10 Jun GOING BEYOND REACTIONARY ACTIVISM
For many of us, the past week has been a difficult one. Whether you are just becoming aware of the horrors Black people face every day, or if you have been consistently advocating for the recognition of such issues, watching recent events unfold has undoubtedly had an impact. The appalling murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, Tony McDade, and countless others has led to a flooding of social media posts calling for justice in the face of systemic racism.
These problems are, by no means, new or isolated. Systemic racism has been a pervasive issue, not just within the United States, but throughout the world. It affects every aspect of life for people of colour, especially Black people. From microaggressions to overt actions, there is no escaping oppression among institutions built by a system within which racial hierarchy is so deeply embedded.
As a non-black person of colour, I acknowledge the privilege I hold. As much as I empathize, I will never be able to fully understand the experiences of Black individuals. Instead, I can use my position to actively work against and continuously combat anti-blackness within the circles I am a part of.
A common concern I hear from others is the worry that it is “not my place to speak up.” While it is essential to amplify the voices that this movement is centered around, silence is not the answer. There are many ways to show solidarity that do not overstep, and it is up to you to take initiative and learn how to do so. The argument that you “should not have to post on social media to show support” is more harmful than it is helpful. Social media is an extremely powerful tool that can be used for advocacy. If you are supporting a movement, publicly sharing this can influence more people than you may even recognize. Choosing to be apolitical is a sign of privilege, because marginalized peoples do not have this option in the face of livelihood.
When posting on social media, we must also consider the implications of what we are posting and how they aid the communities we are mobilizing for. Reactionary activism is when an incident occurs, you post something about it, and then continue on without giving it a second thought. Often, these posts contain graphic videos or images of violent attacks against Black people. Being unaffected by this also means that you are in a place of privilege. To be underrepresented in the media to begin with, and then to only see depictions of those that look like you in such horrific situations, can be traumatic. We must all hold ourselves accountable and ensure that our forms of activism are valuable to those we are fighting for.
It should not have to take violence and death for you to care about the lives of people of colour. Your activism should be constant, not just reactionary. Before you repost a video explicitly portraying police brutality, take a moment to think critically about how productively you are helping. As outsiders, it is imperative to be mindful of how our actions affect those within the Black community. Could you educate people about this issue more effectively by posting accessible resources, such as links to support organizations that work to combat such issues?
It can be hard to feel hopeful in a world where these occurrences persist. Yet, change is dependent on the people who push for it. We all have a part to play, especially those who benefit from such systems due to positions of privilege.
While these issues may have only been relevant to you during the past week, they are the lived experiences of the Black community yesterday, today, and tomorrow. When social media dies down and other incidents dominate the news cycle, please do not forget about the people who must suffer through these realities every single day. Commit to undertaking a constant learning process where you actively listen to and advocate for marginalized groups in order to effect change.
Below is a non-exhaustive list of some resources you can start with to educate yourself and those around you, as well as ways to get involved and take action.
– When They See Us (Ava Duvernay – Netflix)
– 13th (Ava Duvernay – Netflix)
– Dear White People (Justin Siemen – Netflix)
– Explained: “Racial Wealth Gap” (Vox Media Studios)
– Coming to Terms With Racism’s Inertia (Rachel Cargle’s TED Talk)
– 1619 (New York Times)
– Code Switch (NPR)
– Pod Save The People (Crooked Media)
– About Race (Panoply)
To Read (also available as audio and e-books if physical copies are sold out!):
– Policing Black Lives (Robyn Maynard)
– The Skin We’re In (Desmond Cole)
– How to Be an Antiracist (Ibram X. Kendi)
– So You Want to Talk About Race (Ijeoma Oluo)
– Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together In The Cafeteria (Beverly Daniel Tatum)
– Between The World And Me (Ta-Nehisi Coates)
– Have Black Lives Ever Mattered? (Mumia Abu-Jalal)
– Black Legal Action Centre (Ontario)
– Black Space Winnipeg
– Nia Centre for the Arts (Toronto)
– The Come Up (Edmonton)
– Hogan’s Alley Society (Vancouver)
– Showing Up For Racial Justice
– Equal Justice Initiative
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