Moving Past Performative Activism: Committing to More in the New Year

Estrella Pacheco, News Editor

Since the beginning of the Black Lives Matter protests this year you may have heard the phrase “performative activism” being tossed around, often as a criticism of corporations or individuals. But what does performative activism really mean? Performative activism is activism done in order to maintain or increase one’s social capital. Meaning, it is activism done in order to make sure that you don’t receive hate or lose social standing. Such activism is virtually meaningless, as it does not come from a place of commitment to making actual change. For example, many corporations and celebrities may have released statements condemning the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, or their support for Black Lives Matter, but continue to exploit Black workers and create hostile work environments. 


Remember the phrase “Actions speak louder than words”? Well, that applies to activism too. When Nazi symbols and the confederate flag are within the very halls of our democracy, it is time to commit to real structural change. We have come to a point where reposting Instagram infographics is simply not enough. So, how do we move past performative activism? How can we all commit to making concrete change? 


  • Commit financially. If you have the means to, financially supporting activists’ and organizations’ work is a fantastic way to boost their messages and offer support. Just make sure that those groups/individuals are truly funding what they say they are (Shaun King might not be the best). Additionally, consider joining a mutual aid group, or participating in mutual aid individually. Mutual aid is the act of giving financial or other material support to individuals under the assumption that it in turn benefits you and society as a whole through incremental wealth redistribution and reparations. 
  • Educate yourself and others. Remember all those books, movies, and documentary lists that were being shared on social media? Look some of those up, and follow through with educating yourself. Take a free course on a subject related to a relevant topic. Have those difficult conversations. Challenge your own biases, and learn about history. DIVERSIFY YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA. I guarantee that if you start following more disabled, LGBTQ+, or BIPOC content creators, you will learn a lot about other perspectives. 
  • Join a local activist group. Wherever you are there are many groups working to create change, all you have to do is reach out. In our community, some options are:
  • Analy Activists, a group of high school students looking to amplify and create change amongst our school community 
  • The Analy BIPOC Coalition for Change, a group of BIPOC and allies who work directly to make for a more anti-racist culture on campus
  • Sebastopol Sunrise and SOCO Sunrise, both branches of the national climate justice organization
  • The California Association of Student Councils, a youth-led and run organization that focuses on student advocacy and leadership development
  • The BLM Visibility team, a youth-led group that organized some of the Sebastopol BLM protests and artwork this summer
  • Eco2school, who also puts on events regarding environmentalism in the area. 

These are just a few examples of local activist groups. 

  • Get involved politically. Did you know Sonoma County had the highest voter turnout in the state for this last election? Pretty cool, right? Are you also aware that West County and Rohnert Park areas had progressive candidates running for office who didn’t make it in? There were! Are you aware that the CADEM (California Democratic Party) elections are coming right up, and voters will help choose the delegates that represent them in their Assembly District? There is a lot going on locally that you can start campaigning for and paying attention to. You could even apply for local internships, or start calling your representatives to let them know where you think they should be putting their focus. Remember, your representatives work for you. If you are feeling extra spunky, you can also run for local elections such as school boards! 
  • Actually start attending those protests. When you feel safe to do so, or when Covid is no longer a concern, start going to protests. At the very least you are supporting the communities most impacted by the issue you are protesting. 


We are at a point in time where your actions need to speak louder than your words. So, commit to doing more than reposting, commit to action, and commit to structural change.