Let’s talk about protests, activism and boycotts.
In the wake of the whole #OscarsSoWhite controversy, the idea of digital or hashtag activism is worth revisiting or really just discussing again in context.
When Jada Pinkett-Smith posted her video online sharing her thoughts on the lack of diversity in the Oscar nominations, she was actively participating in digital activism. Although she didn’t directly ask anyone to boycott the Oscars, she did say that she wouldn’t be watching or attending. She also said that black people should consider taking back our power and using it to honor and support the black community.
Her one video launched a conversation about the lack of diversity in Hollywood. Other celebrities like Spike Lee and Snoop Dog said they would boycott the Oscars as well. Other celebrities shared their opinions about the lack of diversity and why they didn’t agree with a boycott. Publications picked up the story and wrote articles about it. The story spiraled and now the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the organization that gives out Oscars) has instituted some historic changes to increase diversity.
I can’t help but attribute all of this to that one video that Jada Pinkett-Smith posted online. Now, not all forms of digital activism have that same immediate response, but it can and does work. Let me stop here and define what I mean by “work”.
Digital activism is great for starting conversations and bringing awareness to issues. The water crisis in Flint, Michigan has been happening since 2014 but the story has blown up and now it’s all over social media. This increased awareness has led to people donating water, money and other support from all over the country.
So when people say that digital activism, hashtag activism or arm chair activism doesn’t work, I have to disagree. Taking the time to share a story online does have impact. Don’t stop doing it.