Preventing Activism Burnout
If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent the last three weeks glued to your phone. In today's era of constant access to updates and real time events taking place, it’s super easy to stay informed about what is going on in the world. Despite this, as time passes, the media is portraying less and less of the protests and activism regarding BLM that are continuing to take place. People on social media are beginning to post selfies and pictures with their friends again, and it seems as if things are “going back to normal”. In reality, this isn’t the case. Protests are continuing and progress is being made, things are slowly beginning to change. For a lot of people, however, this type of widespread organized action is quite new, which is beginning to lead to feelings of political burnout.
Let’s talk about burnout, what is it exactly? Burnout is defined as the physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion that so many experience when placed in highly demanding situations for a long duration. The constant exposure to videos of police brutality, feeling angry and helpless about what is going on, and the sheer volume of information that is being thrown at people at once all contributes to burnout. For a lot of people, this is their first time experiencing activism-related burnout, which can be discouraging and make them feel like giving up. This, combined with the fact that the news cycle is beginning to move on past the BLM movement is a dangerous mix: it gives people a sense that there is nothing more they can do, and that the world is moving forwards from these issues. It is important to stay involved and active, even when others seem to be moving past them. Here are some things you can do to continue your activism once the news cycle has moved on, and help prevent yourself from burning out!
Activism is a process, you are not expected to be right on your first try all of the time. The most important part of being an ally is being able to acknowledge, own up to your mistakes, and learn from them. If it is a choice between doing nothing, or speaking up and getting something wrong, choose to speak up. You can learn from your errors and become better because of it, refusing to participate restricts your personal growth. There are a ton of resources out there that you can use to develop your knowledge of what is going on in the world. Remember, while passion and empowerment are the motivation behind the movement, fighting with facts and solid information is an essential part of having your voice heard.
Continue the Conversation
Just because the media is beginning to move on does not mean that we have to allow it to. Continue to use your voice to fight for what you believe in. Have conversations with people in your life on a day-to-day basis, send emails to government officials calling for change, speak at rallies and protests if you are able, and continue to use social media to spread awareness.
Hold People Accountable
I’m sure you’ve seen the phrase “it isn’t enough to be not racist, you have to be anti-racist” all over social media for the last few weeks. A big part of continuing to be an ally once things seem to settle down is calling people out on their mistakes. Whether it is a racist relative at a family dinner or a friend making an insensitive joke, it is important to speak up. It is these subtle, “socially acceptable” forms of racism that pave the way for more serious discrimination; to stop this we have to refrain from normalizing it. Not only can you hold those in your life accountable, but you can have the same mindset towards celebrities and brands. Instead of buying from businesses that support anti-BLM groups or rely on prison labour to make their products, buy from more sustainable and black-owned businesses. When celebrities and politicians commit offences regarding these issues, don't let them be washed away by waves of news. People in power must be held accountable for their actions, even more than usual during this time of crisis.
Take a Break
While it is hard to step back from the events taking place, for the sake of your own mental health it is important that you take some time away from the media. It is good to stay informed, but the constant stream of news and events can be overwhelming, especially considering the nature of it right now. So many people feel guilty for wanting to rest when others are not able to, but it is still important to take care of yourself; you will be more effective as an ally if you are rested and mentally healthy. Taking some time away from the news allows your brain to rest and recover properly; there is only so much you can take in before feeling overwhelmed. Spend time with your family, do something you enjoy, or just give yourself some time to relax before you dive back in.
Now is the time to understand that supporting this cause is not a short period of attending protests and sharing content. It is about making anti-racism a part of who you are, a part of your day-to-day life. Using the progressing news cycle as an excuse to forget about these issues is not enough, remaining silent is not enough. Racism has been an issue for centuries and will not stop because the media finds other stories to talk about, it will continue on as it always has. If we want to truly make a difference we must ensure that our voices do not die down, that we continue to push for change even when others seem to have moved on.