Please Stop — A Message About Performative Activism

Alexandra Tsuneta

And resources on how to be a good ally

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We’ve all seen the video of Fiona Moriarty-McLaughlin pretending to board up a window in order to look like she is doing something for the current political uprising. Or the video in which a white woman clad in workout gear asks her boyfriend to take a picture of her in front of a broken window. These two acts of performative activism set the internet on fire, they were called out and subsequently “canceled”, but what we aren’t seeing is the countless other ways in which people are being performative and not actually doing anything for the current political and social uprising.

Doing it “for the gram” is not new, however, after the tragic death of George Floyd, my Instagram feed was suddenly flooded with images, posts, and strong words with the hashtags #icantbreath & #blacklivesmatter; it was like all of a sudden every white person I know had suddenly become an activist or ally overnight.

Then came the images and videos of them at protests and before I knew it my blood began to boil. Nobody wants to see your wack protest picture, Stacey. White people, hear me now: you do not need to document yourself at protests, you look so stupid when you do this kind of shit. Because here’s the thing, those of us who have been politically active for quite some time, those of us who are politically active, we see you and we know that this is all for show.

Now, don’t get me wrong, if you’ve all of a sudden become outraged, that’s great! I’m glad that you have become somewhat aware of what is going on in our country; but if you are outraged because you somehow think that this kind of racism and blatant injustice is new, you really need to do some work and educate yourself because this is not new — this is the norm for so many Black and Brown people in this country.

Remember: the police force was only created once the slaves were freed and they needed to protect white people and white property, and once this is over, once you go back home to your nice quiet life unless we defund the police force, this will continue to happen every single day in the lives of Black and Brown people.

Your work is not done just because you posted an image on Instagram and went to a protest. In fact, you haven’t really done shit to help this movement at all, so stop patting yourself on the back and posting about your newfound activism. This is not about you, and trust me when I say that those of us that have been entrenched in this movement for a very, very long time — we can see through your performance and you look like shit.

If you are sitting here reading this and my words have impacted you and you’re feeling bad about yourself now, take the time to unpack that feeling because that is your white fragility rearing its head. If you are sitting here reading this and you want to know what you can do to help, I am here to offer my resources, but I want to preface this with these few words:

Google is free and you need to do the work yourself.

How can you step out of the internet and into real life?

Like I mentioned before, your posts on Instagram, unless you are an organizer or you are posting valuable, educational resources, are trash. Just because you post something and hashtag it #blacklivesmatter does not mean that you are doing anything. You need to take your activism further, and do something about the current social and political uprising.

Also, please understand that there is power in your words, white guilt is real and I understand that, but you need to unpack that shit in private. Posting things saying that you “didn’t know”, that you are “scared”, or that that the situation with George Floyd is “surprising” is damaging to this movement.

Those words are damaging because you should know what is going on, you should have been educated on the fact that this country was built for free on the backs of Black bodies. You have no reason to be scared because you are white — the cops do not brutalize and murder you. Lastly, what happened to George is not surprising, it is not baffling, it is normal. The police force was only created when the slaves were freed, the police force was created to “serve and protect” white people, the police force is only around for one reason and one reason only: because white people are scared of Black people, white people are scared of retaliation for 400 years of slavery.

This work is not “trendy”, this is not a competition of who can be the most “woke” white person; this work is continuous, you need to continue speaking out against racial injustice long after these protests are quelled.

Donate to Black organizations and mutual aids.

One way you can do the work is to donate to Black organizations like Black Lives Matter and the NAACP — there are master docs on the internet that show you who needs money and where they are located. Put your money where your mouth is, but I cannot believe I have to say this, you do not need to post about where/when/who you donated to. You do not need a pat on the back for supporting these causes, you need to do it because it needs to be done.

Remember, just because you donated once does not mean you are done — as I said, this work is continuous, set up monthly donations, continue to contribute to these movements, do not stop just because you made a one-time donation. Though your money is helpful, remember these organizations are not funded like the police force is.

Do. The. Work. Yourself.

Stop asking your Black friends to educate you, stop asking your Black influencers to educate you. Stop it — Google is free, you guys, you have every single resource at your fingertips and you need to use those resources. Black people are tired, and it is not their job to educate you on subjects that you should have been educated on a long, long time ago.

Asking Black people to educate you right now is white privilege, it is taking up even more space that is not for you. It is asking Black people to use their limited free time to spend their time on you, and if you cannot see why that is wrong, you need a huge wake-up call.

Because I am not Black, and because I have a background in sociology and women’s studies, I have come up with a handy reading list to help you educate yourself, as well as this list of Black-owned bookstores to order from.

  • ‘Revolutionary Suicide’ by Huey P. Newton
  • ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race’ by Reni Eddo-Lodge
  • ‘Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice’ by Paul Kivel
  • ‘Call Them by Their True Names: American Crises’ by Rebecca Solnit
  • ‘How to Be an Antiracist’ by Ibram X. Kendi
  • ‘Raising White Kids’ by Jennifer Harvey
  • ‘So You Want to Talk About Race’ by Ijeoma Oluo
  • ‘They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, And A New Era In America’s Racial Justice Movement’ by Wesley Lowery
  • ‘The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness’ by Michelle Alexander

These nine books are a great start to help educate you.

Remember, also consume Black literature that is happy, because Black people don’t just write about politics and racial injustice, there are tons of amazing books by Black authors that are happy and fun. Support Black authors all the time, not just right now.

If you go to protests, be present | do not co-opt this movement.

You are white and you can weaponize that privilege; if you are at a protest please put away your phone and be present. Put your body between cops and Black and brown bodies because cops are far less likely to brutalize and murder you. Nobody needs to see that you were there, you being there is action in itself, but while you are there make sure to be putting yourself into spaces where you are needed.

White progressives, stop co-opting this movement — it is not for you. You are at these protests in solidarity. If your voice is louder than the voices you are supposed to be amplifying, you are doing it wrong. I was at a protest last Sunday and I could not believe that I actually had to tell people to be quiet while Black leaders were making speeches. This kind of behavior is unacceptable.

Listen more than you speak. Please read this article on how to be a good white ally at a protest. It is so important to do this work before you get out there! Remember, not all chants are for you, not all symbols are for you — you are there as an ally, so be a good one and listen to the Black voices around you.

Stop telling Black people how to protest.

This is going to be a short one: just stop. Nobody needs your opinion on how to protest or your opinion on why looting is wrong; you need to stop telling Black people how to think, feel, and act. Again, listen more than you speak, your opinion on these matters is not needed and it is unwanted. There is a long history of why protests and riots work and again, you need to educate yourself and do this work for yourself so that you can understand why this is happening right now.

Educate your family, friends, and children.

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It is never too early to educate your children about race, this needs to happen early on. You need to be able to educate your family and racist friends, this may be hard because having difficult conversations is difficult within itself, but it needs to be done. Right now, the more educated white people are the better things will become. We need more white people to speak up and show up, and by educating your white friends, family, and children you are doing this movement a huge service.

Before posting and attending marches and protest be sure to do the work for yourselves and your peers, remember that activism is not supposed to be performative. We do not need more armchair activists in these movements. These movements are not new, this has been a long time coming. Remember to send letters and emails, sign petitions, call your local officials, and demand to defund the police. We need white people to stand with us, but we do not need you to take up space so that you can look good.

Trust me, we see you and we know who has been standing with us long before George Floyd was murdered. We want you to be part of this movement, really to be part of this movement, not just doing it “for the gram”.

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digital nomad | queer, Jewish, she/they | ☕️ | degrees in sociology and women’s studies

Bend, OR
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