With #BlackLivesMatter trending on social media in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and many other Americans solely on the basis of their race, Indian celebrities chose to speak up as well. However, the fans weren’t happy and called it ‘performative activism’.
In this week alone, there have been cases of police brutality in India itself, on the basis of religion. And there have been countless instances of racism, casteism and classism that go overlooked by mainstream celebrities. The #BlackLivesMatter hashtag was used generously by right-wing social media accounts, teenagers trying to be politically woke regardless of being clueless, and our Bollywood celebrities, who had previously stayed suspiciously quiet on the issues, atrocities, and protests going on in their home country.
‘Black Lives Matter’ is a movement that tackles institutional racism in the US, especially the systemic violence against black men by the largely white police force. When 46-year-old George Floyd died on May 25th, after having his neck knelt on by white policeman Derek Chauvin, the entire state of Minneapolis rose in anger and violent opposition. Systematic oppression exists everywhere, either in the form of sexism, racism or classism.
Of course, the protests that are happening on the other side of the world need our support and solidarity. But indulging in the same practices at home and showing solidarity to other countries feels extremely hypocritical, and Twitter and other social media users are just not buying it.
Political leaders who explicitly stated “Goli maaro saalon ko” and called the anti-CAA protesters as “azaadi waale” and “biryani waale”, have been coming up and showing solidarity to the darker race in the US and speaking up about how it was wrong. Another Twitter account by the name of ‘Sherlock Holmes’, who is a self-proclaimed Right-winger, appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar to call out the violence in America.
Several celebrities including Kareem’s Kapoor Khan, Disha Patani, Priyanka Chopra, have also taken to social media to voice their support for the protests in America. Rana Ayyub, a renowned female journalist tweeted, “The same intellectuals who are tweeting ‘black lives matter’ will see the atrocities in Kashmir and the lynching and carnage of Muslims in India through the prism of patriotism. They will ask you to ‘speak like an Indian first’ and not defame the nation.”
However, actor Abhay Deol called them out by posting a picture oh hashtags like #migrantlivesmatter, #minoritylivesmatter and #poorlivesmatter, with the caption that spoke about how “woke” Indian celebrities and the middle class have stood in solidarity with fighting systemic racism in America, so perhaps they’d see how it manifests in their own backyard.
But the majority of the flak received was due to the fact that these celebrities had earlier promoted and propagated fairness creams, and acted in said ads. People were quick to call them out by asking them the genuineness of their support when they, themselves, promote such racism and colourism. A Twitter user posted a thread with celebrities and their ‘performative activism’ posts, alongside their fairness cream ads.
It’s important to understand and speak up against issues that are prevailing, but we need to take care of things in our country before preaching support to others. If you’re supporting the protests happening in the US, but are blissfully ignorant about the atrocities caused by police brutality and racism in India, then do you genuinely support that cause? It’s completely alright to start being vocal about what you think is right or wrong when you know more and are better informed.
Inputs : Yukta Baid