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  • Juwaria J

BLM - Exposing the "Cloutivists"

In 1814, Francis Scott Key, a prominent lawyer and poet, wrote the words “America the land of the free and the home of the brave.” A century later those words became a part of our national anthem and embedded into the culture of what “America” was. Yet this saying begs the question - who is seen as brave and who is worthy of the freedom that this country has promised to offer?

This past year we have seen the tides turn, people around the world have opened their eyes to the social and racial injustices that have occurred around us and have joined the fight to change our broken systems. We’ve seen people become aware of the power they hold and use it for good. In our own state of Minnesota, we have learned the true meaning of community; what it means to love thy neighbor, and the efforts needed to bring about justice.

Justice cannot be won in a day. Justice takes the effort of everyone around us, it makes the world uncomfortable for those who are not willing to understand oppression, and it forces people to choose sides. 2020 made the choice clear enough - you were either against the killings of black people, or you were for the system that enabled it. So when the protests heightened in the summer, I remember looking around at the people I sat in classrooms, ate lunch, and spent my summers with, wondering what choice they were going to make. I wondered if these people I spent my whole life with were going to see my life as anything but valuable, and that thought was frightening.

Thankfully, I was shocked and pleasantly surprised to see people I know “didn’t do politics” posting about their support for the Black Lives Matter movement and while this solidarity was great to see, it was disappointing. Why did so many black men, women, and children have to die in 2020 for people to see our lives as meaningful and worth saving? Why did it take that long for people to realize that change is needed?

Asking these questions have helped me come to terms with the impact of social media on our society. With the recordings of racism, police brutality, and black death all being captured and uploaded on social media, there became no way to escape the truth of racial injustice. It was clear that Black people weren’t “exaggerating” and the killing of George Floyd cemented this. Social media has captured the death of multiple Black people, but it was magnified in the summer of 2020. Everybody was expected to post. Whether it was sharing, retweeting, or putting hashtag black lives matter on a post - nobody was free from this responsibility. The pressure that was put on everyone to share and talk about the Black Lives Matter movement is an example of how social media can be harmful to the liberation of oppressed folks around the world.

While it helped to post FAQ’s about police brutality, how to be anti-racist, and other helpful resources - social media allowed people to not only become desensitized to black death but also complicit in not doing enough to lead social change. Social media has created a false sense of achievement and accomplishment for those who wanted to show that they weren’t racist. It allowed celebrities to hide behind BLM posts while participating in cultural appropriation and profiting off of black people. It allowed our classmates, teachers, and school administrators to make statements about standing in solidarity with Black students but doing nothing to actually protect them. It allowed activism to be performative. When activism becomes performative, we see supporters of Black Lives Matter going from activists to "cloutivists" - this describes a person who is chasing “clout” or recognition for posting about social issue. As mentioned above, when people post things solely for the fact that others are - we see that they do not truly care about the movement but see it as a way to feel good and gain brownie points from the outside world. Cloutivism isn’t the only issue with how social media has negatively affected social movements. We have seen a year later the media pitting marginalized folks against each other and asking the question “Where is the Black community when this has happened?” These false and untrue accusations make people believe that activism is supposed to be transactional, that if you support an oppressed group it is because you want something in return, not because you care for that community. These performative and transactional mindsets have all been pushed by the wrongful use of social media, but we know that together social media can be a tool for good and help communities in need.

A year later, after the death of George Floyd, a quote I use often still rings true “None of us are free until we all are free.” This quote is one I always return to, because I know that the path to liberation cannot be won without keeping all oppressed communities in mind. Over the past year, we have seen how White Supremacy and other systems have demonized, disenfranchised, and disengaged low income and communities of color across the country. From a 169% surge in Anti-Asian hate crimes to the deaths of Black folks like Ma’Khia Bryant, Daunte Wright, Wilson Smith and countless others. These continual attacks against people of color is the truth that oppressors feed off of driving people apart. Within these times it is important for us to stick together, to fight for one another, standing in solidarity for all oppressed groups. Together, the fight for justice will be won.

-Juwaria Jama, Bridgemakers Youth Ambassador and Vice Chair of the Board.

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