Columns, Opinion

Let Your Hair Down: The fight for racial justice is a commitment

With former President Donald Trump finally moving out of the spotlight, the United States awaits necessary and highly anticipated changes.

Hannah Bohn

In many ways, the results of the 2020 presidential election ushered a new wave of hope in the country. It’s been a restless battle to bring racial injustice to the public’s attention, and President Joe Biden’s transition into office marks a win in our fight toward equality.

However, having Trump out of office does not at all mean we can slowly reshape flawed institutions. If we want to see significant structural and cultural change, we cannot treat the fight for racial justice as a phase.

Racism is not going anywhere and neither should our fight against it.

The U.S. experienced an intense, long-overdue awakening to the horrific realities of racism in 2020, and the Black Lives Matter movement quickly expanded into a major force of change on a global scale.

Americans are no longer content with piecemeal solutions and the same old system in which problems are so deeply embedded. Instead, people want to dismantle these structures that perpetuate oppression.

Alexia Nizhny/DFP STAFF

People now turn in desperation to the Biden-Harris Administration to carry out these anti-racist policy changes. Some of the expectations include desegregation, reducing incarceration, reforming police departments and abolishing the death penalty.

Young Americans in particular hope this new administration creates a more equitable health care system and bridges the racial wealth gap.

Unfortunately, some of those young, white Americans believe they can do their part by simply posting on social media and keeping up with social justice trends online.

The collective urge to unite against racism has fallen by the wayside and people are let off the hook for lazy, performative activism. 

Performative activism is the new Band-Aid for white fragility.

With life inching closer and closer to normalcy, the focus has shifted away from BLM and social justice. Now, everyone and their social media posts center the discussion on Biden’s victory and the latest updates for the new COVID-19 vaccine.

Many people on social media platforms still post about the movement, but their actual commitment to creating change is not what it needs to be.

The decline in support for anti-racist causes is most prominent among white adults, whose support went from 60 to 45 percent in the span of three months, according to a 2020 Pew Research Center study.

Although online platforms can aid in spreading awareness and exposing acts of police brutality, there is another side to the digital sphere. Activism on social media can be twisted for self-serving purposes — people, including influencers, will post about the movement solely to gain likes or avoid being ostracised by peers.

It is especially important to be aware of this “slacktivist” behavior because it allows people to feel as if they are doing enough while doing nothing at all. When this attitude and trend are normalized, others on social media stop paying attention and taking action to the cause.

This performative activism also provides a platform for white people to alleviate their guilt and remain oblivious to the harsh reality of the long-standing racism and inequality that still exists across every aspect of society.

Caring about racial injustice is not something you can opt in and out of — or worse, capitalize off of as some trend.

It is not enough for white people to not be racist. They have to commit themselves to anti-racism. This tonal shift is pivotal in laying the groundwork for equality.

With a new president leading the country, the conversation about racism should only continue and expand, and our dedication to racial equality needs to be stronger than ever.

One Comment

  1. Hannah Bohn,
    You correctly point out that there was a great rush of people genuflecting before the altars of fire wrought by the BLM movement in the hopes of relieving some of their guilt of White privilege. They were useful pawns for the summer but the elites aren’t really looking for Honda or BMW driving, Lululemon clad soccer moms. Forgetting for a moment that us 99% are being hoodwinked, I have to disagree that for us White folk, it is enough to not be racist. Good living and treating others properly models decent behavior. I don’t need to be anti anything to live with self respect and dignity. And certainly, your virtue signaling that that is not the case only suggests to me that you would do well to pause, peel back the onion a bit, and see that not everyone needs to answer the call to be a social justice warrior.
    Keith Schroeder
    COM 88