Tonight’s event, in conjunction with “Black Lives Matter: A Northwestern Dialogue,” was Slacktivism to Activism: Combatting Social Inaction hosted by NU College Democrats and and the Multicultural Film Collective.
The event identifies slacktivism as “posting long statuses about social issues but not doing things that will provide tangible benefits for the people being marginalized.”
The lecture-style workshop helped attendees identify and combat slacktivism so that they could do more activist work with direct, material results for the communities that need it.
Danielle Harris, the program chair of the Multicultural Film Collective and one of the two facilitators for the evening, went on to talk about how socially media advocacy isn’t intrinsically bad. Online activism is a vital part of organizing. She cites the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag that circulated social media in response to a monochromatic list of Oscar nominees. The Academy, heeding the mass discontent, is now taking steps to make sure the Academy is more diverse.
Regardless of how widely hashtags circulate, however, the hard work must still be done, Harris concedes. Activism is defined as showing up in real life, a physical action. Activism exists on a spectrum- from going to a protest, to talking to unknowing family members — but it always moves beyond the computer screen.
Sami Rose, the co-president of College Democrats and the other facilitator for the evening, shares,
“Putting ourselves out there and making those connections is really important. If there’s something you care about there’s all these resources- either in the Northwestern community or online- just [getting] knowledge about every issue there is. Getting that knowledge beforehand and understanding people’s experiences is really important and then putting yourselves in the actual space.”
Some challenges mentioned that people might face when getting involved as activists were: fear of stepping out, not having enough free time, uncertainty about whether certain spaces are open for some privileged people to engage with, and a lack of knowledge overall.
Still, they emphasized, the point is to make the world a safer place for the communities that need it. So stepping out soon (and confidently) is a must. “Do what works for you,” and that looks differently for everyone, Harris says.
Mia Grindon, a Junior in the School of Communications and an attendee this evening, left reinvigorated and ready to be more active than ever.
“The most tangible, immediate thing [I am leaving with] is a re-inspiration to approach people I’m close to on certain issues and start some difficult conversations that I’ve been fearful of having,” she says. “I think the biggest realization I had last spring was the privilege of being comfortable. I love that that was brought up today because I know that I have that, and I know that I need to stay uncomfortable.”
If you want to bring your slacktivism into reality, check out some of the panel’s suggestions below:
- Volunteer at a local non-profit, like Planned Parenthood! If you can’t make monetary donations to these organizations, donate your time and exertion!
- Engage in dialogues with people who don’t share the same views as you! There are programs on campus to help facilitate complicated dialogues with your peers.
- Join student organizations that are committed to helping the voices of underprivileged identities be heard, and see what action you can commit to write on campus! This includes Associated Student Government, Multicultural Student Groups, the Immigrant Justice Project, Student Action NU, and more.
- Take the disputes you have with friends off social media and bring them to the real world! One’s personhood is rarely well communicated online, making it easier to get angrier more quickly. Talk to your friends and family about justice issues in the same way that you would talk to them about other things that are important to you, face to face!
- Speaker’s come to campus almost every night to spread knowledge, attend a few of their lectures/info sessions!
- Support art (performance art, fine art, etc.) from folks who have the burden of having a marginalized identity! Especially local artists. Help normalize television programs, music styles, etc. that rewrite faulty narratives about underrepresented groups.
- Last, but not least, simply keep your ears open for what your hurting friends need! Observe from your daily interactions with themwhat changes in thought or behavior we all could do to make everyone feel like the world is a place that will not count them out of the game before they’ve picked up the bat.