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The Greek Tragedy of Performative Activism

In an attempt to be an ally, people are insecurely marketing themselves. The intentions, whether subconscious or not, appear to be to promote their moral compass so their followers believe that they are politically involved instead of being indifferent.


Performative activism is when one’s words do not match their actions. We saw waves of this over the summer; cities painting a #blacklivesmatter mural in an attempt to pacify people’s demands for equity without actually proposing any plans about racial injustice or police brutality.

And we’ve seen it in pop culture too-- to avoid scrutiny, many actors and athletes and city officials, shared hashtags and black squares and promptly went back to their lives of privilege and silence.

Greek life is another example of performative activism. Many Greek life organizations participated in Instagram Blackout Tuesday in support of the George Floyd protests. The black square was appealing because of its simplicity and ease of execution but without allies that are interested beyond how it makes them look, activism loses its effectiveness.

Historically, Greek life has also been very white and affluent. Although Greek life was very active on social media for racial inequality during the summer and some sorority chapters have even created Inclusivity Chairs for more open and responsible discussions, many Greek life members are still participating in unofficial, large gatherings.

The spread of COVID-19 is inevitable on a college campus, however, Greek life has significantly contributed to the spread of a disease that detrimentally and disproportionately kills black people. Thus, for black people, the wave of activism from Greek life over the summer was just a Greek Tragedy. The actors and actresses wear masks and appear to care but their quick fanaticism and pride is not a convincing façade.

As a white person, there also has to be an evaluation of yourself. Dissemble your beliefs. The beliefs that create your self-portrait or your perception of yourself, can often be different than who you are. You must look in the mirror and then pass the mirror to those around you. We cannot continue the pattern, ignore the emerging expiration date of blaming others and dismiss our privilege. We have a biological pandemic at hand and with it a different outbreak has been covertly spreading: apathy.

Emily Keith

GA Tech '22

Emily is a 4th-year student at Georgia Tech majoring in Biomedical Engineering with a minor in Health, Medicine, and Society. She is passionate about writing, cooking, public health, and music. She dreams of epiphanies in different cities and rip current conversations.
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