Performative allyship can be found everywhere; and, if you have ever posted a black square on your Instagram feed, then you may be a contributor.
In its most simple form, performative allyship is when someone from a non-marginalized group declares they are advocating for any marginalized group without actually helping that group in any form. It is unlike true allyship where one uses their privilege to actually support those who do not possess the same privilege. Performative allyship is, in essence, a cry for attention.
This became unfortunately evident throughout the summer of 2020 as the fight for social justice and equality after an unsettling amount of police murders of African-American citizens was at one of its strongest points in recent history. It is for this reason that it is crucial to understand the difference between performative allyship and true allyship, and for all of us to practice the ladder.
First off, what does performative allyship look like and how can it be recognized? Well as previously mentioned, social media seems to be a substantial contributor. Any post containing whatever popular hashtag or image that is currently circulating should make you question whether or not this is actually accomplishing anything, or simply there for personal aesthetic.
Furthermore, another way to spot performative allyship on social media is when the post fails to recognize any personal responsibility or experience with systemic issues taking place. This almost makes it seem as though the person who posted is an outsider looking in on the subject, not important enough to impact their own everyday lives.
Finally, and arguably the most disheartening sign is when a post is met with high praise and approval. However, there is no reason for applause! Unless something was actually accomplished or advocated for. This unjustified praise is not only apparent on social media platforms like Instagram or Facebook, but also in advertising for large companies. A billboard claiming “Black Lives Matter” does not accomplish the same thing as employing a larger percentage of African-American workers.
All this being said, performative allyship does not necessarily make you a bad person; in most cases, intentions are good. That being said, there are numerous ways that we can be better at advocating for causes that we are passionate about and deserve attention.
Moreover, the impact that we can have outside of social media alone can be monumental. One of the most common ways that people support various causes is through providing financial support. Donating to charities and organizations working for good causes is one of the easiest ways that you can truly make an impact. It is also extremely easy since donations can now be processed through virtual payments.
Additionally, it is of great importance that we continue to educate ourselves on any topic that we want to put our names behind. Making baseless claims and assumptions about any topic can be detrimental and makes being a real ally impossible, which is why it is important that we know what we are getting into. This is not only for our own benefit but also so that we can continue to educate others as well.
Speaking of other people, hold them accountable! Although it might be easy to disagree with someone’s point of view on a screen, we need to make sure that we are not afraid to call out any injustices that we witness in real life as well. If we can at least hold each other accountable for our actions then surely we will have made a step in the right direction, and become true and effective allies for change.
Finally, and most importantly in making sure you avoid falling into the trap of performative allyship, do things without a motive to be noticed. Although done intentionally, performative allyship can sometimes be perceived as a cry for attention. The whole point of performative allyship is that it is, sometimes unintentionally, only done for attention. So by eliminating any focus that could be bestowed upon yourself, you are in turn making sure that you are actually helping a cause and displaying what it means to be a true ally. As the rap icon, Freddie Gibbs once said, “Real G’s move in silence like Giannis.”
In the end, the only way to truly advocate and use any privilege you may hold is by being a true and impactful ally. If the crippling practice of performative allyship can be abolished, then we will not only be more effective in our efforts in seeking equality but will have also made the world a better place.