Performative activism is dangerous – be an active ally instead

16th June 2020

Speaking out against racism is vital in supporting change in our society, but it isn't enough if we really want to put an end to systemic racism. We need to take action. UK young person Hamdi shares how you can be an active ally to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Recently, there has been an outpour of support for the BlackLivesMatter movement. However, we must be careful when deciding how we show our support. For example, #BlackOutTuesday, a day created by Music executives Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang to pause the normality of everyday life, went from a day created to share black content and information to posting a black square on social media. While well-intentioned, this ultimately silenced the voices of those at the forefront of the movement at a time when it was required the most.

Also, posting a black square or simply posting hashtag BlackLivesMatter is lazy and performative. It lets you off from putting in the real work needed to dismantle racism and make a real change.

While some have engaged in counterproductive performativism, others chose to be silent. Silence is damaging and destructive. It is a privilege to be able to choose to be silent in a time like this. It is a privilege to be apolitical, a privilege that, as a black woman, I do not share.

Therefore, it is of upmost importance that you use your privilege for good. After you have posted on social media, what’s next? Does your activism only exist within the confines of social media, hiding behind a liberal echo chamber? When the uproar over the killing of George Floyd is over, how will the way you manoeuvre in white spaces change?

BlackLivesMatter is not a trend, it is a crucial movement highlighting the oppression black people face in their day to day lives. You cannot simply post a hashtag or repost an image and call your work done. Being an active ally takes hard work. It is uncomfortable, tiring and difficult. It shouldn’t be done to seem progressive or inclusive, but in an attempt to create real, lasting change for all.

So, how can you be an active ally?

The first step to become an ally is to educate yourself. There are many great books out there that you can use to do this.

Dismantle your privileges. Once you have educated yourself on the matter properly, you can then begin to work on dismantling your privileges or using it as a tool for good instead of getting defensive. Your outlook on the Black Lives Matter protest is not as significant as you believe. Expecting black people to accommodate your idea of an acceptable form of protest is a form of gaslighting.

Speak up for injustice without putting yourself at the centre of the conversation. When your black friends, co-workers or even acquaintances trust you enough to talk about their experiences, refrain from centring yourself in a bid to relate. As a white person, you will never relate to their complex struggles. Once you accept this, you can then figure how to work with black people in fighting racism instead of against them.

Sign petitions, volunteer and donate. Here are petitions to sign and 135 ways to donate in support of black lives that have been vigorously vetted. You can also volunteer at local grassroot organisations in your area.

For a lot of white and non-black people of colour, activism must start at home. Hold your family accountable, hold your friends accountable. And most importantly, hold yourself accountable.

‘In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.’               – Angela Y. Davis

 


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The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, or an endorsement by, Raleigh International.

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