F or some, activism means getting on your feet and protesting, calling representatives or donating to organizations supporting your cause. But a new form of “activism” is sweeping the nation, especially among youth, in this time of national unrest.
In response to the seemingly endless stream of social and environmental justice issues currently plaguing society, many students have taken to social media to express their advocacy and provide resources for change. But this influx of so-called activism begs the question: how effective can social media activism really be?
Paly is located in one of the wealthiest regions in America. It is predominantly white and Asian, with very little negative police presence.
Yet, we as a community and a school convey messages of inclusivity and equality. So why is a town so self-righteously woke so extremely ignorant?
Wealthy communities are almost always a by-product of redlining, which is the systematic denial of services by federal agencies, local government, and the private sector either directly or indirectly, through the selective raising of prices.
The differences between Palo Alto and East Palo Alto are a prime example of the effects of redlining.
When the 1990s Silicon Valley tech boom made its way to Palo Alto, housing prices surged and the standard of living increased dramatically. Meanwhile, in 1992, East Palo Alto had the highest per-capita homicide rate in the country, surpassing Compton and Washington, D.C. That year, it was known as the murder capital of the world.
Twenty-five years later, the murder rate in East Palo Alto has fallen almost to zero, and violent crime rates have dropped about 60%. So how did this happen? Did Palo Alto fork over some of its fortune to help its struggling neighbor?
Some people might cite the way Palo Alto students rallied in East Palo Alto as an example of how relations have changed for the better, but that’s not enough for such a liberal town to claim it’s over its disgraceful and negligent past. The reality is that Palo Alto students and community members discuss politics on a global level without realizing where they stand at a local level.
It is so easy to show your support for police reform and the protection of Black Lives through a post on your social media accounts. But without educating yourself on the history of your community and school, you are just as ignorant as those you “call out” through your phone. Real courage takes place in person.
East Palo Alto’s road to recovery actually came from within its own police station. The town turned to community policing after former San Francisco Assistant Police Chief Albert Pardini became the Police Chief in East Palo Alto. The town rebuilt its relationship and trust with the police officers, and their police genuinely embody the notion, “to protect and serve.”
So, why is it that hundreds of Palo Alto teens, many of whom have never experienced the full scope of over-policing, stop and frisk, and police brutality, condemn the police publicly on the streets of Palo Alto, of all places?
Chances are, as Paly students, the only negative interaction with the police we’ve had has been from a party being shut down.
So why are students so vocal on social media about reform if they haven’t experienced such oppression? Although it is important to spread awareness, how effective is a social media post that has appeared elsewhere numerous times?
Paly is guilty of pushing a progressive, highly democratic agenda, while neglecting their students of color. Just look at Paly’s achievement gap — it speaks for itself.
How effective is your post when you are pushing it into an echo chamber? What efforts have you made outside of social media to show your solidarity and your support for people of color or the people of East Palo Alto? How much have you listened? How much have you donated? How much have you protested? How much have you phone banked on behalf of Breonna Taylor? On behalf of George Floyd? On behalf of Elijah McClain?
When Jacob Blake’s sister said she doesn’t want your pity and prayers, did it make you take a second to consider who really benefits from your social media post, aside from yourself?
Question your actions and consistently check your privilege.
At the end of the day, activism of any form is never inherently bad. However, it’s imperative that you make the same efforts in the real world that you do in your posts on social media.