[Image Post + Essay] On Performative Anti-Racism

Originally posted on Patreon July 29, 2020


Source: On Korean Artists Using Their Platforms to Say that Black Lives Matter

If you’re on social media, I’m sure you’ve seen people show their support of Black Lives Matter as a movement while making it clear that they don’t give a damn about Black people in “their” spaces. 

The folks in fandom with #BLM in their bios or in their display names who tweet snide and shitty things about Black people in their fandoms. The folks who use their – or their celebrity or political favorite’s – donation to charity to say that they care more about Black people than… Black people do. Fans, businesses, and celebrities known for literally making Black people stress out from how they talk about us all were performing anti-racism and professing to be ready to unlearn antiblackness.

Even SM Entertainment got into the swing of things when they released a statement in June about how they were “new to the conversation” (despite hiring Black people to dance, write, record demos, etc for them for decades). 

But it’s all been incredibly performative.

Corporations aren’t our friends.

SM Entertainment isn’t my ally in the fight against racism. Lee Soo-Man is not out here like “wow yes, I definitely understand antiblackness and will never ever allow my artists, producers, or stylists to be complicit in it”. 

Celebrities – unless they’re Black and are in an environment where they have been dealing with antiblackness – don’t actually give a shit about what we’re going through. Like I said in the source piece (but I’m paraphrasing) folks don’t want to see a Black man die on a viral video, but they don’t actually care about the circumstances that led to those cops knowing they could kill him and get away with it. (Think about how many George Floyds exist across the United States… Cops kill a lot of people and only a microscopic percentage become visible enough to get hashtags which don’t even guarantee that anything happens.)

And of course – 

Folks in fandom don’t give a shit about Black people.

Sorry-not-sorry to be so harsh, but if you had the (end of) May, June, and July that I’ve had watching people in fandom simultaneously perform anti-racism and antiblackness, you’d be annoyed too.

I have spent over two months watching people in fandom try to do both things at once.

 I’m talking about the BTS fans I saw (who, while annoying and antiblack, aren’t a majority of the fandom) using our group’s donation as an “own” towards Black people around the internet. 

I’m talking about white Europeans frothing at the mouth about how expecting them to care about antiblackness in fandom (and on the AO3) is basically reverse colonialism forced upon them by USians in fandom – and pretending that they really care about [East Asian] damnei and anime fans. 

I’m talking about the fact that there are people who think (and said publicly to others) that my visibly Black and VISIBLY anxious ass was somehow “using” BLM by talking about how antiblack folks in transformative fandom continue to be in general but also specifically about me, a real life Black person.

A bunch of the people you know and love are fake as hell when it comes to anti-racism.

They’re the companies who put out your favorite things. The celebrities that create the content you love. The folks who make your fandom experience better.

And well –

They’re fucking racist.

At this point in 2020, I have no time to mince words and neither do any of you. 

These people and companies are racist, and when no one is watching, they absolutely stop giving a shit.

Two years ago, I definitely did say that there was no such thing as “fake woke”.  

But then I watched Rey/Kylo fans who’d spent years dismissing what Black people in fandom were saying about antiblackness in the Star Wars fandom literally jack our ideas and apply them to us when we were critical of how Rose treated Finn.

Then I watched “proshippers” in fandom claim they were the only people in fandom that cared about racism in fandom… even as they actively mock people of color talking about the different ways shipping can show as a sign of racism. Then I had to watch people literally known for being antiblack pretend to care about Black people.

And friends, I now believe it’s possible.

Performative anti-racism is how you get companies with a frankly horrifying treatment of Black people feeling comfortable enough to post solidarity squares in June for Blackout Tuesday. It’s now you get people who were supremely antiblack to John Boyega in the name of their mayo on white toast ship pretending they supported him across his career and support him now. It’s how you get people who do still mistreat, bully, harass, slander, etc Black people in every space they’re in slapping a cute little #BLM in their display name, header, or bio on social media.

And it is not enough.

It will not save any of us.

And it was clearly done for show and from a fear of dealing with pressure – or of having to deal with more pressure. No one likes being left out of a crowd. And when the crowd is saying “hey, Black people matter”… no one can really stand by and stay silent unless they want to be left out in a really public way. And that’s what’s happened – 

Instead of introspection, hiring a diversely, giving Black people OUR seat at the table, people have been buckling under a perceived pressure that no one Black is actually exerting and putting on a performance that does not hold up under a long look.

And it is tiring to watch because these folks and companies do not get it.

But they really think their performance is Oscar Worthy…

When it’s really not.

About Zeenah

Zina writes about comics, nerd history, and ridiculous romance novels when not working frantically on her first collection of short stories and complaining about stuff. One day, she'll settle down and write that novel.
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