This op-ed story was produced during the Fall 2020 Youth Voice Workshop.
Nonblack celebrities are using social media to unintentionally cause harm to Black communities. Instead of elevating and supporting Black voices, they have been consistently speaking over them. This drowns out the message and dilutes the focus.
These celebrities think they’re doing good by sharing videos of violence towards black people, not realizing how it dehumanizes black bodies. For example, Shaun King, a figure with over 1 million followers on Twitter, posted the video of George Floyd’s murder with no censoring or warnings. Nonblack people assumed they were allowed to do the same. Everyone always wants to see the latest viral video, but instead of it being a dance or some funny challenge, it’s an uncensored video of a Black person being murdered. Besides causing unneeded trauma, it normalized spreading violent videos across social media.
When nonblack celebrities speak about BLM, they should also be exposing and dealing with the anti-blackness within their communities- and within themselves. Yet, many of them turn a blind eye to their community’s discriminatory actions towards Black people. The same celebrities who are preaching about BLM haven’t even apologized for their own cultural appropriation or anti-blackness from just weeks before. The Kardashian-Jenner family, for example, is known for wearing cornrows and box braids. While they are comfortable appropriating Black culture, they haven’t faced the struggle of being Black. Speaking up about BLM is useless when your actions are still hurting the Black community. Even now, people shouldn’t be waiting for celebrities to speak up. A celebrity sharing content can help spread it online faster, however it’s not going to help educate everyone. Yes, we shouldn’t be allowing nonblack celebrities to stay silent, but our lives don’t revolve around them. They should share appropriate content that they have thoroughly understood and give credit where credit is due.
There are other ways to support BLM and its cause without speaking over Black people. Signing petitions and sharing infographics is a start, but nonblack people, especially celebrities, need to start putting their money where their mouth is. Even then, they need to think about where they’re donating their money. Causes like BLM and bail funds have pointed out multiple times that they’re getting more money than they need at the moment. Instead, look for GoFundMe campaigns of Black people who have been displaced due to civil unrest. Of course, there will be concerns about where the money will go. It’s also not our job to police those in need on what they should do with money donated to them. If you’re uncomfortable donating individually, find radical orgs and abolitionist movements to donate to instead. These are places that can be held accountable if there is proof that donations are being misused.
Ultimately, nonblack celebrities think they’re doing the right thing. That’s admirable, but it’s not enough. What we really need is for them to share content thoughtfully and carefully and encourage others to make positive changes by leading without overstepping their boundaries as a nonblack person.