Accompanied by the complications of COVID-19, the dialogue on Black justice has undergone a shift to a largely virtual environment. Social media has now become a default platform for all forms of activism, particularly those in response to the hate crimes of the last year.
Four students gave their comments on activist burnout and the evolution of the Black rights movement in these unprecedented times.
Chloe Brown, senior communications major:
Brown addressed activist burnout as it presents itself in privilege. “Most people that attend LMU have never experienced such hardship… I can see why it's overwhelming, and people really got into it, burned out fast and then never looked at it again… Black people have to live with it every single day. Every single day I wake up and I’m like ‘okay, I woke up in my Black body, and now I have to go out into the world in my Black body, and deal with the repercussion of that.’”
Those who remain involved feel powerless during the lockdown, and Brown said this dynamic has created problems. “It’s causing a lot of white guilt, in a sense, because they’re like ‘okay, well, like, I don’t know what to do, I see that these people are struggling and I don’t know how to fix it.’ And, it’s so hard 'cause I’m like ‘there’s that white guilt, it’s undeniable and as much as I have my opinions about white guilt, it’s there.’ And, I think we need to, as a nation, work through that before we can get anything done. Like, you can’t just do things 'cause you feel pity. It should be because it isn’t right.”
Unlike the foreseeable end of the COVID-19 shutdown, Brown said that, for racism, “there’s no light at the end of the tunnel right now. It’s just kind of this tunnel that we keep walking in and hoping that maybe one day there’s gonna be like some light, and we can get out of it. But, we're just kind of scrambling in the dark. And I think that the scariest part of it all is: we’re kids.”
Roman Broussard, senior theatre arts major:
“Oversimplification is usually at the root of all frustrations that I feel. I try to be very careful when expressing my opinion over public forums. There are rules that I must oblige that most others do not.”
Commenting on social media activism, Broussard said he “feels as though the discussion has been hijacked. White allyship is important. Quite frankly, it’s needed. But it feels as though we are in a time where it is more important to display our beliefs rather than do anything about it…simply posting a black square is not ‘standing in solidarity.’”
Critiquing the narrow focus of the media, Broussard said, “to label former President Trump as the one threat [to] social justice and racial equality completely ignores Senator Mitch McConnell... etc. I do see a vested interest in holding President Biden to his campaign promises. There are many people aware of the number of deportations happening under his leadership and speaking out about it. I am hopeful that the newfound diversity in Washington, D.C. can hold him accountable and create some lasting changes in the conversation of race in America.”
Kennedy Smith, junior theatre arts major:
Smith said, “I definitely think it [social media activism] can be effective if done right… I’ve noticed, though, almost mindless posting. Like if you’re gonna post something, read it. You gotta read it all the way through. You can’t just mindlessly post when it comes to social justice issues because not only are you miseducating yourself, you’re miseducating others.”
Noticing a decrease in momentum, Smith said, “in the summer there were a lot of promises made about, like, ‘here’s what we are going to do better,’ from LMU, ‘here’s what we are gonna do better in the regards of diversity, equity and inclusion’ … but not all of #BlackatLMU student demands were met. So, I feel like there was a really hard push in the summer just given the intensity of it all, and then once the school year approached it kinda just died down.”
“People have stopped trying, I think. I’ve just noticed a lot less effort—now that Biden is in office—from people. People will think that ‘oh, Biden will do all the work, I don’t have to do anything, I just get to sit back and watch.' So people aren’t, you know, sharing resources, signing petitions, donating. They just kind of think that’s all gonna be up to Biden… Putting all of this energy and this focus on the president to kind of determine, you know, the state of racism, the state of hatred in our country, that’s very harmful.
Thiong’o Ngugi, senior philosophy major:
Ngugi gave his opinion on the emerging role that social media now plays for our generation.
“I gotta say while I used to be more skeptical of ‘social media activism,’ the more I’ve thought about [it], the more I think it’s important to be able to use new technology to reach people. I don’t see a lot of difference between Instagram and old school pamphleteering. Both are trying to reach people using the best means available.”