this is actually the path we’re going to be taking and 2020 will be the year when all the change we want will be happening,” but then it slowed down. Now I feel like a few months from now, maybe no one will care again until another George Floyd incident happens and the goal is to keep that from happening ever again. It’s important to keep on going and to remember there’s always more work to be done to change the system because it’s not over.
Samiha: Yes! I 100% agree. The fight won’t stop. We need to see permanent change happen. We can’t let the same bad things happen over and over again. Nothing is enough until that day is finally seen.
Samiha: And that ends our discussion. Thank you guys for coming and it was very interesting to talk about this. Hope you guys have a good day!
Maia: You guys, your opinions are so good! Keep that up, that was amazing. I’m sorry if it seemed like I was directly targeting anyone with specific questions, I meant that in the best of ways and I wanted you guys into more depth about your opinions.
Samiha: No of course! I think it made the conversation a lot better and it opened the ground for depth.
Sam: Yeah I think civil political discourse, whether it’s agreeing or disagreeing, is always important and always good.