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Dear Social Media Activists | Op-Ed

Dear Social Media Activists, 

You are the cause of a lot of the frustration and angst that Black folks are feeling right now.

By posting 5 times a day for 5 days straight on your Instagram story about the same topic. The topic that does not in actuality and truthfulness regard you. The topic that seems to have been watered down or appropriated for your convenience. The topic that has become a social media trend for you

Am I a Trend? 

This is not to say you are not genuine but that social media itself is a performative tool. We all know that Instagram, of all social media platforms, is used and designed to present ourselves to the world in the particular way that we wish to be perceived – and gain gratification through likes/comments on our images. 

Although the intentions may be good behind your social media activism, it becomes evident to folks like me that, like many things on social media, this is a phase. You post about white privilege but what does that mean in terms of creating a fundamental solution to police brutality/racial profiling/unjust incarceration and the multiple other layers related to surviving as a Black person in North America? 

The over-saturation of posts associating themselves with the Black Lives Matter initiative would be alarming to anyone searching for validity in this movement at this time. Think of it this way, a week ago few people were posting such strong statements regarding Black lives and all of a sudden everyone and their mildly racist high school friends are posting about white privilege on their Instagram story. How is a black person supposed to interpret that? THAT, in and of itself, is overwhelming. 

It is not because you’re using your phone to express it, it’s because of the way you’re using your phone to express it. 

Is my Blackness a Trend To You?

With the increasing amount of individuals posting pretty pictures of George Floyd on their story and pretty pink simplistic descriptions of white privilege, it is getting harder and harder to see the message that Black folks in Minneapolis began with. Being fed-up with the cover-ups and trying to face the issue head-on, thus resulting in the uprising in the rest of the nation and private investigation into George Floyd’s murder.

The oversimplification of social issues is not fair. How is it that Black folks live their lives having to navigate the complex boundaries, discrete racism, overt racism, and systemic barriers put up against them and yet their experiences and knowledge need to be dumbed down for the palatability of others.

Simply taking part in a social media trend and not actually understanding what it stands for or what your “action” does not accomplish is the problem. It makes me feel as though you don’t actually care about Black lives.

In a week’s time or in a month’s time, will your post about Black lives still be on your page? Or will it mess up your aesthetic? Will we have this much energy when it comes to the next protest for Indigenous folks?

Do you mock me?

The mass spreading of these pictures, although beautiful and an honest effort on behalf of the artist, is not a statement and is partly offensive. Will this pretty post reach the police officer’s feed and somehow give them a change of heart? There is an issue with hopping on a bandwagon and not knowing or keeping the focus on the truth of the issue.

It gives off the impression that one is actually only posting to make themselves feel better or to show to others that are “informed”, “better”, or “woke.”

Sometimes, saying nothing is better than saying something. For example, highlighting the voices of African-Americans and what they are fighting for would be a good place to start instead of your interpretation of the fight. 

I understand that under the restrictions and uncertainty of COVID you have lost a sense of your power, felt hopeless, and have found yourself spending more time on social media than ever before. But imagine how we’ve felt, hopeless and powerless for years – not months. And we know that a post or two won’t make a difference in the struggle we have faced and continue to face.  

Specifically, for us Black folks with parents, grandparents, and great grandparents as immigrants. We simply know that revolutions, protests, and putting one’s life on the line are necessary for change in oppressive states. You are preaching to the wrong choir. 

So-Called Ally? 

You stand with us, hear us, love us… what does that mean?

Were you standing against us before? If you weren’t listening to us before, what were you listening to? Eric Garner said he couldn’t breathe 6 years ago, did you not hear that? 

What we hear is that you don’t really hear Black folks in the United States but you see the impact they can actually have on your livelihood. It is like every time you post, you are diluting the issue and shifting the focus from the fact that it took hundreds of years to build this oppressive system and it will take a lot of work and time to rebuild a nation. 

It does not end after the riots end. Keep this energy to properly educate your children one day. 

Now What? 

  • Donate, people need those funds.
  • Sign petitions, people need that support.
  • Do some reflection (without the need to express it on social media), it will help you understand how to take action without asking your black friend and exhausting them with that burden.
  • Most importantly, it’s time to bring back up the discussion and importance of voting. All of this performative energy better be around next election and the next time Indigenous folk fight for their livelihood.

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