Black Lives Matter was a movement started to remind everyone that Black people’s lives are just as important as everybody else’s. Yet, all too often, Blackness is reduced to yet another hashtag, another death, and another murder because of police brutality, racism, and violence. And these are just the cases that have received widespread attention and criticism. It’s 2020, and the movement is ongoing with more ferocity and zeal.
Social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have utility because they amplify voices. Anyone’s opinion can be heard by hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people around the world; but that is not enough. Often, the brevity of the messages we post on social media do not have the ability to make a big impact—and that’s part of the problem. We shouldn’t have to use a few characters on the internet to combat injustice. But evidently, justice often isn’t served until the public is outraged and demands it.
Social media has become a valuable tool for encouraging political participation. It also provides more opportunities for people to contribute to public speech by engaging in real-time microblogging on Twitter, for example. The messages and media we share cannot make an impact on their own. It’s the actions that come after the messages that have the power to make tangible any change. It isn’t until there are protests, riots, and other forms of civil unrest that any real consequences are felt by perpetrators. It’s important that we use social media as a tool, because that’s what it is. But our pursuit for justice should not live and die on the internet. Who are you offline? Because if you are fighting for this cause, there shouldn’t be a difference.
We shouldn’t have to use a few characters on the internet to combat injustice. But evidently, justice often isn’t served until the public is outraged and demands it
Awareness and action go hand-in-hand. We need allies and those with privilege to step up. We need more than just hashtags, reposts, retweets, and the praying hands emoji. Donate to mutual aid networks, offer your platform to community leaders, engage with the people in your spaces about problematic behavior, and most importantly, speak up and act when you witness injustices.
Social media influencers and people in positions of power, with a large following, become significant in situations such as these. Unless your sponsor is the KKK, you have an obligation to use your platform to raise awareness and bring calls to action. Racism, racial violence, Black Lives Matter; they’re everyone’s problem. All lives can’t matter until Black lives matter.
But our pursuit for justice should not live and die on the internet. Who are you offline? Because if you are fighting for this cause, there shouldn’t be a difference.
We don’t need people who simply aren’t racist; we need more people who are actively anti-racist. You cannot love your Black friends or colleagues and be silent about their suffering. You cannot love Black men, women, culture, food, fashion, and music and remain silent. Allyship does not have an on and off switch; it’s a commitment. Understand that racism is not always an outward act of hate. It can be nuanced and covert. “You don’t sound Black”, “you’re not like the rest,” “oh come on, you know I’m not racist”; all of these are examples of racism which has surreptitiously become socially acceptable. By saying some of these things, you are removing that person from the rest of the Black community, and this inadvertently diminishes the struggles and challenges that they face because of the color of their skin. You may have good intentions; but doing the work means an in-depth look at some of the things you’ve been doing and saying without realizing their impact.
Next time you are around family and your grandfather says something discriminatory, will you have the courage to correct him? Because you cannot be an ally for Black Lives Matter on Instagram, but different offline. Commitment to the movement will often require spirited conversations with others, and pragmatic solutions on your part.
You cannot love your Black friends or colleagues and be silent about their suffering. You cannot love Black men, women, culture, food, fashion, and music and remain silent. Ally-ship does not have an on and off switch, it’s a commitment.
There is no way to serve your fellow Black people if you do not listen to their plight and try to do something about it. It’s also equally important to remember that it isn’t your Black friend’s job to educate you about racism. Black people are tired. And not the kind of tired that requires sleep; we’re the kind of tired that requires peace. The kind of tired where we are constantly anxious about whether our brothers, fathers, and male cousins will come back home safely from the store, a jog, or a regular traffic stop. Tired of having to prove ourselves and explain feelings that we know are valid. Tired of micro-aggressions, tokenism, racial profiling, denial of privilege and so-called colorblindness. There is no peace.
Being helpful in the movement means being willing to read and learn about racism. Be teachable and open to understanding Black people’s problems without taking it personally. For example, a passive, non-racist person is courteous of those of different races and cultural backgrounds. Someone who is actively non-racist will not engage in conversations that degrade others because of their race. Anti-racist, ally behavior involves being vocal when those around you are being racist. It also involves participating in rallies, buying books, listening to podcasts to educate yourself.
Anti-racist, ally behavior involves being vocal when those around you are being racist. It also involves participating in rallies, buying books, listening to podcasts to educate yourself.
You must strive to be on that end of the spectrum. Being an ally also means understanding that this movement is not about diversity and inclusivity. No. It’s about overthrowing the structures which you inherently benefit from because of your skin color. It’s not “business as usual” anymore. It’s not good enough to sit on the fence about injustices, because silence is tacit compliance.