On Tuesday, the internet has gone dark in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. What started as a protest of police brutality, grew in size and scope, drawing crowds across the world, both in major cities and online. On social media, people posted black images to effect a blackout.
The hypocrisy of such online activism is strong, as usual. Because what does it cost you to post a black square under a trending hashtag? Not a thing. It’s easy, and it may make you feel better about yourself, but it achieves nothing if you don’t have the courage to stand up for what’s right in real life when things get difficult and uncomfortable.
Would you have the guts to stand up to your boss, right before your annual review, with the prospects of your promotion at stake? Or would you just laugh at one of his racist jokes and tell yourself it wasn’t that bad?
Would you have the guts to stand up to a group of men—I won’t even pretend women are guilty of these kinds of things—harassing someone on the underground? Would you do it when there’s only one of you and three of them? Or would you, despite there being plenty more people around, tell yourself that you’re just one person and that you can’t do anything to help?
Would you have the guts to confront your best friend? Someone who’s a fantastic person overall, warm, charming, helpful, and from a good family, someone who has always been there for you in need. Or would you tell yourself they didn’t mean the things they’ve said?
To put it simply, would you get involved when it’s hard, uncomfortable, or dangerous? Would you risk your career, your income, your personal safety? Or do you post the black square online because it absolves you from the ugly necessity of action?
I know I was a bit unfair writing this article to the very personal “you” to help my point get across. But if we changed the “you” to “us” or just “people,” would you agree then? Because in my experience, nine out of ten people who post flags, ribbons, and squares, fail to do anything when the time comes to act.
Real courage is hard and awkward. Worse yet, it’s no guarantee of winning. In real life, you get no likes or retweets for your courage, sometimes not even praise. Sometimes it makes you look stupid in front of strangers in the street, in front of friends and family. I’m speaking from experience as courage has cost me more than once. But that’s the whole idea.
I can’t say I understand what’s going on in America right now. I grew up half a world away. We have different issues over here, a different kind of racism.
But standing up for what’s right is the same the world over.
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