HomeLocal ActivismNYC Protests and Online Personas Are Not For Your Performative Activism

NYC Protests and Online Personas Are Not For Your Performative Activism

Last year has proven that there is strength in community, and united we’re powerful. 2020 took the whole world on a rollercoaster as there were many things happening all at once. First and foremost, the pandemic caused the world to come to a complete stop. However, things didn’t end there. As we know, racial tensions have begun to increase over the past few years and adding more black deaths did not help. In 2021, NYC rallied together in support of the Black lives that were taken away at the hands of racism and police brutality. There were many protests and the people made sure to let their voices be heard; for those that couldn’t participate in person, they took to online platforms to show support. However, one can’t help but wonder, was this allyship or performative activism to save yourself? Performative activism is dangerous because you’re not genuine about the causes you’re supporting and may not know the full scope at hand. Although, some may argue that performative activism is enough as it gets the information out there and can be spread all over to bring awareness to a situation. 

What Is Performative Activism?

Performative activism is “defined as activism that is done to increase one’s social capital rather than because of one’s devotion to a cause”. It is basically putting on a front that you care about something or aligning yourself with an ideal rather than actually putting in the effort and work to either play a part in the change or do something that will allow for a ripple effect to occur. It is very disheartening to watch because people aren’t sincere and believe that a repost or hashtag is making a difference when nothing has been changed. It has been used in particular during 2020 during the BLM protests seen all over NYC with people posting black squares on Instagram to stand in solidarity. However, that proved to cause no real change and only further impacted information being spread because when you clicked on the hashtag, all that could be seen were black squares and the information surrounding updates and times of protests were deferred to the bottom.

Our Pain Is Not For Your Gain

America wasn’t and isn’t the place to see POC thrive, specifically black people. In a country where enslaved people were brought against their will to work for white people, black people dying at the hands of a failed justice system, police brutality, and racism is not anything new. However, a shockwave was sent all over the world when–back to back–black individuals were being murdered: Breonna Taylor, who died in her own home due to an unlawful entry in her house by police officers; Ahmaud Arbery, who was murdered while jogging after being mistakenly recognized as a trespasser from a previous day; and George Floyd, who was murdered because a police officer refused to take his knee off of his neck. All three instances caused a fire in people but it also separated people’s true intentions. There were folks who were genuinely concerned, tired of seeing their people murdered, and wanting to shift their thinking and dismantle the structure at hand, and there were others who were more worried about making sure they were seen as an ally and making sure they weren’t “silent”. Death is not a game, lives were lost and it is bigger than trying to save oneself to preserve an image. Impact is what matters and making sure that if you stand for and with something or someone, you put your all. Some people don’t understand the struggle of what it means to, be a part of a marginalized group where you’re considered suspicious, face language barriers, or where you’re not treated the same as your counterparts. There are others who can repost a hashtag and never have to worry that they will be targeted. However, they should, because we all coexist amongst each other and if there is no justice for one, there is no justice for all.

Allyship Vs Performative Activism

The difference between allyship and performative activism is that in allyship, you’re being genuine about your position. Not only are you making it clear but you’re working towards an agenda to create a difference for the cause you’re supporting. Allyship is about showing up, not for yourself, but for others and making sure their voices get heard. It is about community and unity and standing up for the issues that continue to impact individuals. Performative activism is almost like being lazy because you’re putting half the work in. A petition is great, but besides that, how are you contributing? How are you making sure that whatever issue that stands is being narrowed in and the scrutiny is on those in power? Reposting isn’t going to bring someone’s life back, but putting the pressure on those in positions in power will!

Awareness Is Not Enough 

However, some may argue and say that that posting is enough; information is getting spread, which allows for greater awareness and more people to know and find out about what is currently happening. For instance, with the BLM protests, there was support from all over the states and NYC rallied together. People were able to look out for one another and spread information and current updates about what was happening as well as spread word of different organizations to help with bail. However, although this is great, posting organizations isn’t challenging the government, institutions, nor the systemic racism that occur in this country. Awareness is great, but stopping there is all for show if there are no leading people at the forefront demanding change. Awareness is the first step to justice but it isn’t the end all be all; we must continue to do our part in dismantling the infrastructure at hand. 

Change Your Ways

We must vocalize our concerns and reach within and discern in what intention are we doing things and ask ourselves how can we show up for others in time of need. We must recognize that this is a collective issue and change occurs when we’re all on the same page working together to uplift one another. Just recently, we elected an African American former police chief  to be the democratic nominee for mayor in NYC. This demonstrates an attempt to even out the field and make sure representation is clear while also having a POC in a high position of power, where they can help out communities and people to make sure what occurred doesn’t anymore. This can be seen as allyship.

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