The year is 2020. As the world rallies against the years of racial injustice experienced by communities of color, nearly everyone you know (and probably all of your favorite celebrities) are reposting post after post about BLM, police brutality and everything in between. Fearing being left out, you begin to repost things too. You pat yourself on the back because you did it! You acknowledged the problems in society and can now rest easy knowing that you did your part in ending the problem!
Except you didn’t.
In the age of social media, we see it in our feeds every day: post after post about every social issue plaguing society about why you should feel bad and what you can do about it. Make sure you slap that repost button or you are part of the problem.
Maybe you repost it because you really care about the issue or are passionate about making a change. Alternatively, maybe you repost it because you really want everyone to see just how much of an outspoken social media activist you are.
But here’s the problem: Just because you repost a thread from Shit You Should Care About doesn’t mean you suddenly do indeed care. Instead, you might be engaging in what I think is one of the biggest issues in our society today: performative activism.
The idea is that people support a cause or social issue in order to further their own social status rather than a genuine caring or understanding of the problem as a whole. This often looks like shallow and surface level activism with little regard for the issue being addressed.
Students, celebrities and your overly-active Facebook mother are not the only ones guilty of the act. Companies can be just as responsible. Whether it be companies scrambling to convert their logo to a rainbow pattern during pride month (only for it to quickly disappear on July 1) or a company’s website slapping BLM on their homepage, it’s time to ask whether or not these corporations actually care about the organizations they claim to support.
Does your favorite company actually care about these social issues? The answer is more likely than not, no.
This isn’t to say I don’t think these issues are of the utmost importance or that everyone who reposts a #BLM post is a self-righteous egotistical moron who cares nothing about what they are posting. In fact, I am sure that almost everyone who participates in performative activism does genuinely care about the issue at hand and wants to see a change.
But just acknowledging a problem isn’t enough.
If we really want to see a change in our society and if we really want to answer the call to make a difference, it’s time to stop just reposting. Instead, it’s time to start educating, listening, voting, and most importantly, learning.
All I ask is that next time, before you repost another thread about “how you can help,” consider that the best way to make a difference is to learn all you can about the issue. Instead of throwing the BLM hashtag on your next tweet, instead educate yourself on the mass incarceration of people of color and the consequences of the prison industrial complex. Instead of reposting the same video of the American withdrawal in Afghanistan, dive into the deep cultures and beliefs of the Afghan people so that you may understand the complex social issues of a nation so different from our own.
As a student of sociology, I can tell you that the best way to address and solve a social issue is to understand the deep and intersecting issues that make up the problem. Knowledge is our greatest and most powerful weapon.
So when you are inevitably faced with the decision to hit that repost button or jump on the Instagram activism train, ask yourself: Do you really care?
Austin Thompson is a reporter for The Beacon. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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