Quit Calling Yourself an Influencer
I don’t know how to begin writing this. I don’t want to put words in the mouth of my black friends. I don’t want to pretend that the outrage I feel is even close to the outrage that my friends of color feel. But I’m angry. And my heart hurts. And the world just feels so heavy. For those that have chosen to bury their head in the sand these last few days and might not know the specifics of what I’m talking about, George Floyd was murdered by the hands of 4 police officers on May 25th, 2020. (I will not link the video evidence of this because quite frankly his murder is not some viral meme to be shared and his life was so much more than his last minutes on this earth) His tragic murder has been the spark for a nationwide series of protests and riots in major cities across America – the majority of them peaceful – and everyone seems to be shouting from the rooftops that enough is enough, racism has to end, and promoting the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Well, almost everyone.
It seems as though I have consistently seen the influencer community stay extremely silent during this time. Sure, they posted the black square, maybe even a peaceful MLK quote dabbled into various stories about how to make whipped coffee – but through and through, I have not seen the white influencer or blogger community take any sort of real stand and use the voice that they’ve created for themselves to call out white privilege, racial injustice, and systemic racism.
My response to your silence is simply this:
You’ve worked hard for your following, sure. But for what? So you can have eyes on your photos and have more people using your code for commission sales? Your voice should be about far more than having people dress like you or use your recipe. The title itself gives you away – you have influence…a responsibility you wanted, you earned. Black people have to work twice as hard and scream twice as loud to prove themselves in every area of their lives (including their innocence) and yet I see so many white influencers and bloggers choosing flippantly to be quiet on the topic because it has no real affect on their day to day. Or even worse, they don’t want to get political. Hey newsflash: this isn’t a political issue, it’s a humanitarian issue. And whether you like it or not, you are leading by example and letting others know it’s okay for them to remain silent too.
You’re afraid you’re going to offend some people – so what? The people who are uncomfortable talking about race and white privilege and bias are guaranteed to be the ones who need to hear about it the most. As one of your followers I don’t want to be left wondering where you stand on these topics. However, I also don’t want to put words in your mouth and assume what side of history you are falling on. But sometimes silence is deafening – and this is one of those times. If you continue to carry on as if nothing is happening, you are choosing the side of the oppressor.
And if people unfollow you? Who cares? – I would rather my black friends be able to see me as an ally than to make sure I don’t lose some fake internet friends. This might be a good time to take inventory of who you are seeking approval from anyways. If it makes you nervous to stand up for what is right because of a fear of public opinion, it might be time you find a different crowd.
It’s our job, our responsibility as influencers, to stir the pot in our circles, no matter how big or small those circles may be. We are the ones constantly researching online, trying to be ahead of the curve in our areas of expertise. What if we brought that same energy to social justice? While we may never know what it is like to be a person of color and can never feel the weight of their daily reality on our shoulders, by no means are we out of this race. This war against racial injustice is very much our fight. Our black friends are tired – tired of having to educate us on how to respect them, tired of fighting for literal basic human rights, tired of having to prove themselves worthy of life. We need to be willing to stand in the gap for them and demand change. To demand these police be brought in and convicted, to shine a light on injustice or bias we see in our own community (or family) and make people aware of what is going on. Black people are telling us they have to work overtime to get the same attention, respect, and consideration as white people. Factor in your small army of followers, and you can make even bigger waves. So why are you deciding to remain silent in a time that calls for as many loud voices as possible? Your influence holds no value until you are more concerned with protecting lives than protecting feelings.
And please do not get me wrong I don’t think I have any answers for you. There are a lot of things I need to learn from and for my friends of color and a lot of things I need to unlearn from how I was raised – but my anger towards the things I’ve seen and the stories I’ve heard far outweigh my urge to be a peace-keeper or to be liked. Our country isn’t just going to balance itself out with time.. this has already been proven. This is a time for us as white people to take the initiative to educate ourselves, to have hard conversations and ask tough questions, to watch the videos of the riots and be ready to understand instead of getting defensive and to stick our necks out for our friends who don’t even feel safe in their own communities
Here are some ways you can do that:
This one is easy. It’s been proven that there is power in numbers and if you consider yourself an influencer on any level, encouraging your followers to add their signatures is a great way to further the cause for justice. Look into the WHY. Learn the stories, see the problem as large – unlawful arrest, corrupt police action, ineffective policy and share the petitions that demand action against those problems. Take it one step further and make resources accessible to your followers to call or email their local and state officials to demand change. The Black Lives Matter organization has done a lot of the work for us and compiled lots of petitions and emails in one place so all you have to do is put it in your bio and promote it. You can access that link here: and if you have the swipe up link, head to Maasai Godwin’s Instagram page as she has created a template that automatically sends an email to the right government officials – all your followers have to do is swipe up.
This is putting your money where your mouth is. I understand it can be overwhelming to find specific causes to donate to. I myself have been trying to research the various donation funds I see on a daily basis and see where my money is best allocated. And while I fully support donating and encourage you to look into those organizations that truly benefit from your donations, I also encourage you to amplify and support Black-owned businesses. If you don’t know of any in your own city, ask for recommendations on your stories or do a quick Google search. For example, Dallasites101 has shared a list of black-owned restaurants for the Dallas area. And go further than your own neighborhood. There are so many Black-owned businesses that you can shop online – @RoohiAmber shared a list of Black-owned brands that you can shop from anywhere that was so helpful to me to know where to start looking. The protests will end and the news will die down, but these businesses will still be standing. Why not establish those relationships now when they need your voice the most? AND PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DO NOT REACH OUT FOR COLLABORATIONS. Buy their products, share their social pages, support the causes they are supporting because your followers are watching.
There are numerous resources floating around online that address issues of white privilege and systemic racism. It would be incredibly helpful for you as an influencer to shine a light on videos, written articles (check out medium.com), books, and discussions that can break down what you might have a hard time putting into words. For many of us, this is a time to learn about how we continuously play a role in perpetuating racist ideals without realizing it, and how we can UN-learn some of the bias we grew up with and not only become “not racist” but Anti-racist.
Here are links to resources that have begun to help educate me and helped me understand why we are protesting.
The people who are affected by your silence are watching. The reality is we can’t afford to risk someone dying for the sake of our discomfort. I encourage you to own your little corner of the internet. You created it for a reason, use it!