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Columnist Megan Ziemann shares her journey with allyship and combating performative activism in regards to the Black Lives Matter movement.

During the first half of 2020, my Instagram feed has seen its fair share of trends. I remember the hopeful New Year's posts at the beginning of the year, the “until tomorrow” cringy pictures back in March and the now-infamous black square in the beginning of June. 

The former two trends are completely normal. I posted a New Year's picture in January back when I was still excited about 2020 (remember that?) and I am no stranger to a good Twitter meme. 

Humans are social beings, and we use social media to connect with one another, especially during difficult times. 

One thing that should never become a trend is the wrongful death of a Black individual. And there are far too many.

The problem with the black square trend was that a lot of white people thought a Blackout Tuesday post was enough. I can see their thought process: everyone else is doing it, so I should too! After all, I’m still being an activist right?

No. Posting a black square and doing nothing else after the fact is not activism. You’re not changing your behavior. You’re not recognizing your privilege. You’re not using your platform to amplify and spread Black voices.

You’re a performative activist.

Performative activism is a type of social justice movement that emphasizes the activist’s social capital more than the issue at hand. Most often, this occurs on social media like Twitter and Instagram. Performative activists may post hashtags, petitions or images relating to the important issue, but they fail to follow through and may “return to normal” too soon, hence my critique of the black square trend. 

Performative activism is the wrong way to ally. In fact, it isn’t allyship at all.

There is a right way to ally as a white person, however. I’ve had to navigate it over the past few months and it’s been difficult. I’ve had to examine myself and unlearn a lot of behaviors. 

But it’s possible. And you can do it.

I’ve broken down my journey into three points called the three A's of allyship. By focusing on these three things, you can have a great start to understanding and participating in the Black Lives Matter movement as a white person.

The first A is accept. Now that Black folk are finally getting the platforms and voices they deserve, us white people are learning a lot. I’ve been unknowingly using racist phrases for a while because I was never taught the background behind them. By accepting our past mistakes and working to better ourselves, we as white people can become examples for others.

It’s unfortunate, but that particular relative on Facebook may not listen to a Black person. But they will listen to you, and that’s why we must also accept our privilege as white people, unlearn those racist things we’ve been taught and do our part to educate others.

The second A is act. We can’t just talk about making a change. We have to go out and do it. Protesting immediately comes to mind as a way to act, and if you can, do it! Bodies in the streets are visual proof your community demands change. I stay informed about protest efforts near me with Ames and Des Moines Black Lives Matter (@amesblm and @desmoinesblm respectively).

If you cannot protest, that is OK. Everyone has a different way of taking action, and there are other ways to make Black voices heard. I donate to food, supply and bail funds that service the communities near me. I share news stories about my community, and I use my privilege and influence to bring awareness to local injustices.

The final and most important A is amplify. White people have not had to endure hundreds of years of systemic racism. Black people have. It’s so important to make sure Black folk are heard and their stories are shared. A great way to amplify Black voices, especially on social media, is to highlight Black creators.

One of my favorite and most influential Black creators is Iowa State student Marie Beecham, the face behind the Instagram account @wastefreemarie. I started following Beecham a couple of years ago when she began her sustainable living journey. Recently, she began making content around racial justice as well as climate justice, and her graphics about white privilege, anti-racism and how to ally went viral. 

Now @wastefreemarie is more than 223,000 followers strong, and Beecham still takes time to make personal, meaningful content. Iowa State is lucky to have her. 

White people have a duty to aid the Black Lives Matter movement because all lives cannot matter until Black ones do. The next time you see an Instagram trend like the black square (and trust me, there will be more), take a second and think before you post. 

Each of us has a platform. Make sure yours is impactful.

Megan Ziemann profile pic

Megan Ziemann is a senior in marketing. 

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Letter to the Editor Submission Link

(10) comments

Steve Gregg

Black Lives Matter is a racist, violent, hateful movement that moral people should oppose.

First off, the original two founders of BLM, Patrisse Cullors and Alicia Garza, describe themselves as “trained Marxists.” They were trained by Eric Manna, a felon and member of the Weather Underground domestic terror organization. Marxism murdered a hundred million people, ruined the lives of a billion more, and bankrupted every nation that adopted it. If you’re a Marxist, you’re an idiot who has learned nothing from the history of Marxism and want to do evil to people.

Steve Gregg

Yusra Khogali, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Toronto claimed on her Facebook page that white people have “recessive genetic defects” and could be “wiped out.” She said, “Plz Allah give me strength to not cuss/kill these men and white folks out here today.” KhogalI went on to say, “Whiteness is not humxness,” “infact, white skin is sub-humxn.” “White ppl are recessive genetic defects. this is factual,” “white ppl need white supremacy as a mechanism to protect their survival as a people because all they can do is produce themselves. black ppl simply through their dominant genes can literally wipe out the white race if we had the power to.”

This is crazy Nazi eliminationist rhetoric. Megan Ziemann, you are white. Are you subhuman, like Black Lives Matter claims? Are your parents subhuman? Your siblings, too? Are all your white classmates at Iowa State subhuman? How about all the white people in Iowa? Subhuman, too?

How do you defend your support of this hateful racist organization that would like to see Beckys like you dead along with the whole white race? The very name of Black Lives Matter infers that other races don’t. Your virtue signaling makes you a useful idiot for murderous black BLM racists.

Steve Gregg

Black Lives Matter leader Lilith Sinclair says she's "organizing for the abolition of not just the militarized police state but also the United States as we know it."

Megan, how do you defend your support of Black Lives Matter, which wants to destroy America? Are you a traitor?

Steve Gregg

Here is a video of Black Lives Matter chanting, “WHAT DO WE WANT? DEAD COPS! WHEN DO WE WANT IT? NOW!” Here is a video of Black Lives Matter at the Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul, Minnesota chanting, “PIGS IN A BLANKET, FRY “EM LIKE BACON!”

Megan, why do you support Black Lives Matter which wants police dead? How do you defend this murderous desire? The irony here is that you would be the first to call 911 if somebody got raped on campus and would complain up a storm if the cops took their time arriving, while at the same time you support Black Lives Matter which wants cops dead. How do you defend your despicable, murderous hypocrisy?

Steve Gregg

Here is a video of Black Lives Matter rioters invading a Target store in Washington, DC and threatening to shut it down if they don’t allow black people to shoplift there:

Megan, why do you support Black Lives Matter when it acts like a criminal organization that demands that the laws we all live by should not apply to black people, that thievery by black people should be allowed by ugly threat of force?

Steve Gregg

Black Lives Matter organizer Devonere Armani Johnson made a practice of shaking down Madison, WI store owners of all races for free stuff with this threat: "Give me money or we'll break windows." He walked into one restaurant and threatened to "shut down and destroy" it if he and his friends didn't get free food and drinks.

When he caused a ruckus at another restaurant with a boom box, he demanded cash for Black Lives Matter to go away. The owner told him he had already donated to BLM. Johnson said it wasn’t enough, saying, "Give me money or we'll break windows."

Johnson went to a bar and warned, "You don't want 600 people to come here and destroy your business and burn it down."

This is how the Mafia works. Black Lives Matter is no different from Mafioso, shaking down small businesses. Johnson was arrested for extortion.

Megan, why do you support Black Lives Matter extortion of small shop owners like they were Mafia thugs?

Black Lives Matter has been a catastrophe for black people, fomenting riots that burn down black neighborhoods, looIng black stores, and murdering black people. You should be ashamed to suppport them, if liberals were capable of shame. This is evil.

Steve Gregg

A rebuttal to Black Lives Matter:

Steve Gregg

Jarret Jeremy Pace wanted to “burn a 12 station to the ground!” The number “12” is gang slang for cops. Pace was inspired by the burning of a police station in Minneapolis and wrote on his Facebook page that he wanted to do the same in Washington, DC. He posted a map link to Fourth District station, on Georgia Avenue Northwest. He filled a plastic laundry bottle with a gallon of gasoline and lit a paper towel fuse on it as he approached the police station.

Unfortunately, Pace was a moron and set himself on fire as he went to throw his Molotov cocktail. He dropped his firebomb, ran, and was caught by the police. He told his police guard, “This is what you all deserve.”

Pace claims that his attempted firebombing is protected First Amendment speech because in the wacky, upside down world of lefty loonies, liberal violence is free speech while conservative speech is violence.

So, Megan, are you an ally of this arsonist rioter and his Protected Free Speech Firebomb? Black Lives Matter has stated publicly that they want to fry police like bacon, so is it safe to say burning cops alive in a police station would be OK with you?

Brian Mcdonough

Megan, thank you for highlighting your 3 As to try to end bigotry of all kinds.

Brian Mcdonough

P. S.

Megan, also keep up the good work.

Your missive pestered and bothered Gregg for no less than 7 hours.

Consider having your friends write letters early and often. All for a good cause.

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