Performative Activism Is the New ‘Color-Blind’ Band-Aid for White Fragility
White people embracing hashtags won’t help us destroy anti-Black racism. Here’s why.
A week ago, thousands of people uploaded a black square onto their social media accounts to observe, mourn, and advocate for policy change in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. Celebrities, sports teams, and large corporations all joined in solidarity. Yet, the movement still missed the mark, and some participants received harsh criticism. Others then accused elements of #BlackoutTuesday of being performative. And in many ways, it was. Performative activism is problematic at best and dangerous at worst. It’s similar to color-blindness in that it’s illusionary and reinforces White supremacy by romanticizing the notion of activism, but in reality this diverts attention from social justice issues to coddle White fragility.
Word of Blackout Tuesday spread like wildfire, and yes, I even drank the Kool-Aid. But my optimism was short-lived after reading posts and tweets from activists who criticized the movement for maintaining White supremacy and made the astute observation that a black box will not eradicate anti-Black racism.
“Y’all really boggle my mind with the performance. Black people write detailed ass books of our pain, organize protests, educate, put our lives on the line to end white supremacy and y’all want to make your profiles Black??? Did MLK JR say this was an effective measure? Y’all love him so much and yet don’t do any of his teachings- just beat Black folks over the head with his quotes when you want to silence us. Well guess what a damn Black screen is also SILENCE and if you aren’t taking a myriad of actions today and everyday — You could give two shits if we live or die,” said femme activist Ericka Hart on Twitter.
“Well guess what[?] a damn Black screen is also SILENCE.”
Several sports franchises were challenged for their hypocrisy in participating in the movement. After the Washington Redskins tweeted its support of Blackout Tuesday, thousands criticized the football team, including U.S. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who responded:
“Want to really stand for…