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Meaningful activism is more than simply posting on social media.

After George Floyd died, people hurried to social media to speak out about the systemic, racist injustices hidden and protected by society. Graphics, statistics and articles began to circulate, spreading resources and information for those looking to become more educated on the Black Lives Matter movement. Reposting these resources is one thing, taking the action to do research, stay informed and actively help is another.

Performative activism is when one advocates to better their “image” rather than taking the action because they genuinely want to. It comes from the desire to be perceived as “good” or “woke” so one can fit in with the movement and uphold status, when really, being an ally isn’t a label. It’s an action. 

One can post illustrations they deem helpful, but what do these small actions do if they don’t help on a larger scale? Using social media platforms to spread educational resources, petitions and fundraiser links does more compared to posting a black screen with a few hashtags. What someone does actively beyond the phone screen speaks louder than retweeting and sharing. Taking the time to put social media down and learn about what’s going on allows everyone to have productive and progressive conversations. 

Keeping informed is essential for societal change because everyone can begin to hold each other accountable. By staying educated, one will have the knowledge and ability to properly speak up and call out someone posting inaccurate or harmful information. Individual, problematic habits that surround society will be easier to recognize, and recognizing them is the first step to diminishing them altogether. It’s one’s personal choice as to whether they’ll scroll by the resources being shared or use them to learn and reflect. 

Reflection is a key aspect to understanding injustices, especially if one is white. Take the time to understand white privilege and how it impacts life in ways one may have never considered. 

Reflect on times where one engaged in racist behavior and recognize they were wrong. Realize the mistake and feel how deeply that action hurt someone else. Understand there’s a history of tendencies society has made acceptable. That way, unlearning them becomes a progressive task that makes society one step closer to eliminating them for good. 

Advocacy isn’t supposed to feel as easy as posting a picture on Instagram. It’s not about keeping peace, staying neutral and speaking up because everyone else is. It’s about pushing for change and exposing oppression the black community has faced for too long. One will be exposed to disheartening injustices that are rarely discussed that should evoke anger and disappointment. Feel angry, sad and frustrated for black people who’ve faced these feelings because of the color of their skin for far too long. 

These aren’t actions to only take now because of what happened to Floyd. Looking for ways to fight systemic racism must persist, strongly and assertively. To guarantee change, everyone must continue to actively support the Black Lives Matter movement. It can’t die down like popular trends do, because fighting for human rights isn’t a social media trend. 

Joanna Sommer is a junior media arts and design major. Contact her at sommerjj@dukes.jmu.edu.