Group Chat is In The Know’s weekly advice column, where our editors respond to your questions about dating, friendships, family, social media and beyond. Have a question for the chat? Submit it here anonymously and we’ll do our best to reply.
Hi, Group Chat,
I, like a lot of people, have been actively sharing BLM content on my Instagram since the death of George Floyd resulted in kind of a mass social awakening in America. I’ve been going to protests and educating myself with books and articles, as well — it’s a work in progress, obviously, but I am happy so far with the work I’m doing personally. My friends, however, are another story.
Not only have they seemingly gone back to life as usual on Instagram (going to brunch, the beach, etc.), they’ve also fully stopped interacting with my content altogether. It may sound petty, but I’m very painfully aware of the fact that they’ve stopped liking my posts and viewing my stories that engage with racism. It’s like, not only do they not care about what’s going on in this country, but they’re taking it out on me for trying to educate others. It feels calculated and cold. How can I go about calling them out on this without sounding insane or alienating them further?
Sincerely, BLM Supporter
Dear BLM Supporter,
Moriba Cummings, who believes in using your voice while protecting your peace, says — Witnessing the gradual shift in the response to social justice as it pertains to issues that mainly affect Black lives has been interesting this year alone. As a sporadic-yet-addicted Instagram scroller myself, I’ve noticed that, in the months following the unjust murder of George Floyd, the fanfare surrounding the cause — one that’s not limited to any particular date or moment — had waned.
By month two or three, it’s become much easier to identify who used this cultural shift as a moment to flex their pseudo-woke muscles or to blanket their concealed racism or ignorance. If this seems to fit the description of your friends — and based on your assessment of the situation, that may be the case — it may be best, above all, for you to reevaluate your friend circle. While a simple conversation expressing these feelings of hypocrisy and moral standing may do you some good, you should keep in mind that they may not be receptive. As the age-old adage goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” While this may be the ideal time to educate your friends on their shortcomings in this scenario, don’t forget that they may not all be open to receiving your criticisms and, most importantly, doing the work to fix the problem.
The best you can do, otherwise, is to just keep on doing the good work that you’ve been doing on yourself and, in turn, you may better equip those who are willing to listen.
Kelsey Weekman, whose perspective on pretty much everything has changed completely over the past five years, says — One of the most effective ways to change the world is to start within your own friend group. I know this because, not long ago, I was the friend who needed to be confronted. I am forever grateful for my friends who took me aside to say, with love, “Hey, this was out of line,” or “Did you ever consider this from someone else’s perspective?” From there, I’ve been able to educate myself and become an activist in my own right, but it had to start somewhere. Be that friend — especially if you are coming from a position of privilege, where your greatest worry is feeling uncomfortable with your friends. It’s also crucial to remember that the goal of activism is not to eventually become comfortable — it’s to dismantle oppressive systems, which is notoriously hard work. If they continue to tune you out and act like things are “back to normal” (things will not, and should not, ever be “normal” again), don’t let that stop you from shining your light. Keep doing good, uncomfortable work — on yourself and with others.
Amissa Pitter, who will continue to be unapologetic about what she posts on IG, says — First off, your allyship is much appreciated. It’s unfortunate your friends have turned a blind eye to the self-education you’re actively doing. Sometimes when we start to educate ourselves, not only does our self-awareness change, but the way we see those around us starts to alter, too. You can’t make others do what they have no intention of doing.
I can imagine your friends’ lack of engagement on your posts about racism stings, but maybe it’s because your allyship makes them a bit uncomfortable — and, though this should be obvious, that’s not your fault. Your friends may not understand why you are actively sharing Black Lives Matter content, so I say, bring them to the light!
Perhaps you can try setting up a day and time with all of your friends or each individually to address your concerns. Explain to them why you decided to educate yourself on systemic racism and elaborate that BLM isn’t a trend and doesn’t stop with one post. The conversation can be eased into after a couple of casual conversations over light bites or a walk. If that doesn’t work and they don’t understand your point of view, then honey, it may be time to distance yourself. But I’m hoping they come around and at least hear you out.
Justin Chan, who leads the Asian employee resource group at Verizon Media, says — Speaking as someone who is heavily involved in community activism and is passionate about social justice issues, I feel you. The sad truth is that most people tend to not care about issues unless they’re personally affected by them. That being said, it’s one thing for them to not like your posts, but it’s another thing entirely for them to call you out for genuinely trying to make this world a better place. Trust me when I say you are not insane for wanting to call them out. You have every right to express your beliefs, and their silence on an important issue like the Black Lives Matter movement is a form of being complicit.
My advice? Have that hard conversation while remaining as honest and respectful as possible. The best friends are those who can handle criticism and feedback without taking either personally. If they can’t even respect your advocacy or take a moment to listen to you, then they weren’t meant to be your friends in the first place. Surround yourself with people who motivate you to be better, not folks who tear you down. And let’s be clear on one thing — Black lives matter not just now, but always.
Katie Mather, who doesn’t really use social media but still gets it, says — This may the only time in history where someone being paranoid that their friends aren’t liking their posts because of a shady, nefarious reason is valid. Keep posting and recognize the reality that you may actually have to have an uncomfortable face-to-face conversation with your friends about this. Do they seriously not care about what’s going on? This isn’t like you posted a photo where only you look good and everyone else is mid-blink — it’s a major red flag that they aren’t engaging or learning alongside you. Being “petty” or “sounding insane” would be feeling suspicious that they have a Close Friends list you’re not on, not wondering whether they’re willing to stay ignorant about issues that may not pertain to them personally.
TL;DR — An important part of advocacy is a willingness to equip yourself with the right information to have hard but necessary conversations with those you love. Remember, these are your friends, not some strangers on the internet demanding you explain the importance of the BLM movement to them, so the emotional labor is probably worth it. And, because of your status with these people, there’s a real chance they will listen to you and change their hearts — jump on that opportunity! But, be prepared for your next move, should your pals prove unreceptive to the message.
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