Social media has been paramount in propelling the Black Lives Matter movement to the scale it is today in the US. There is much more leeway for change, but the impact the movement has begun to make under the American lens is undeniable.
On the other hand, while it has brought a significant amount of attention internationally, issues in specific communities must be addressed and narrowed in upon to create a stronger, unified, global stance and standard of care towards racism.
The avenue of social media makes it all too easy for not only individuals, but also large corporations and ruling bodies to point fingers at what is happening on the other side of the world. This holier-than-thou mess aims to keep people complacent without making actual change to help marginalised communities, including the black lives they are claiming to protect, in their own nations.
The recent #blackouttuesday event rallied Instagram users to post a black square to show solidarity for black lives. While well-intended, users flooded the #blacklivesmatter hashtag meant for spreading information to protesters, effectively making said information inaccessible.
A debate about the usefulness of the event emerged following this and whether performative acts like these are actually detrimental to the movement, regardless of it allowing for a wider audience to be reached.
Online activism has the capacity for extensive outreach for a reason. It is far easier to leave a post not directed at anyone specific and avoid facing the possible social rejection that comes with in-person activism.
However, it is true that different forms of activism are needed for it to be effective, and that not everyone is able to provide the same kind of support. A balance must be struck between outward displays of online support and being mindful of interactions surrounding race in real life.
At home, there has been a great amount of interest and outcry among Malaysian netizens and with due cause. Malaysia prides itself in being a harmonious, multiracial society yet it is irrefutable that racism has been interwoven in our history and continues to manifest itself in the present.
A few days ago, local celebrity Samantha Katie James caused uproar after posting an Instagram story telling black protesters in the US to “relax” and “take it as a challenge.” The former Miss Universe Malaysia was branded as an anti-martyr regarding the fight against racism with users on the platform denouncing her actions.
While it facilitates the discussion of the prevalence of ignorance in our society, scapegoating can also incapacitate people when it comes to identifying racism happening in their own lives.
It is easy to point at another party and say “That’s discrimination. I’m not like that. My family isn’t like that. At least we don’t post about it.” Warranted or not, vilification left unchecked can lead to polarisation between racism and non-racism. In reality, those with racist sentiments do not typically perceive themselves to be on the far end of the “racism” spectrum.
Criticism is important as it sets precedence for defining morals, but parties must also maintain a degree of self-awareness lest they relieve themselves of their own social responsibility in fighting discriminatory attitudes.
We should not see the Black Lives Matter movement as a distant tale of a society’s failure in recognising their injustices, but rather as a reflection of our own wrongs. When we are not idolising or pitying, perhaps we should be empathising and relating and invoking change in our own way.
To stand with black people in America means standing with the black people in our community. To stand with the black people in our community means telling our kids they can date anyone of any race.
It means telling our parents the n-word is not an appropriate way to address a whole group of people whose ties to the word have to do with their inhumane suffering.
It means no more “Chinese renters only,” no more “Later the Indian man will catch you,” no more “Careful! He’s black,” because that continues to perpetuate the division that lies at the root of discrimination itself. No more institutionalised policies that benefit some and disadvantage others.
The road to true unity is long and hard, but one thing is for sure: we cannot fix the world without fixing ourselves.
This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.