Performative is a recurring buzzword in times of public indignation and mass protests. We live in a world where impunity exists and not everyone has equal power to demand justice. Because of this, political involvement shouldn’t end with merely agreeing with the marginalized. Solidarity must translate into action. But when can we say that our actions are not just surface-level and are making an impact? Am I the bad guy when someone says I’m not doing enough?
This past week, a number of people posted a black tile for #BlackOutTuesday and the response of Black Lives Matter protestors to this wasn’t positive. And while it isn’t bad to show that you care, it registers as disingenuous and an act of privilege to call it a day after posting an ultimately blank statement on social media when the fight is always pressing and far from over.
Author of “Me & White Supremacy” Layla Saad said in an interview with Jezebel, “People feel like if I share this Instagram post or Twitter thread, that is me doing anti-racism work. Anti-racism work is taking a deep dive, really uncovering how you perpetuate white supremacy and creating change from within. Posts can be helpful because people can learn about things they may not be aware of but people can get really self-satisfied from that place.” This can apply to any protest campaign.
Political consciousness involves constant self-evaluation. While there have been a number of victories throughout history, protests aren’t rooted in isolated cases but long-standing, systemic issues such as police brutality. How do we gauge if we’re doing our part?
Take a deep dive
Let’s take the Anti-Terror Bill as an example. A deep dive for the campaign to veto this isn’t just reading the bill and listing which parts could be abused to curtail our freedom. It isn’t simply an issue of constitutionality. A deep dive would involve learning about the history of state-funded violence against government critics. A deep dive would mean learning about the importance of dissent in a democracy and listening to the stories of victims of inequality. A deep dive means studying what it takes to solve problems of injustice.
There are several videos on the internet of people going to the Black Lives Matter protests just to take a photo of themselves or to get that shot for the next photography contest they’ll be joining.
Making the protest about ourselves isn’t just using it to increase our own social capital but putting ourselves at the center of its narrative. This could mean focusing too much on your redemption arc or making posts connected to it to boost support for your personal work. We’re all figuring out how to normalize being political. We can make this happen if we all make an effort to include each other in our personal dreams and start expecting nothing in return for helping others out.
Disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed
Fear is something that holds back a lot of people from doing more. We’re afraid of conflict. We’re afraid that speaking out would mean we’ll lose followers, friends, jobs and homes. But what does it say about our lives when it is threatened by actions in favor of helping others? What does it say about how we choose to live when comfort means being complicit through silence? When did the price of comforting others become so high?
Whether we join protests or not, we’re already living in fear. If you’re getting more people to realize this, you’re probably on the right path. Contribute to bail funds and donation drives if you can. Sign petitions. Join street demonstrations. Get others to do so too. Let’s learn more about the why’s and how’s of fighting for change together.