In 2020, celebrity culture seems to be crumbling before our very eyes. What with the tone deaf videos of millionaires singing “Imagine” from their tennis courts and private gyms in order to help us through a global pandemic and economic crisis, and now the black squares that have clogged our Instagram feed this week with very little show of meaningful “solidarity” beyond that, people have become fed up with worshipping these over-glorified high school drop-outs.
Going on a mass unfollowing spree of celebrities has been pretty easy recently. Celebrities have been exposing themselves left, right and centre - either as racist, or as having an unwillingness to fully support the movement and fully stand against institutional oppression and violence against Black people.
For just one example of this behaviour, although it has been prolific throughout the Instagrams of white celebrities, I’d like to point to Kristen Bell, everyone’s favourite girl-next-door, from Veronica Mars, Frozen and The Good Place.
Over the course of a few days, Kristen Bell posted at least seven images of police joining in the protests across America - videos where officers took a knee in a show of “solidarity” for the cause or hugged a Black protestor. In contrast, she did not post one image or video of the much more common occurrences at these protests of violent police brutality towards peaceful protestors, the press, medics and Black people who just happened to be passing by.
It’s not that I think the intention comes from a bad place. I think people who share these posts are simply trying to share “good” news, as waves and waves of bad news have flooded our social media feeds for all of 2020. But these posts aren’t “good” news - they’re propaganda. These images are free PR for the police, a group that is currently gleefully fighting for their right to kill unarmed Black people.
Countless accounts from protestors on the ground attest to the fact that after officers performed their empty act of “solidarity” and made sure it was photographed, they turned around and tear gassed everyone they could see. Tweets in this thread claim that after they got their press shots, officers in different cities “beat the living shit out of us,” “maced us in the face for the crime of standing in their vicinity” and “gassed an entire park.” This video shows officers kneeling, making sure the protestors felt safe enough to come towards them, before spraying them with tear gas. This video of an officer speaking to protestors and supporting their cause went viral, despite claims about the horrendous ways this man has used his power in the community to target the oppressed and underprivileged before, proving that his act of “solidarity” was pure performance.
The police know what they’re doing. They know that people will spread “good news” on their behalf. They know that this will help to dilute the way people perceive the very real brutality, violence and systemic abuses of power that caused these protests in the first place. We know they’ve got tear gas and rubber bullets, but propaganda is just another weapon in their arsenal, and white celebrities are helping them spread it to the masses.
If you read the comments on any of Kristen Bell’s recent Instagram posts, you’ll see that countless fans have tried to reason with her. She’s been told that it’s propaganda. That it’s performative and meaningless. She’s been told that spreading this instead of sharing any information about the vast majority of what’s happening - state violence against civilians - does nothing for the cause and only acts as free promo for the police. She’s been asked to stop. But she didn’t. She just turned her comments off.
Regardless of Kristen Bell’s intentions, there’s no excuse for us, as white people, to ignore the people who try to educate us when we make mistakes in our allyship. It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s not okay to cover our ears and refuse to learn from them.
And let’s be clear: there is good news to be found in the news right now, news that celebrities like Kristen could have just as easily shared with their followers. But it’s got nothing to do with the cops.
There are protests happening all around the world (including here in NZ), showing true solidarity with the struggle of Black Americans and proving that racism is a disease that has to be fought from every corner of the world.
People across the world are donating as much as they can to support different aspects of the Black Lives Matter cause. The official George Floyd memorial fund has reached $13 million, a separate fund for his young daughter is nearly at $2 million, the fund for seeking justice for Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was shot dead by police in her own bed, is at $5 million. Millions of dollars have been donated to bail funds in cities across America where protestors have been arrested. Over $1 million has been raised to help homeless Black trans women in Atlanta. Huge amounts of money have been raised to help rebuild Black owned businesses that were destroyed in the riots.
There is so much joy and goodness to be found in the news surrounding the Black Lives Matter protests. This man provided shelter for protestors avoiding arrest in Washington DC. In New York, hospital workers still in the throes of fighting Coronavirus came out to applaud the protestors, “thank you” the groups called to each other. Two co-workers in Brooklyn made 400 meals and 200 desserts to give to protestors who might not have access to food.
These are the social media posts that all of us, particularly white celebrities with a big platform, should be spreading, instead of copaganda.Support Villainesse