#SWAAYthenarrative

Performative Activism is Basically Silence. Here’s Why.

9 min read
Culture

Take it from someone who just graduated with their Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in theater, when I tell you I know a good performance when I see one. Let's put my training to the test, shall we? In my opinion, a good actor consists of three things: A. An understanding of tactics and given circumstances, B. An ability to command an audience, and C. A believable performance of the material. It isn't a surprise that performative activism also encompasses all of these things because it is just that, a performance. My only questions remaining, as a critic, what activism is true activism? Or are these simply just cover up performances to ensure that you do not get penalized for actually being ignorant and racist?

The murder of George Floyd by police officer Derek Chauvin created an uproar in the United States. Unfortunately, police brutality and the unjust killings of Blacks at the hands of officers and/or civilians in this country are not new. These are not isolated incidents that occur once in a blue moon. In fact, they open up an even deeper dialogue about how prevalent systemic and institutionalized racism actually is. From our education systems to our justice system. Still, I have never been able to understand why it takes media coverage of a tragedy to wake people up to the injustices in this country that Blacks face each and every day. Whether it be microaggressions or blatant racism, nothing is new.

Yet corporations, fashion brands, and everyday people are suddenly showing their die-hard support for the Black Lives Matter movement. People that were once silent when their Black friends or peers spoke to them about how they felt in an incident or institution are suddenly outspoken on social media and do not hesitate to post their recent protest involvements. The sad fact of the matter is that we are left to question if this is true change or merely performance. Modern-day technology allows us to hide behind our screens and show others what we want them to see. Performative activism makes us question if people are actually changing their mindsets or simply appearing to do so out of fear of trying to go along with what they feel is a trend.

Unfortunately, police brutality and the unjust killings of Black people at the hands of officers and/or civilians in this country are not new. These are not isolated incidents that occur once in a blue moon.

My college experience was oftentimes very difficult for me. As a Black woman going to a private, white institution, coming from a private high school that primarily consisted of women of color in New York City, I had a huge culture shock. It was the first time since elementary school that I had experienced once again being one of the only minorities in the room. Despite my university being an arts environment, which promoted equality and difference, I still felt like my voice as a Black woman was rarely heard.

Most people of color in the institution constantly had an issue with the way the school regarded race-related issues. This, as I'd come to find out, was also not a new problem. In fact, I will never forget a Black alumnus from ten years ago coming to our senior showcase in New York and asking me if things had gotten better. Every time students of color would get together to write speeches to present to faculty and ask for allies, we rarely received any. Whenever we would talk about how we felt things were race-related issues, from the plays that were chosen, to casting, to our theater history curriculum, it was met with hesitation and mediocre efforts to try and change the problems presented by both faculty and students alike. Whenever we would try and speak up in class, some would listen but most would go about their days because they knew quite frankly the issues of race did not affect them. In my department, we were outnumbered and blatantly shown that things would continue the way they had always been because it did not affect the majority. It was never Black lives matter in rehearsal, it was never Black lives matter in class, and it was never Black lives matter when confronting our dean about how the school's students of color felt. Yet, all of sudden after the death of George Floyd, those who had shown consistent disregard, were now die-hard allies.

If you refuse to implement your newfound education on racism in real-life environments and not just on social media, then you are not an ally.

I can't track and don't know others' personal developments. Perhaps something has changed inside of these newfound allies and they have, in fact, woken up and are starting to see racism for what it truly is. However, I find it quite alarming that it took yet another tragedy to do this. My question to new allies is: Did you think your Black and brown peers were lying about the way in which they have constantly felt in these environments and in life? Or did you just not care enough to implement your allyship until you were at risk of your true colors being revealed?

I am no way trying to call people out. In fact, the support the movement has received and the amount of people who truly want to be educated and commit themselves to being aware of racism in work environments and school systems is alarming. However, I am forcing you to think. If you refuse to implement your newfound education on racism in real-life environments and not just on social media, then you are not an ally. Period. It is my personal belief that in order to create long-lasting change, active action is required. Sadly most people are quick to throw being an ally out the window when they feel something might be in jeopardy for them. In contrast, people also feel they need to force being an ally when they are afraid their reputations are at stake.

Going with the flow when it comes to activism all because you are afraid of being called a racist or ignorant, is you actually being unable to truly understand and acknowledge problems. Put simply performative activism on social media and real life also equates to silence. It is you trying to be an activist and an ally when you quite frankly don't even care to begin with. Why is this detrimental? Because you will not take active actions in real life, you will not challenge people on the issues of race in order to change them, you will not open up dialogues. You will not hold yourself and others accountable for their actions, therefore you will continue to be silent and nothing will be done. Yet your so-called posts of solidarity prove otherwise.

Going with the flow when it comes to activism all because you are afraid of being called a racist or ignorant, is you actually being unable to truly understand and acknowledge problems.

The problem with a company's public relations team sharing with the world that they are dedicated to learning, improving, and changing racism in their environments, also presents a problem when a person of color in real life comes into those work environments or institutions expecting a change and then are shown nothing has really evolved. It is your refusal to actually acknowledge Black issues and goes back to being afraid of jeopardizing opportunities. Now, there is nothing wrong with being a new ally and trying your best to be aware of your past and present actions. The problem lies in people's ability to not be held accountable for their mistakes or not even acknowledge past ones. This isn't something as simple as a PR team response or a half-effort post trying to prove to the world that you stand with Black people when in the past you were also responsible for racism and the inability to move forward. Plain and simple it makes no sense to tell your audience, your friends, or peers that you are dedicated to real-life change, when you aren't. It's time to actually educate your employees, and your students on effective change moving forward. Social media activism only goes so far, until you are presented with the same challenges racism provides in your everyday environments, and once again choose to stay silent.

Racial gaslighting is also a very prevalent problem in these environments. When your Black or POC peers tell you about a problem they feel is based on race, it usually happens to be so.

The question moving forward is how being an ally transcends into the real world. Part one is creating safe spaces where people can feel comfortable sharing not just problems but also solutions. It is making your work environment or classroom catered to all people, not just the majority. It shouldn't be up to your Black counterparts to constantly provide resources and education to be able to do this. Racial gaslighting is also a very prevalent problem in these environments. When your Black or POC peers tell you about a problem they feel is based on race, it usually happens to be so. We never like to talk about race because it feels uncomfortable. We never talk about black issues, because society feels as though racism and racial bias is something that we can slap a bandaid or a performative post over and call it a day. Once we open up these dialogues and actually do the work, only then can we see change. The allyship has to move on past the news cycle and past the protests. It is all too common to see people pour their hearts out in support, and then once again become silent and unable to speak out.

If you feel that you have been putting on a good show, and know that you, in fact, do not have what it takes to do the work in real life, it's time to let the curtain close. If your only fear is being called out on social media and unfollowed or being well-liked, it is also time to take your last bow. While social media is an amazing tool to stay informed and educate people on different resources, if you find yourself purely doing this because you think this is a trend it is also time to turn off the stage lights. The moral of the story here folks is that this movement is not a way to capitalize on your fake performances that seem to be for the people. It is not a way to avoid speaking up on your past mistakes or try and prevent new ones. The movement is for those who are truly fed up, who are tired, and who actually understand that radical change doesn't happen overnight. It is for dedicated individuals who want to create a world where their children no longer have to march for basic justice and equality. It is for those who want to be seen and heard in order to take active actions to reform the system. If this isn't you, take your final bow, and understand that you were never right for the part of an ally in the first place.

3 Min Read
Health

7 Must-have Tips to Keep You Healthy and Fit for the Unpredictable COVID Future

With a lack of certainty surrounding the future, being and feeling healthy may help bring the security that you need during these unpredictable times.

When it comes to your health, there is a direct relationship between nutrition and physical activity that play an enormous part in physical, mental, and social well-being. As COVID-19 continues to impact almost every aspect of our lives, the uncertainty of the future may seem looming. Sometimes improvisation is necessary, and understanding how to stay healthy and fit can significantly help you manage your well-being during these times.

Tip 1: Communicate with your current wellness providers and set a plan

Gyms, group fitness studios, trainers, and professionals can help you to lay out a plan that will either keep you on track through all of the changes and restrictions or help you to get back on the ball so that all of your health objectives are met.

Most facilities and providers are setting plans to provide for their clients and customers to accommodate the unpredictable future. The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C. An enormous amount is on the table for this coming fall and winter; if your gym closes again, what is your plan? If outdoor exercising is not an option due to the weather, what is your plan? Leaving things to chance will significantly increase your chances of falling off of your regimen and will make consistency a big problem.

The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C.

Tip 2: Stay active for both mental and physical health benefits

The rise of stress and anxiety as a result of the uncertainty around COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way. Staying active by exercising helps alleviate stress by releasing chemicals like serotonin and endorphins in your brain. In turn, these released chemicals can help improve your mood and even reduce risk of depression and cognitive decline. Additionally, physical activity can help boost your immune system and provide long term health benefits.

With the new work-from-home norm, it can be easy to bypass how much time you are spending sedentary. Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity. Struggling to find ways to stay active? Start simple with activities like going for a walk outside, doing a few reps in exchange for extra Netflix time, or even setting an alarm to move during your workday.

Tip 3: Start slow and strong

If you, like many others during the pandemic shift, have taken some time off of your normal fitness routine, don't push yourself to dive in head first, as this may lead to burnout, injury, and soreness. Plan to start at 50 percent of the volume and intensity of prior workouts when you return to the gym. Inactivity eats away at muscle mass, so rather than focusing on cardio, head to the weights or resistance bands and work on rebuilding your strength.

Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity.

Tip 4: If your gym is open, prepare to sanitize

In a study published earlier this year, researchers found drug-resistant bacteria, the flu virus, and other pathogens on about 25 percent of the surfaces they tested in multiple athletic training facilities. Even with heightened gym cleaning procedures in place for many facilities, if you are returning to the gym, ensuring that you disinfect any surfaces before and after using them is key.

When spraying disinfectant, wait a few minutes to kill the germs before wiping down the equipment. Also, don't forget to wash your hands frequently. In an enclosed space where many people are breathing heavier than usual, this can allow for a possible increase in virus droplets, so make sure to wear a mask and practice social distancing. Staying in the know and preparing for new gym policies will make it easy to return to these types of facilities as protocols and mutual respect can be agreed upon.

Tip 5: Have a good routine that extends outside of just your fitness

From work to working out, many routines have faltered during the COVID pandemic. If getting back into the routine seems daunting, investing in a new exercise machine, trainer, or small gadget can help to motivate you. Whether it's a larger investment such as a Peloton, a smaller device such as a Fitbit, or simply a great trainer, something new and fresh is always a great stimulus and motivator.

Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine.

Just because you are working from home with a computer available 24/7 doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your entire day to work. Setting work hours, just as you would in the office, can help you to stay focused and productive.

A good night's sleep is also integral to obtaining and maintaining a healthy and effective routine. Adults need seven or more hours of sleep per night for their best health and wellbeing, so prioritizing your sleep schedule can drastically improve your day and is an important factor to staying healthy. Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine. This can help the rest of your day feel normal while the uncertainty of working from home continues.

Tip 6: Focus on food and nutrition

In addition to having a well-rounded daily routine, eating at scheduled times throughout the day can help decrease poor food choices and unhealthy cravings. Understanding the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy can help you stay more alert, but they do vary from person to person. If you are unsure of your suggested nutritional intake, check out a nutrition calculator.

If you are someone that prefers smaller meals and more snacks throughout the day, make sure you have plenty of healthy options, like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins available (an apple a day keeps the hospital away). While you may spend most of your time from home, meal prepping and planning can make your day flow easier without having to take a break to make an entire meal in the middle of your work day. Most importantly, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.

Tip 7: Don't forget about your mental health

While focusing on daily habits and routines to improve your physical health is important, it is also a great time to turn inward and check in with yourself. Perhaps your anxiety has increased and it's impacting your work or day-to-day life. Determining the cause and taking proactive steps toward mitigating these occurrences are important.

For example, with the increase in handwashing, this can also be a great time to practice mini meditation sessions by focusing on taking deep breaths. This can reduce anxiety and even lower your blood pressure. Keeping a journal and writing out your daily thoughts or worries can also help manage stress during unpredictable times, too.

While the future of COVI9-19 and our lives may be unpredictable, you can manage your personal uncertainties by focusing on improving the lifestyle factors you can control—from staying active to having a routine and focusing on your mental health—to make sure that you emerge from this pandemic as your same old self or maybe even better.