Mayowa Sanusi, MPH

Aug 11, 2020

3 min read

Please, No More Performative Acts of Solidarity

On my way to grab some food the other day I saw that the Red Sox had put up a Black Lives Matter banner that could be seen from the Mass Pike. After looking at social media, I saw the same image time and time again as people praised the Red Sox for it’s “bold” move to hang the banner. This is the same organization that has allowed racial abuse to occur within its ballpark for decades. MLB player Tori Hunter had to make sure that there was a no-trade clauses in his contract because of his many encounters with racial abuse at Fenway. Hanging a Black Lives Matter banner is cool, but performative acts of solidarity with no action to address the underlying problem hold no weight.

Since the killing of George Floyd performative acts of solidarity have been all the rage. From painting Black Lives Matter on streets, to major corporations and organizations finally “recognizing” that racism exists in this country, performative acts of solidarity have been used as a cop out instead of truly addressing the root causes of systemic racism and overall systemic oppression. Though I appreciate the local artists that have created these Black Lives Matter murals, I believe that their hope in creating them is that it leads to real, tangible systems and policy change.

No amount of Black Lives Matter signs, TV commercials, or promises to “do better” will change the lives of oppressed people in this country. Supporting Black Lives Matter should not be used as a marketing strategy to gain more profit from Black America and appeal to the masses. I saw someone say the other day that “of the 37 states that painted “Black Lives Matter” on their streets, only one state ended qualified immunity.” This paints the perfect picture of what’s happening in this country after the death of George Floyd. People are demanding freedom, justice, and equity, but are only met with performative acts that get them nowhere near those ideals. Instead of just saying that they care, people and organizations need to show it. Not only with generous donations and recognition, but also with meaningful and intentional acts that support antiracist policies. Places like Google, Nike, and Ben and Jerrys need to support leaders and politicians that create and lead the implementation of antiracist legislation, not in silence, but out in the open for everyone to know. The power that these people and organizations have is enough to change the course of this country, but we need results, not just recognition of a problem.

It is time to truly hold organizations like the Red Sox and others that look to flaunt their performative acts of solidarity accountable. This has been something I have been trying to push at work. Instead of just recognizing the problem, what are we doing to address the problem? So far things have been going well, but we will see how far the organization is willing to go. I highly encourage anyone that sees one of these performative acts at work, home, or otherwise to hold those people, corporations, and organizations accountable. If not you, then who?

“The white man will try to satisfy us with symbolic victories rather than economic equity and justice.”

- Malcolm X