Last year, racial injustice rightfully became a talking point on all news channels and in homes. Some of us were discovering the depth of these disparities for the first time. By some of us, I mean most white people. People of color have known about and experienced the innumerable atrocities committed against minorities since the beginning of time. I had the privilege of getting a serious grasp on it last year. I was appalled that my public school had failed me and my waspy town sheltered me, and I needed to stop the cycle. I was a healthcare worker in COVID units and didn’t want to expose those brave enough to protest, so I took to social media. In between my incessant posts about the ever-evolving information on the pandemic, I was posting facts and figures about the racial injustices in our country (and the world), specifically regarding police brutality. I saw that both issues were being made worse by a lack of communication and education. And while that is true, and while the pandemic personally and deeply affected the lives of millions, the topic of racial injustice did not need my infographics on how racism is bad or leaked body cam videos to make a positive impact.
I’m gay, so although I will never understand the complexities of being a minority in America, I do know how it feels to be targeted. When I see viral videos like “Lesbian Couple Beaten Up On Bus” or “Karen Screams At Gay Couple On The Street For Kissing In Front Of Her Kids,” I can’t watch it. It’s physically painful. I see the pain in their eyes, and I know it could be mine at any moment. I was doing the same exact thing to people of color. While it is important to personalize these events to make them real for people, shock isn’t always the way to go. I could have shared posts about how their family wanted them to be remembered. I could have shared the phone numbers of the police stations who committed these murders. I could have shared the link for organizations I was donating to. I didn’t have to exploit someone’s death in order to make a point.
Additionally, I feel like white people turned social media into a competition for who was the “best” white person. Who was the first to post about the most recent casualty at the hands of the police? Who was at the rallies and had the most powerful cardboard sign? Whose black square had the most impassioned caption? We have to ask ourselves, what was the intention behind our posts? What is to educate white people or to eradicate ourselves of our white guilt? Was I trying to take a stand against racist white people or just stand as far away from racist white people as I could?
Most importantly, the world does not need my opinion on everything, especially when my opinion is an enthusiastic “this is really bad!”. I can think that in my head, for sure. And I should. And I do. But me posting a statistic on racial inequality and being like “this needs to stop now” is kind of like, fucking duh! Thanks for inundating the already flooded market of lukewarm takes on racism! I needed to talk, but much more than that, I needed to shut the fuck up and listen. It keeps coming back to “am I adding to the conversation or am I adding to the noise?”.
Listen fellow Beckys, our hearts might have been in the right place. You might feel stuck between “posting infographics does nothing” and “silence is violence.” Selfishly, I’m concerned that by changing my course of action and posting less that it comes off that I was just riding the wave of racial justice until it was no longer cool. But protecting my image is not the goal here. It’s to make a difference. An actual one. So how do we do that? Post with intention and action. Instead of a horrifying video of a Black man being shot by the police, share the GoFundMe for his family. Or better yet, to try to prevent that from happening in the first place, support organizations whose mission is to stop police brutality either by donating or sharing, or both! You don’t have to prove to social media, or anyone for that matter, that you are a good person, but it is our responsibility to make the world a better place for people of color after spending our whole lives benefiting from our privilege.
Don’t stop at social media, though. Stop appropriating cultures and start working on your internal biases that make cultural appropriation an issue in the first place. Call out your white friends and family members when they say something racist, no matter how “uncomfortable” you think Thanksgiving will be. I think white people are afraid to say something because they don’t want to cause a stir. But correcting someone who is being racist is not as rude as being racist! Hello?! It goes without saying that standing idly by when you’re in the presence of racism goes against everything you claim to stand for online. By not taking it into the real world, your post is merely a performance.
Now that I have had time to learn, react, and then react to my reaction, I am going to do things a little differently. I am going to give resources to help rather than reasons to care. I am going to put my money where my mouth is in any way that I can. I am going to let my ignorant family members and indifferent friends hear it, no matter who is around to witness. Will you join me?