Your performative activism is showing

Joslyn Orji

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

In light of the recent marches and Black Lives Matter movement, there has been an uproar of social media social justice warriors. Historically, African American people have been at the forefront of the movement. The movement is one that was created and mostly headlined by the Black community as a result of the police brutality and other injustices that have rampaged the community. 


Since police officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd in late May, users across various social media platforms have erupted in activism. All quarantine long, Black people and non-Black allies have committed to going out to the streets to march for their rights. Likewise, for those who are unable to physically protest, links to charities and petitions have remained in steady circulation as a means of remote protesting.

However, various individuals took to Twitter and Instagram to express their feelings of dissatisfaction, as the energy that was so prevalent in May is quickly dying down. With the #BLM movement becoming nothing more than a fad, the phrase “performative activism” was coined as a response to the individuals who would fail to practice what they preach.

Performative activism is hollow activism with no action behind it. An example of this could be a city painting a Black Lives Matter-themed mural but not taking any legal action against racial injustices and assault cases. 

While I have noticed this issue growing on a larger scale, it pains me as I realize that our campus is not exempt from this. 

For many non-Black students, the Black square of solidarity is where the activism stopped. A quick look on Instagram will tell you that. For many others, the name Breonna Taylor is quickly becoming an aesthetic framed in cute, pastel fonts. And for the countless majority, a Martin Luther King Jr. quote is all that is needed to emphasize solidarity.

There is nothing wrong with sharing a post and seeking for it to match your Instagram aesthetic. It becomes wrong when it is purely for show, and your actions, in reality, fail to reflect what you claim to stand for.

The last seven months have been tough for everyone. For a lot of us, myself included, it felt as though the quarantine period would be a good time to rest, catch up on TV shows and movies or maybe take up a new hobby. While I have been able to do those things, the majority of my quarantine summer vacation was spent mourning with my community and marching in nightly demonstrations.

For Black students, this is not a fad, and it is not an aesthetic. Most importantly, it is not going to end with 2020. That is, this movement is one that is ongoing as long as our rights are being adamantly disregarded.

You might ask, “Shouldn’t you be satisfied with the attention? Isn’t the movement getting more coverage this way? Would you rather they do nothing at all?”


The answer, simply put, is no. There is a a lot of attention and coverage going around. We have been bombarded all summer long with what is known as trauma porn. How many videos of Black people getting brutally murdered or assaulted do we need to see in order to make a change?

I see nothing wrong with the painting of murals. However, to be satisfied with it entails compliance. It means that we as a community should be satisfied with the bare minimum. That is what has to change.

If there is one thing that I have noticed after the events of this year, it is that nothing is achieved without two vital things: community effort and government influence. 

“For Black students, this is not a fad, and it is not an aesthetic. Most importantly, it is not going to end with 2020.”

The amount of change within local police departments is not a whole lot, but it is progress. In Denver, the community came together consistently to protest against the police department’s violent use of non-lethal weapons after the first few nights of marching. Afterward, the police department made significant changes to limit their direct contact with protesters, especially after a video of Elijah McClain’s killing resurfaced from a year ago.

As an individual, I acknowledge the sacrifices and the efforts that our allies are making to combat these systemic injustices. This article is meant for those who have done nothing more than speaking without action behind it.

If you feel like more has yet to be done, do everything in your power to push for longevity of the movement. Keep attending marches and rallies, if you are able, and keep spreading knowledge. Most importantly, vote, and encourage others to vote in the upcoming election.

Joslyn Orji can be reached at or on Twitter @lazy_svndae_.