Performative activism does not create change; here are actions that will


Shikha Patel and Shruti Patel via @doublethechai

On May 25, George Floyd was put under arrest for suspected forgery. Protests began after a video was released that displayed the unjustified murder of Floyd after a cop restrained him with a fatal chokehold.

Maya Amador, Dispatch Reporter

Six years ago, Eric Garner was murdered by a New York Police Department (NYPD) officer who secured him in a chokehold while arresting him, after it was suspected that Garner was selling untaxed cigarettes. Garner’s last words were the now infamous, “I can’t breathe”. Protests across the country began, with protestors chanting “Black Lives Matter” and pleading with government officials to finally put an end to police brutality. 

The recent killing of George Floyd on May 25, which was similar to the killing of Garner, caused a resurgence of protests around the country in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Although many activists have participated in the protests, others are not able to participate in the events due to the Covid-19 pandemic impacting the United States. Therefore, some activists have found themselves practicing performative activism. Performative activism is described by Wikipedia as, “a pejorative term referring to activism done to increase one’s social capital rather than because of one’s devotion to a cause.” 

Performative activism has been making waves across social media which is causing Black Lives Matter to look like a trend rather than a civil rights movement. Black people and allies of the movement have stated time and time again that one’s words mean nothing if they are not matched with action. 

Black people have and continue to suffer through 400 years of ongoing oppression with the majority of Americans publicly admitting that they matter as human beings; however, most “activists” only go as far as to post a black square on Instagram. 

Without African-Americans, our country would not be where it is today, yet we give them nothing in return, not even the decency of equality- just empty promises. 

Blackout Tuesday is one of the most popular forms of performative activism to take place recently. The event took place on Tuesday, June 2, 2020 on Instagram. The goal was to post a picture of a black square with the hashtag “#blackoutuesday” and stay off social media for a day to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. 

However, the project was a mess from the start. While it had nice intentions, it did nothing to help the progression of the movement itself and because of the simple concept, #blackouttuesday quickly developed into a trend with millions of black squares flooding people’s timelines and drowning out black voices. 

The black squares failed to spread informative messages or updates and distracted from real Black Lives Matter resources on Instagram.

Black people have spent decades trying to educate white people on the systemic racism they experience every day, and it is time we finally listen and create change. 

If you have a platform, use it to tell your audience what, where, and how much you are donating, if this is an action you are able to take. In addition, use your platform to raise money for education, bail funds, and countless other organizations instead of participating in performative activism. A good place to start is by reading resources that explain how one can best be an ally

It is no longer good enough to not be racist, for we need to be actively speaking out against the racism we see.


In the following weeks of the death of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter movement has gained prominence across the nation. Activists who wish to support the movement are encouraged to donate to certified organizations, participate in protests, or take part in political advocacy. (Photo by: Shikha Patel and Shruti Patel via @doublethechai)