Can Hashtag Activism Inspire Real Life Social and Political Changes?

BlogHer Original Post

At age 23, Park has youth on her side, and she’s good at getting the younger, Internet-addicted generation, knowledgeable about important issues. But will they be proactive with this knowledge? Park recently teamed up with 18MillionRising, a group of Asian American political organizers who are taking care of Park’s speaking engagements, which may help promote her activism with real-life audiences.

Then again, even speaking to audiences and appearing on TV is not enough. While online activism is incredibly useful as a way to immediately communicate social issues to a global audience, it's still unclear if this conversation -- or any mediated conversation -- is the only tool necessary to spark change. Many people need to get their hands dirty in the "real world" (i.e public protests, sit-ins,boycotts) in order to further these online conversations. Will these tweets ever turn into something as substantial as a change to public policy?

And then there are the personal conversations. As someone who’s been watching the world of racial justice activism for a while, I know that talking about race in real life is stressful and can cause personal and professional fallout. One of the most well-known white anti-racist activists, Tim Wise, had a online meltdown this fall when online critics - who reportedly resent him as a much-sought-out public speaker -- went after him on his Facebook page:

"And this is what's funny...every second that fools troll my site, complaining about how I take up all the antiracist space so they can't be heard, is a moment they aren't setting up their own website, blog, or writing their own book…"


"...seriously, it's time for people to be told to step off...feel free to jump off the page trolls....or I can bounce you...and would love me, u will lose this beef..badly…"

Talking about race, even among our friends, is difficult. It’s hard to do online – but even harder in person. People of colour are using the Internet to exercise their rights to challenge racist behaviour, and I applaud that. But we still must also challenge systemic and institutional racism, as well as the alive-and-well racism within our interpersonal relationships, every time we see it.

Ultimately, it is not just the online activists, nor those of us who sit back and RT a hashtagged tweet, who will make the significant effort needed to spark real-life change. It is up to us also get out behind our computers, create or attend meetings in affected communities, or start our own grassroots organizations.

Contributing EditorRace, Ethnicity & Culture

Blog: Writing is Fighting:

My Book: What Are You Doing Here? A Black Woman's Life and Liberation in Heavy Metal


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