Taylor Trimble ’24 is a philosophy, politics, and economics (PPE) major from Chicago, IL.
In the summer of 2020, George Floyd was murdered in broad daylight in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His death was recorded and subsequently disseminated via social media and television. As a result, many people, specifically white people, began to realize that racism existed, prompting them to become more involved in social activism.
However, despite many attempts to be socially progressive and aware, some of this activism has come across as insensitive, traumatic, and severely misguided. Particularly, the dissemination of videos showing the murders of Black and brown people have been the go-to social activist method for many white activists who either want to genuinely promote awareness or prove they’re anti-racist.
Regardless of intention, this is a big sign from an actual Black person to tell you to stop showing and spreading these videos via social media. Trauma porn is not activism.
If my request is not enough to convince you, then I sincerely hope these reasons below provide some clarity on why the dissemination of such videos is extremely harmful rather than helpful.
Reason 1: Communities of color understand racism exists, so recording and disseminating our murders is more traumatizing than it is insightful.
Reason 2: The distribution of such videos is oddly reminiscent of when white people attended the lynchings of Black people for entertainment. If the distribution of these videos is not helpful for Black people and other POC and many of us refuse to watch such content, then what really is the purpose? For other white people to watch it? What could possibly be gained from that?
Reason 3: If you are not a POC and find it beneficial to view such content because it confirms that racism exists, then there’s a problem. If the extensive research of the effects of systemic and historic racism, the individual acts of racism in minorities’ day to day lives, and mass shootings of communities of color are not enough to prove racism exists, then I highly suggest some self-evaluation.
Reason 4: Lastly, if POC are making it very known that there are no benefits to the distribution of our murders, then the only plausible reason to continue spreading such content is to appease white guilt. It is not activism if it is not providing allyship to POC. And it is definitely not activism if the sole purpose behind such actions is to provide validation for one’s whiteness and privilege.
Now, I am not saying that the people who spread such content are being intentionally malicious. In fact, I believe that most of the people responsible for disseminating these videos have the right intentions. They want to be socially aware and allies for minority communities.
However, spreading trauma porn is not activism; it’s a contribution to minority trauma.
If the root of such distribution is unintentional ignorance, then the only feasible solution would be education. That being said, it is not POC’s responsibility to educate white people. It is exhausting to live in a society built off the subjugation of our people, but then to educate the people who actively benefit from it? Similar to our ongoing oppression, that’s another burden we do not deserve.
I implore white activists to take the time and research. Read scholarly articles, watch credible videos, and ask questions in class. Make an effort because we, as racial minorities, cannot and will not be responsible for educating people who benefit off a system that was designed to limit, hinder, and eradicate us.