Performative activism rises in light of BLM movement


Justin Higuchi // licensed under CC BY 2.0

Influencer and singer Madison Beer (shown here in 2019) was accused of engaging in performative activism through a photoshoot she had at a Black Lives Matter protest.

Activism is on the rise as people protest against racial inequality and police brutality. Some  however, have used the situations to gain more of a following and convey a socially ‘woke’ persona. After the Black Lives Matter movement regained momentum after the George Floyd protests, the concept of performative activism was brought to  attention once again.

Earlier this summer, it was essentially impossible to ignore the topic of the BLM movement. Everyone was talking and posting about it, and it stirred up plenty of controversy. Recently, while people are still fighting for justice and continuously keep the movement alive, others haven’t been talking or posting about it and the trends have died down. This is because the people who weren’t really about the cause have stopped participating in the movement.

The BLM movement was established to put an end to police brutality and racism against black Americans. There are protests, petitions and donations people can participate in to contribute to making a change. Instead, some people post simple quotes and call it a day. 

Back on June 2, “Blackout Tuesday” was an event where social media users posted a black screen and captioned it with #blackouttuesday. This trend was meant to pause typical content and protest against racism and police brutality. While it was created to raise awareness of the BLM movement, others believed that it didn’t achieve anything of substance, instead many participated in order to boost their social capital. 

The Black Lives Matter hashtag used to be filled with important information and petitions to help others educate themselves on the topic. However, after the #blackouttuesday started, the page was flooded with black screens, because people started to use #blacklivesmatter instead of #blackouttuesday. This prevented people from finding the necessary information to help the cause. Celebrities such as Lil Nas X expressed how they weren’t in favor of the trend on Twitter.

“This is not helping us,” Lil Nas X tweeted. “[People] need to see what’s going on.” He explained how instead of posting black pictures, it would be more effective to post links to charities and petitions. 

Other celebrities have been accused of taking part in performative activism. Madison Beer, an American singer and influencer, has been accused of doing so as she went to protests, yet treated them as photoshoots. She posted a picture on Instagram of her holding up a sign at a protest while standing on top of a car. She received backlash, but she denies just doing it for social media. 

Criticism has also been directed towards Kylie and Kendall Jenner, who are celebrities with extremely large platforms. Instead of using this as a chance to speak up about the topic, they reposted a useless screenshot of someone else’s  Instagram story, and tagged ten of their friends. This chain contained no information or links, which doesn’t do anything for the cause. Celebrities repost chains and quotes only to make themselves look better.

“It amazes me how far people will go for likes and views,” sophomore Madison Byrne said,  “It’s a serious thing, you know? You don’t even have to get up and physically attend a protest, just sign a petition or donate or something, or even educate yourself on the topics.”

Byrne recalls how a classmate made an Instagram post about supporting the BLM movement. However, after discussing the topic with the classmate, it turned out that they didn’t seem to know anything.

“They didn’t really know what was going on,” Byrne said, “It was kind of aggravating because like, why post about something you don’t even know about? I just wish people would at least pay attention so they can really understand what it’s all about. It’s not about likes and retweets, it’s about making a change.”

Performative activism is ineffective and overall disrespectful. Instead of treating these causes as a trend, people should sign petitions, donate to organizations, attend protests, and educate themselves and others about what is going on around them.