Let’s Talk About Performative Activists

By: Reina Escobar

As humans, it is normal for us to feel good when we do something that we believe is admirable. We naturally might expect some sort of praise. Maybe, you cleaned the house or you made honor roll. None of these are super serious, but these are actually things you should be proud of. However, there is a specific group of people called performative activists who really just stand out from the rest of us. Performative activism is when someone participates in an activist movement to get attention or praise, and not because they actually care about the issue. 

The most common type of performative activism I’ve seen are Instagram story reposts. An example could be someone reposting something that says, “I heart Hispanic people” on a cake or some inanimate object and believe they’re changing the world. It takes minimal effort, but they have the chance to appear “woke” or “educated.” Sometimes, the Instagram post has information that appears to be helpful, but often, it’s either filtered or inaccurate. It’s obvious that someone is a performative activist when they repost something with inaccurate information because if you actually cared for the cause, wouldn’t you be fact-checking the information? Often, the information is so off that the average person could spot the false information from miles away. It makes the activist movement look like a joke and sets back the people who actually do want to help. 

In 2020, I feel like there was a surge of performative activism due to the Black Lives Matter movement. It was great that the movement was getting more recognition, but people really took this as an opportunity to bury themselves with their savior complexes. 

The thing with performative activists is that they don’t care about becoming a good person, they care about appearing as a good person, and people fall for it all of the time. Like some performative activists went to protests and took a picture, then leave. They would post the picture onto social media, and get all of these comments praising them. They shouldn’t even be getting praised at all; it is just the bare minimum. Spreading awareness about a black person whose life was ended brutally shouldn’t be praised when there are people of color who face discrimination every day. People call these performative activists “brave” and “strong.” You want to talk about brave and strong? Let’s talk about the black people who have been facing discrimination for centuries and have been historically viewed as less. 

Performative activists only become allies when it’s convenient for their personal gain. Spreading awareness about a serious topic is not something to pat yourself on the back for. No one should be praised for doing the bare minimum.