How do we balance sharing with oversharing? Being constantly exposed to the prejudices we face as marginalized people can be exhausting. Providing visibility and humanizing victims is self-evidently significant, but the way we share this information matters.
Because there is so much denial of systemic abuse, sharing videos as well as the commentary helps show first-hand the degree of brutality going on, but sharing videos, such as those of police brutality, with your liberal communities is not inherently helpful. If you share videos of violence with already traumatized communities, it reinforces trauma. Share with racists, share with people who deny this happens, but share mindful of all the people for whom this is part of a repeated and ongoing violence. That we shouldn’t need to see this violence to believe it and act with compassion. These videos should be horrific. When the victims are white, they are often considered too horrific to show. When the victim is a black girl, a child, we must protect her too. When the body is of a refugee, we must respect their dignity too.
Make the crimes visible, but make them visible in the context of the facts. We don’t need to keep re-watching the videos, we need to talk about why the cops are in the schools and all the problems that go along with that and everything that happened before something was filmed. We need to find ways to make changes.
Share information. Share tools. Find petitions and local rallies. Let people know how they can have a concrete impact. Having an impact is important to furthering a case and to keeping people engaged and motivated.
Share healing. Are there groups in your area? Are there healing circles or spaces in which people can share their feelings, take action and support one another?
When people see misery and automatically share or tag without thinking, they are often performing ally-ship without embodying it. Sharing hateful articles benefits their creators, retweeting hate speech is signal boosting. Instead, we should share the critiques, or commentary and be sure to give credit to activists, writers, and community members doing emotional and intellectual work.
The spaces social media provides to share information are incredible, but we need to be mindful in how we use them. All of us have ingrained prejudices, it is a fact and if we really care about these issues we need to avoid denying them and engage actively to break them down. This means we all make mistakes some of the time. How we take responsibility matters.
Broad City has a line “you’re so anti-racist sometimes you’re actually really racist”. The painful truth is that when we make mistakes, it can be hard to take responsibility, but we often feel obliged to do so in ways that are very public and repeated. We may be looking for reassurance to assuage our guilt. This is not the solution. Being uncomfortable is necessary, so is processing your emotions in a way that doesn’t put the burden on people who are affected by your actions. There is a lot more that can be said about who has to do the emotional work, but I think it’s a helpful indicator of what is useful.
If you want to take responsibility for having made a mistake in the past, the correct way to process that isn’t to apologize to every person you meet. It’s not to remind them that by being friends with you they risk your mistakes. Forgiveness is emotional work. Reach up to talk and receive, reach down to listen and support.
When you share a violent video, or article with graphic descriptions, consider if the context is dehumanizing or sensationalist before sharing. Do the victims get agency? Are they named? Are they humanized? What kind of language is being used, and what is your source?
These steps, to remain connected to the real people affected, to avoid luridness in favor of compassion, can be great indicators whether something is worth sharing.
What’s more, marginalized people need space to disengage. No one is obligated to be an activist, and activists need breaks. When anyone chooses to step back for a while, that decision should be respected. Do not draw an affected individual into discussions that may negatively impact them. Respecting boundaries includes emotional and intellectual space too.
*updated to be more concise