In June, after the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, the Black Lives Matter movement saw an influx of support. Many people attended protests, used their platforms to amplify Black voices, and opened their pockets to support Black people and Black-owned businesses. During the month of June, I remember having this enthusiastic feeling about change to come. When the movement for social equality began to gain momentum, it seemed as though everyone wanted to be involved. We had major corporations making initiatives within their companies to enact change. Sephora created the 15% pledge that promised to have at least 15% of their products sourced from Black-owned businesses. Netflix highlighted Black films and bought the rights to many Black sitcoms that were prominent in the 90s and early 2000s. Even Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian resigned from his position within the company in order to bring on a Black person to replace him. It seemed as though people were really listening to us and pushing for change.
When the protests began in early June, I wanted to find a way to use my voice so that people could understand what Black Lives Matter is and why it is incredibly important. Writing has always been my outlet, and I feel like words have power, so I started to write essays and poetry that reflected my feelings as a Black person in this world and posted them on my Instagram. Along with those essays, I created guides to help people understand how to contribute to Black Lives Matter in a genuine fashion. My reasoning for creating the guides in the first place was because of the constant performative activism I was seeing on social media. I witnessed so many black squares with #blackouttuesday on my feed and felt a sense of emptiness. It felt like people were taking part in a trend, instead of taking the initiative to support BLM and educate themselves. But instead of bitching about it and making myself more frustrated, I created guides. I kept telling myself that some people just needed education on Black Lives Matter and that once they received the necessary knowledge, they would do better. Surprisingly, because of the power of social media, my guides have been shared by thousands of people from all walks of life. I have received messages from people in the entertainment industry, several different publications, and even people that consider themselves “reformed” racists, all thanking me for my work and telling me that they wanted to do better and educate themselves. It felt good to know that people wanted to see change, and I felt proud to be a small part of the reason why change was happening.
However, with good feedback also came criticism—or, to be honest, I don’t even know if criticism is the right word. There are times that I receive hateful messages from folks with such derogatory and passive-aggressive rhetoric that I find myself in a state of shock reading them. I’ve had people aggressively put down my work, call me racist for calling out white privilege, or continuously harass me through my direct messages on a daily or weekly basis. When I tell people about this, especially non-Black people, they seem confused. In their eyes, the “activism” that was displayed in June was enough for discrimination toward Black people to be over. That’s the problem. Racism isn’t going to magically go away because you posted a black square on your Instagram, or you wrote a long personal essay reflecting on your privilege and how you “need to do better”. Acts of racism towards Black people have been happening for hundreds of years. Racism was not going to disappear into thin air by the end of June. Racism was not going to “take a break” so that you could celebrate the Fourth of July. Racism is very much alive and seems more aggressive than ever, partly due to the impending election.
I am very aware that writing this essay and publishing it to a platform that has a majority white audience can come with backlash. I know that many of you might personally feel as though pop culture and lifestyle platforms are becoming “too political”, and that you just want to be able to “enjoy” it and not make everything about race. That right there is an issue. Human rights are not political, whatsoever. Feeling enraged because your favorite celebrities are continuously using their platforms to amplify Black Lives Matter is racist. Getting upset because your favorite Bravolebrity was fired for racist behavior? Racist. When you find yourself tweeting things like “Why does everything have to be about race?”, or “Don’t pull the Black card.”, it’s racist. To those who consider themselves allies, stop confusing ignorance with racism as a way to make excuses for those whom you admire. To be ignorant, you would have to have a lack of knowledge as it pertains to the subject at hand. The subject here is Black lives, and a majority of you reading this are educated enough to know right from wrong—so we are not talking about ignorance, but racism. Start publicly condemning your racist colleagues. I don’t care how many followers the person has, what connections they might have that might help elevate you, or whether or not you believe them to be a good person. If you genuinely give a f*ck about your Black friends and family, you will do what is right. Your voice matters now more than ever. Here are some ways that you can continue to practice allyship and contribute for equality towards Black people.
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To be quite honest with you, I know that Instagram guides on injustice are seemingly becoming repetitive. However for the past few days, I’ve noticed not only a decrease in “online support” for the #blacklivesmatter movement but also a lot of Anti-Black rhetoric. Your support for this movement shouldn’t be leverage you hold against Black people when you see an injustice committed by a Black person. This movement is also not a damn meme and isn’t something that’s gonna just go away over night. I also believe that words have power. The more we educate the more we can eradicate racist behavior/policies. However, we also need action. Corporations and people with power, hire more Black people. School Districts, hire more Black teachers. Hospitals, hire more Black health care professionals. Don’t just say something, DO SOMETHING, and don’t wait for us to be around to show support. Keep that same energy everywhere. Shoutout to @heysharonc for creating the #pulluporshutup initiative. It opened my eyes to how much companies lack diversity across the board especially as it pertains to Black people. Now I need a mental health break after all of this 😭, thanks for the support everyone and please continue to show solidarity to the #blacklivesmatter movement 💛✨💪🏾
Open Your Purse
Besides supporting your local Black businesses, there are also other ways to open your purse and support Black people. With the results of the election coming out soon, there are sure to be protests coming from all sides. Usually, at these protests, Black people are more likely to be arrested and charged. If you can, try to donate to bail funds in your local area that could help bail out Black protesters in your area.
Vote in every election that you have. I don’t care if it’s for the HOA board in your building, your student council if you attend college or your local election in your town. Every election matters, not just the presidential election. If you have the privilege to vote, utilize it.
Read The Room
Performative activism is not cute and actually does more harm than good. If you show up to a protest just to contribute to looting or to show up to take selfies, you are taking part in performative activism, which is activism for the sole purpose of personal gain. Don’t show up if you are going to do this. Also, do not take part in protesting for BLM just so that you can excuse or justify your own racist/ignorant behavior down the line. Allyship does not exempt you from being called out as well.
Lastly, please have the necessary conversations with those around you. Call out discriminatory behavior when you see it. If you see something, say something in the moment. If you continuously see this behavior in individuals around you, cut them off. Some people aren’t meant to be changed and you willingly being around them says a lot about your character. One of the most consistent ways to practice allyship is to continually call out racism when you see it in your everyday life.
Images: Maverick Pictures / Shutterstock.com; jonathanchandler_ / Instagram