On Solidarity, Social Media, and Slacktivism

On May 25th, 2020, Derek Chauvin, a White police officer, murdered George Floyd, a Black man, in the state of Minnesota. His death was filmed. It has since been shared and reshared countless times. #BlackLivesMatter protests are gaining momentum across the nation, communities are coming together in solidarity, and all across the Netherlands, Dutch people are 100 percent convinced that this is not about them.

On May 25th, 2020, a White police officer murdered George Floyd.

Are you tired of reading that sentence? Are you overwhelmed from the influx of information? Are you conflicted, confused, disoriented, unsure what to feel or how to help? Good.

I want you to sit in your discomfort. Wallow in it. Let it affect your entire day. Let it color your interactions with everyone you see, sink into your bones and leave you drained and tired. Because at the end of the day, no matter how uncomfortable you are, no matter how weird and strange you feel, you’re not in danger. Your life isn’t being threatened. To be conflicted, to be unsure of how to feel and who to “side” with in a time like this, is an immense privilege. To be able to distance yourself from racism entirely, to dismiss it as something that happens in either a) America or b) the past, is a privilege. It is a privilege that many, many Dutch people possess. UCU is touted as a progressive, liberal campus, but several of my non-Black friends are failing, at this critical moment, to look inwards.

Do you think you haven’t had a hand in this? Do you really believe that this has nothing to do with you?

I realize that relentless, rapid-fire questions tend to make some people feel like they’re being attacked. So: a Q&A.

Do you think that institutionalized racism and police brutality aren’t an issue in the Netherlands? Read White Innocence by Gloria Wekker.

Do you feel safer when policemen are around, and don’t understand why protestors are rioting and engaging in the destruction of property? Read The End of Policing by Alex Vitale.

Do you feel threatened when someone calls you racist? Read White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo.

Do you want an alternate course of action that doesn’t involve reading? Listen. Listen to the Black and brown folks around you. If there aren’t any, think about why.

Do you want to show your support for the movement on social media? Elevate Black voices, Black activists, and the wider Black community. Think about whether or not your specific voice is adding or taking away from the conversation at large. Think about whether posting a blank black square, adding a temporary frame to your Facebook photo, and reusing a generic caption is enough. If it feels like enough, ask yourself why you believe that.

Do you want to show everyone how “woke” you are? Start by educating yourself. Look up videos of protests, read the perspectives of Black activists, dive into the hashtag. Google “resources for being a better ally”. Do the work on your own; don’t rely on your friends of color to offer you support or spoonfeed you through this. I promise they are more worn out than you are.

Are you posting #BLM to your story without calling your family members out for dressing up as Zwarte Piet? Ask yourself why. Are you throwing in support for the protests in the US while refusing to call out your “edgy” friend’s racist jokes? Ask yourself why. Are you condemning the deaths of countless Black people in the States without acknowledging the suffering of Black and brown folks in the Netherlands? Ask yourself why.

I’m not trying to put myself on a pedestal here; I am non-Black myself, and am constantly learning how to be a better ally, how best to tackle problems of anti-Blackness within my own community, and in what ways I can show support for this movement without centering myself within it. I urge you to do the same.