For and among whites, the conversation around Black lives and police brutality is often uncomfortable and divisive, so social media can seem like a safe space to share thoughts without getting your toes too messy. But the truth is, challenging deeply rooted racist beliefs and systems takes hard work and discomfort.
Allies who use social media to write about their feelings, share news, repost memes, and debate with others for the sake of social justice usually do so in a spirit of compassion. These actions can be incredibly helpful. But all of this is not enough to be truly anti-racist: Ssocial media is a tool that amplifies alliance, does not include it.
If your effort to support the black community is temporary, effortless or gives you warmth and haze, you’re probably doing it wrong.
The dangers of the performative ally
Social media is first and foremost about appearances, as users can create an identity that showcases them. When it comes to social justice issues, it can be too easy to talk on social media without suing at home.
This is called the performative or optical alliance, sometimes called “slacktivism”. It is about doing the bare minimum for a trendy cause without investing in the long term to change things. Examples include adding banners to your profile picture, signing online petitions, or posting, just to feel like you’ve “done something.”
Besides being performative, lazy use of social media can inadvertently harm the movement you think is helping. For example, Tuesday blackout showed us what happens when uninformed social media users accidentally get blocked Important hashtag channels with non-essential information.
In the case of users who share videos and photos depicting violence against Blacks, Aboriginals and / or people of color in the name of outreach, they may actually cause more trauma, according to Elika Dadsetan-Foley, director. executive of the association focused on diversity. non-profit training and consultancy organization VISIONS, Inc.
“Sometimes we want to wake people up and make sure others see the horrors that exist in the world,” Dadsetan-Foley said. “If you think about it, your circle may be homogeneous enough not to think of your friends from BIPOC who might be negatively affected by this action. “
Finally, be aware that unless you’re a celebrity or a major brand, the majority of your social media connections look and think a lot like you. A to study from 2015 found that on Facebook, for example, less than a quarter of the average user’s friends are from an opposing political party. Just think: How many times have you lost your friend or blocked someone because they don’t agree with you politically? In addition, the news feed algorithms are designed to push content that aligns closely with our existing views. All of this reinforces the broader concept of confirmation bias, which means we are more likely to seek out and agree with views that match our preexisting beliefs.
In other words, when you post on social media, you’re probably reaching out to an audience that already agrees with you. Patting yourself on the back for the right opinions might sound nice, but it doesn’t really help.
What role should social media play in activism?
That’s not to say that social media has no place in activism. It does, and a big one.
Social media is a powerful storytelling platform, and it allows otherwise under-represented voices to gain visibility. Today, anyone with a Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook account can post their opinions for friends and allies to see. “It’s very different from what it was before 2005,” said Marc Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League.
Social networks can also serve as an educational tool. “Sharing through social media helps educate people in our communities that we don’t want to lose, but also that we can’t stay if they don’t wake up,” Dadsetan-Foley said. Plus, she added, it’s an outlet for people who can’t show community support by participating in protests.
Perhaps more importantly, social media is a way to disseminate information among activists. The ability to communicate with large numbers of people over a short period of time makes social media an incredibly powerful tool, Morial said. “In the old days, when we wanted to organize a demonstration or a march, it took weeks or even months to plan,” he said.
But it is a communication tool, he added, not a substitute for action.
Morial also noted that social media has been essential in awakening the rest of the world to police brutality. In the case of the police murder of George floyd, for example, little room for doubt as to what happened after security videos, body camera footage and the infamous cell phone video became public. “These stories are not subject to a lot of interpretation,” Morial said. “This is, for me, how social media and technology as a tool have an effect.”
However, he warned that social media as a tool can be used for better or for worse. “It also creates an opportunity for people to spread disinformation… An individual can selectively determine who and what to follow, but it also requires diligence. Not everything you see is true.
6 ways to create real change in the world
If you want to extend your contribution to the fight against racism beyond social media, here are some ways to do it online and offline.
1. Address your own prejudices.
No matter how informed or “awake” you think you are, you always have a certain implicit racial prejudice. These are assumptions and associations that you subconsciously have that affect your attitude and actions towards others. And the point is, you can’t just sit back and think about what those prejudices can be; As the name suggests, they run deep in your subconscious.
The good news is you can take Implicit association tests to find out what these prejudices are, an important first step in becoming a better ally. If you find that you harbor certain prejudices, don’t take it as a reason to be ashamed or withdraw from the critical conversations that are going on right now. Change requires some discomfort, and it starts from within.
2. Learn about racism.
One of the best things you can do as an ally is educate yourself. But remember, it’s not for your black friends to explain racism to you. This time is particularly exhausting, so avoid adding pressure to their lives by asking questions that you can easily find answers to.
“Thanks to social media and the Internet in general, no one can say they don’t know where to find resources,” Dadsetan-Foley said.
Look for books, movies, podcasts, articles, and other resources that can help you understand black history and the role of systemic racism in America.
3. Have face-to-face conversations.
It’s one thing to express your outrage at police brutality in an Instagram story, and quite another to call your brother-in-law for making a racist comment at the dinner table.
“We have to challenge each other… people tend not to do it,” Morial said. “We have to challenge stereotypes. We must challenge received ideas. You have to challenge the attitudes that arise from racial animosity. And people have to be prepared to do it in their closed circles.
Face-to-face conversations about racism, violence and other sensitive topics are extremely embarrassing. But the truth is, you can be more successful at changing someone’s mind through a productive and meaningful face-to-face discussion. “Plus, for some, this may be the first time they’ve had these talks, so help them unpack,” Dadsetan-Foley said. “You can change emotional misinformation through repeated corrected experiences.”
4. Put your money where your mouth is.
Display financial aid is another effective way to contribute. One way to make an immediate impact is to donate to replenish the funds. You can also make donations to social justice organizations and funds set up for the families of victims. And don’t forget to check if your employer matches the donations.
Also think about where you are spending your money and make sure you buy from Black. Restaurants, beauty brands, designers and more. Keep in mind that where you not spending your money is just as powerful as where you do it. Avoid supporting companies with practices that harm people of color, such as those that use sweatshops, depend on prison labor and lack of diversity in their leadership.
5. Attend rallies, demonstrations and other community events.
Demonstrating is a very effective method of creating political change. It’s a tactic our country was founded on, and on which activists continue to rely today. But you don’t necessarily have to join the crowds of protesters marching through big cities. It helps to attend events in a small town, or even organize one if nothing is available where you live.
6. Get involved in local politics.
Pushing for policy change at the national level can seem daunting. If you want to feel like you have a more immediate impact, get involved in local politics.
Sign up to receive email updates from the offices of the various legislators who represent your community. Call members of Congress, lawmakers and local officials to let them know what specific actions you would like them to take. Follow up by writing letters. Attend town hall and city council meetings. Better yet, bring people with you. And brace yourself with questions, such as how the city plans to change policies and funding for law enforcement. And while you should always be polite, don’t be afraid to be persistent.
Conclusion: get the job done
Realize that being an ally is not a destination you reach, but a journey of a lifetime that requires constant questioning and growth.
“Realize being color blind is not the goal“Dadsetan-Foley said.” Remember that learning never ends. “And perhaps the hardest part for many of us,” take responsibility for not getting the job done sooner. “.