“What was the message that you got, is more the question…” said professional women’s tennis player Naomi Osaka when asked about her seven masks, one for every match at the U.S. open, each sporting a different name of a black victim of police brutality. “…The point is to make people start talking.”
Considering the increase in racial injustice witnessed recently, many athletes and organizations have been speaking out and using their platforms to bring awareness and inspire change.
After wearing the masks at the U.S. Open, Osaka encouraged her 800,000 Twitter followers to become a part of the conversation and use their platform no matter how small. In an interview with TIME Magazine, Osaka said that she feels she is a vessel to spread awareness about the social injustices that are taking place. She is not the only athlete using her platform to take action.
NBA player Lebron James is also an active social media advocate to his 74 million followers on Instagram. James encourages his followers to stay educated, proactive, and be a part of the conversation. Not only is James advocating online, but he’s advocating on the court as well. During warmups, James and his teammates wore shirts that read “Black Lives Matter” and “I can’t breathe.” The phrase, “I can’t breathe” refers to the words said by George Floyd, a victim of police brutality whose death incited hundreds of protests across the nation. Individual athletes are not the only ones who are taking action. Their respective sports organizations are also beginning to take action as well.
The NBA launched its “NBA Cares” campaign, with the mission being to address important social issues in the U.S and throughout the world. With an average of 15 million viewers, the NBA has started airing their own Black Lives matter focused commercials before each game.
Their goal is to bring awareness to the movement and show that, as an organization, they stand in solidarity with both the movement and their players.
So, these athletes and organizations are using their platforms to make a change, but are you?
Lately, it seems more people have been speaking up than ever before. It is no secret how big of a role social media has played in providing accessibility to educational links, posts, and petitions. But this accessibility has led to what is known as performative activism: the action of sharing something because you want to be a part of the trend instead of a part of the real movement.
Activism on social media is an important step in the right direction, but it comes with people who desire to be a part of the rising trend and share aesthetic posts instead of making the change.
It’s great to share informative posts and hashtags, but don’t forget to educate yourself along the way. When you take part in the trend without putting in the work to make the change, you become a part of the problem.
Next time your favorite celebrity partners with big organizations like Mastercard, More Than a Vote, and the NAACP Legal Fund to provide you with more opportunities to get involved, don’t just share the post, but do your research alongside it. Find ways to start the conversation and inspire others to become part of the solution in your local community.
People’s lives are affected by what some use as an aesthetic, instead of a push for social change. It’s time to be a part of the change, not the trend.