The thoughts, views, and opinions in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts, views, and opinions of the When in Manila community as a whole.
The tragic death of George Floyd triggered numerous protests in the United States and around the world. The movement, Black Lives Matter, aims to dismantle systemic racism and call out the police brutality Black people experience. When the protests started happening, many celebrities have shown their support for the movement, be it on social media or actually protesting out in the streets.
However, one thing that I question about this is how some people tend to overpraise non-Black celebrities for supporting the movement.
This is not to invalidate any of these celebrities’ support on the movement. It’s honestly amazing to see them support a cause like this given their platform. However, I think the way people tend to give them a little bit too much praise for doing the bare minimum is where the problem lies.
As a Harry Styles fan for many years now, it was validating to see how he supported the movement by going out and protesting (as this thread by someone who went to the protest said). But when I saw pictures of him out protesting, a part of me didn’t want to praise him for doing so. I feel like it was a bit disrespectful to the Black community to immediately over-praise him, a white artist, when Black people have been fighting for their rights for decades.
john boyega doesn’t know if he’ll have a career after this while white celebrities are praised for posting a black square and police propaganda pic.twitter.com/LWmrWzytnP
— kiersten ? (@HausOfKiersten) June 3, 2020
This raises eyebrows when compared to John Boyega’s protest speech when he said, “I don’t know if I’m going to have a career after this.” There is a hint of worry in these Black celebrities’ voices when they air out their sentiments. I saw one Twitter user specifically point out this double standard. It seems as if there’s a threat to these Black celebrities’ careers, but white celebrities who are vocal about the movement don’t fear the same.
Though I understand these non-Black celebrities aren’t giving out speeches like Boyega’s and that there is indeed danger they might have to face when they go out and protest, a Black person’s fear for their career when fighting for their rights shouldn’t be there in the first place.
stop praising the whites for doing the bare minimum and doing copropaganda when john boyega is right here, no one should have to worry about losing their career when they are fighting for their rights pic.twitter.com/1NYrqg70cp
— romi (@tchalafilm) June 3, 2020
Moreover, isn’t the point of Black Lives Matter to amplify Black people’s voices?
When #BlackOutTuesday started popping out on Instagram, I saw some Black people tweet their disdain of celebrities and influencers posting a black square on their Instagram feed. Though the intent of raising awareness is there, it was somehow problematic because of how “trend-like” it seemed. The initial issue, too, was that the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag on Instagram became flooded with black squares, making access to important information more difficult.
This poses the question: what was the point of posting a black square in the first place? #BlackOutTuesday was curated to give way to Black people’s voices during the movement. It was a day dedicated to posting useful information about the movement. This means no personal posts, no promotions, and no ads of any kind. What happened though is that instead of sharing useful information about the movement, some only posted a black square with the hashtag. This made it problematic because it removed the very purpose of #BlackOutTuesday to begin with.
do y’all see the problem??? 22 million posts but less than 12 million signatures pic.twitter.com/nACXRkxzVl
— molly (@angeIsring) June 2, 2020
However, there’s barely an amount of amplifying made when somehow, the focus was put on the trend itself. It low-key transformed into a contest of “who posted a black square and who didn’t.” I also think a bit questionable when the number of #BlackOutTuesday posts on Instagram is less than the number of signatures for the “Justice for George Floyd” petition.
While I agree it is difficult to draw the line on voicing out opinions online (especially when you’re overwhelmed and angry), it’s important to keep in mind that this is a movement for the Black community. It’s not to feed someone’s ego and to feel good about oneself after posting an essay about why Black Lives Matter. It’s to continuously stay pressed and angry as long as racism exists and Black people are oppressed.
One way non-Black celebrities are tackling this “problem” right now is by handing over their Instagram accounts to Black people. This puts the spotlight on Black people who have done important work to fight systemic racism and promote equality. I believe this a more efficient way for non-Black celebrities to help amplify the Black community’s voice. It gives them a bigger platform and therefore a bigger reach. It helps in shifting the focus to the ones who really need it.
Overall, I believe what I’m trying to convey here is that it’s important to always remember to listen to the Black community when speaking out on this movement. As a non-Black person, it’s not our place to impose what they feel about the issue. Instead, we should listen to the things that they believe are a priority and then voice it out.
— Zendaya (@Zendaya) June 3, 2020
The same goes for when a non-Black celebrity or influencer shows support on the movement. When a celebrity’s fame drowns out the voice of the Black community, it’s time to maybe take a step back and be critical of it. While our initial instinct may be to praise them for showing their support, their support is the bare minimum.
Ultimately, the difficult conversations, the continuous education of oneself, and the way we are consciously being anti-racist are what will benefit the Black Lives Matter movement. And remember, Black Lives Matter even when it’s not “trending” anymore.
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