Slacktivism is Not Activism
Over the last couple weeks, Skidmore students have had their Facebook newsfeeds barraged with the status: “To the students of color at Mizzou and Yale, we, student allies at Skidmore College stand with you in solidarity. To those who would threaten their sense of safety, the world is watching. #ConcernedStudent1950 #InSolidarityWithMizzou.” This Facebook status has been widely shared among students nationwide. Yet, the status does nothing to enact or encourage tangible change for students of color across America. Copying and pasting a status on Facebook may express support, but it isn’t actively identifying any issues or suggesting reforms. More often than not, a Facebook status is nothing more than an example of self-revelatory ‘slacktivism.’ A more positive way to use social media could be, if you agree with them, to share People of Color Union’s (POCU) list of demands, or even share an educational article.
As opposed to slacktivist actions on social media, in-person protests can be effective, if done well. Last year, Skidmore was host to a couple of notable protests: the ‘die-in’ for Michael Brown on December 4th and the Black Lives Matter protest on April 29th. The die-in received considerable media coverage, and left a lasting impression on Skidmore’s community. The chalk body marks on Case Walkway lasted for weeks, acting as a reminder of the brutality happening outside of Skidmore. It was planned, well-publicized, and well-received by the community.
Compare this to the Black Lives Matter march in late April of this year. Students marched through campus chanting “black lives matter,” holding signs, and gathering more students as they walked. They marched through the green, Case Walkway, the silent floor of the library, and through academic buildings in which students were presenting their capstone research presentations for the annual Academic Festival. This protest was organized only the day before it occurred, and the intent of the march, raising awareness about police brutality, was almost entirely eclipsed by the uproar from the students and staff who saw theirs and others’ capstone presentations disrupted. Protests deserve a place at Skidmore, but the poor choice of time and place for this march created hostility that discouraged empathy for their cause.
This past week, POCU organized a “walk-out” for community-members to stand in solidarity with students at the University of Missouri. The timing, location, and accessibility for the whole Skidmore community made it possible for the walk-out’s message to be heard. However, some thought the walk-out was not as productive as it could have been. Attendees left after only a few minutes unclear of what to do next to advance the cause. Despite a large turnout and widespread attention, is this just another example of activism that requires little time or involvement?