How Performative Activism Harms the Black Community

By Jupiter Polevoi

On June 2nd, 2020, I opened Instagram and scrolled through a feed of what seemed like hundreds of black squares. #BlackOutTuesday, was a “movement” where people posted a black square on their social media feed to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Although this doesn’t seem like an ill-intended action, the artificial act  gave off the impression that posting a black square was enough to combat the racism and police brutality the Black community has been facing. Many people never spoke out after that, or even worse, companies would try marketing their products with the hashtags pertaining to the BLM movement or celebrities who have made racist comments in the past were caught posting these squares too. 

Performative activism, in short, is basically “activism” that’s used to increase one’s popularity rather than one’s passion or dedication to the cause. This is extremely harmful because these forms of “activism” can come off as offensive when you post one thing on social media and never speak on or contribute to the cause ever again. 

Another harmful aspect of performative activism is outright misinformation. Many artsy social media accounts will make aesthetic infographics with horrendously incorrect information. People with feeds that match the aesthetic of the infographic will be drawn to post it because 1) it matches the rest of their page and 2) it’s showing they care, right? Wrong. Once their friends and followers see the post, it then spreads like a wildfire. Tons of misinformation gets spread around social media but if it’s presented in a cute way it has to be accurate, obviously. 

There are so many other ways to help, ways that won’t potentially misinform hundreds of people and unintentionally harm the community. There are plenty of petitions, donation sites, and even Black-owned small businesses that you can buy from! And if you really want to post about the matter, do your research first. A quick google search can tell you whether or not something really happened, and if you’re not sure about it, don’t post it! It’s really that simple. 

San Jose Black-owned restaurants: 

60+ Black-owned businesses (mostly online links!):