I came across a tweet posted the other day that said, “My daughter is 8. I’ll explain to her about George Floyd. When my son was 6, I was explaining Trayvon Martin.
When I was 12, my mom was explaining Rodney King. When she was 6, her mom was explaining Emmitt Till. It’s tiring being black in America.” The violent loss of innocent black lives throughout history has repeatedly sparked an uprising within black Americans and allies. These uprisings typically equate to black people staging peaceful protests and experiencing the impacts of tear gas and rubber bullets being used by police in retaliation. The death of George Floyd has, indeed, sparked another uprising in 2020. However, is this activism different from what we have seen? Is there a newfound determination in receiving substantial justice in today’s racial climate? Or are we fighting the same exact fight of black people dying and nothing actually being done about it?
happens with such regularity, it has become normalized. Black trauma has become normalized. In truth once broadcast, the content is quick to be forgotten about or ignored. Does the intense sensationalizing media coverage and the ongoing documentation of police brutality cause activism of 2020 to be harsher (more empowered?) than it has been throughout history?
Personally, I do not think this to be true. If you look at how activism was defined during the civil rights movement, the conditions activists found themselves in were far harsher. Racism was more magnified, fewer white people were seen as allies, black people were blatantly denied certain rights that others had. There were few partners committed to documenting the unlawful actions of police and none that hoped to express the perspective of those that were being victimized. However, this is not to downplay the recent activism we have seen. I think that this fight for change has been the biggest since the tragic killing of Trayvon Martin. Also, I think that all of the deaths following Martin’s were blown up in the media, but immediately forgotten about weeks later. The digital era that we are in has a way of doing that. In recent weeks, however, media partners, bystanders, community members, white activists, and celebrities alike have committed to actively fighting for social justice, changing the usual pattern of trending hot topics which lose momentum as the media shifts to the next story.
In addition, we also see a rise of performative activism. According to NYU News, “Performative activism is a pejorative term referring to activism done to increase one’s social capital rather than because of one’s devotion to a cause.” Of course, people have taken to social media to express their outrage and concern. Among these people are those that simply post something related to Black Lives Matter, and then go silent. This is performative activism—engaging in the movement in the most minute way simply to uphold your image and show others that you can go along with the trend. This act is just as bad as being on the side of the oppressor.
To answer the question introduced in the beginning, I think there is a new fire behind activism in 2020. Though the issues of 2020 have exposed negative aspects of the media’s involvement in racial injustice, I think the current state proves that there is still hope for continued change. Since the death of George Floyd on May 25th, the conversation has been amplified and continuous. America has woken up. Going forward, we must ensure that the arguments fueling this fight are not silenced. We must ensure authentic, not performative activism. We must continue to educate others and hold each other accountable. By doing this, we make real the goals of the activism of our parents and grandparents.
Written By Maia Wells
I am 19 years old, born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida. I am a recent graduate with my Associates in Arts degree, then pursue a journalism degree at a four year university. Writing is my first love, but I also have a deep adoration for the arts. One day, I hope to own my own news network surrounding music and culture in communities of color.