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We need more than your #blackouttuesday posts

| Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Social media has played a pivotal role in demanding attention from the general public; however, it has often failed in empowering users to be activists beyond their existence on the internet. Recent examples that come to mind are the Australian fires, Sudan crisis and calls for net neutrality. After a couple weeks, the interest and passion in advocating for these respective causes waned. Today, the majority of the social media advocates who retweeted, reposted and wrote on these matters would not be able to relay an update on the recovery efforts of Australia, the outstanding crisis that Sudan continues to face and ongoing court battles for net neutrality. 

I am not entirely discounting social media activism. The drawback of it, however, is that once people interact with material pertaining to activism, they think they have done their part. 

The reality is that they have not. 

True allyship is first realizing this bit of history we are living in should not be clipped to fit into a standard 1080px by 1920px image you call an Instagram story. This struggle is not a widget of a post tasking us to “tag those who won’t break the BLM chain.” Our struggle is not an opportunity for you to garner social currency amongst your followers. It is not for retweets or likes; our movement is for REAL systemic change. 

With that being said, I implore you to share YOUR feelings, thoughts and standing on the ongoing struggle. There is a tremendous difference between you being honest and candid about how you feel, versus, merely regurgitating the thoughts of another. One feels authentic; the other could be too, but often fails to resonate with those who need to hear your thoughts the most. 

I also call upon you to avoid ignorant sympathy. This movement is not seeking your blind validation but rather your engaged involvement. There are myriad of resources a Google search away for you to consume and educate yourself. Knowledge is power and with power comes the ability to take actionable steps to change this system.

To change a system, I believe you first have to change the people. The unfortunate reality is that the purveyor of systemic racism is the individual who fails to recognize their willful racism, microaggressions and privilege. 

Change those individuals is to be active allies by forcing tough conversations to happen — call racism out and intensify the pressure for change. Use your power to protect and empower black people, not tear them down. Listen to our experiences: from when we first encountered unfair policing to the isolation we may feel in predominantly white institutions. Own up to your mistakes and shortcomings. The sad truth is that you have probably been racist at some point in your life — learn from that. If you can, march with us; if not, donate your time or money to the cause. 

This is real life, so you will not always get applause for your actions. There are no retweets, no likes and no share buttons. Your actions will likely not go viral or even beyond the environment you are in, but small actions make a big difference. If you are tired from advocating for black lives for the past week, lift your head up — there is more work to be done. The media buzz will fade soon, but your allyship should last until these systems change. 

I do not want my life to be another social media trend; more importantly, I do not want my life taken from me just because of my skin color. Talk to me, pray for me, and fight for me. Do not forget about me. 

Allan Njomo


June 2

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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