Put Your Money Where Your Posts Are: Performance Activism

To make things very clear, you don’t actually have to put your money where your posts are. There are many ways to be a meaningful ally or activist without needing to donate money. This is just an expression similar to “put your money where your mouth is”. This phrase typically means that people need to prove their intentions are genuine through their actions, not just empty infographics and black squares on Instagram.

Think back to the summer of 2020, discussions about police brutality and police abolition had finally made their way into mainstream media and conversations. To be clear, many Black folks have been murdered at the hands of systemic racism prior to the summer of 2020 but the murder of George Floyd being captured on camera opened the eyes of a lot previously ignorant folks. His murder on May 25th, 2020 triggered demonstrations and educational campaigns internationally. The trial against his murderer is scheduled to begin in late August of this year.

Not long after the murder of George Floyd, celebrities, influencers, and regular users took to Instagram to post a photo of a black square in participation of “Blackout Tuesday”. The intention was to encourage people to stop posting their regular content and make space for activists and organizers to share resources like reading materials and supply runs for demonstrators. Although likely well-intentioned, it ended with people clogging the Instagram feed with countless black squares. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and more were full of infographics on anti-racism and potential resources and bail funds. Companies created Black Lives Matter campaigns and promised to incorporate diversity initiatives into their hiring and marketing practices.

Let’s fast-forward to February 2021. Breonna Taylor has had a bill passed in her name, but her murderer has not been arrested or charged for her death. The Instagram posts and hashtags have fizzled out. Companies have gone back to their previous marketing techniques geared towards Eurocentric ideals. Kids at the United States border are still in cages. Black trans women are still being killed at disproportionate rates. Indigenous folks are still fighting against environmental racism. All of this is very much still happening, but the support has dwindled significantly.

Did you post an anti-racist infographic on your Instagram story in June 2020 but haven’t read (and I mean actually read) a single thing about anti-racism since? Do you ignore racist microaggressions in your school or workplace because you don’t think it’s worthy to confront? Performative activism was at its height in the summer of 2020.

To be a real and meaningful ally, donate money to Black-led organizations when you are able. Help with supply runs for demonstrators and land defenders. Check those around you (and maybe even cut them off) for their racism. Engage constantly in anti-racist thought and readings. It’s not enough to post a photoset to your Instagram story or snap a photo at a march. Anti-racism is not a trend that you pick up and put down as you please. Put your money where your posts are. 

Note: This article is part of our Winter 2021 Print Edition that focuses on both issues and the good in the current state of the world. Look across campus for a paper copy of this edition!