Celebrity Responses to Black Lives Matter Protests

Rahnuma Aroshi, Contributing Writer

In the past few weeks, incidents of police brutality and violence against black individuals have been gaining more attention. While there has always been racism in America, the recordings of these events have gone viral on social media, causing many to question the morals of the country and many of its citizens. The murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and countless others at the hands of police officers have awakened citizens from their idyllic perception of the law and reality, and it is becoming harder to ignore. As the Black Lives Matter movement and other similar organizations continue pushing for justice for the crimes committed, celebrities are taking notice and advocating alongside their fans.

Celebrities are using their fame and fortune to aid in the fight against systemic racism, and their actions have been met with a positive response. As protesters are jailed by the authorities, there are multiple funds dedicated to protecting them, like the Minnesota Freedom Fund and NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Celebrities such as Steve Carell, Janelle Monáe, Kehlani, and Drake, have helped out by donating money towards these bail funds.

Other pop culture icons have been using their platforms and social media to recognize the turmoil occurring in the world. Vanessa Morgan, star of the TV show Riverdale, stated that she would support black designers going forward and would also be more intentional about the roles she chooses to play, in order to represent black characters properly. Morgan’s co-star, Lili Reinhart, has publicly showcased her support for Morgan’s endeavors, and is also using Instagram to exhibit black influencers, giving them the chance to share their stories with a larger audience. Similar to Reinhart, celebrities like Selena Gomez, Shawn Mendes, and Lizzo are using social media as a way to connect with and educate millions. CRLS junior Alexandra Jean-Louis finds these measures to be constructive, and said, “I think those with influence should use platforms, like social media, to get people, who would otherwise feel neutral, to take a stance. If they’re wealthy, they should donate money to organizations.”

While donating time, money, and resources is helpful, there are celebrities who have taken things a step further by attending protests. Numerous celebrities were seen marching through the streets on their social media, such as Harry Styles, Zendaya, J Cole, Timothée Chalamet, Ariana Grande, and Halsey, just to name a few. A senior from CRLS, who requested to be anonymous, gave her opinion about the response from celebrities: “I believe that each person in this country has a specific role to play—speaking out against injustices. One can spread the word about what’s happening to family and friends, and encourage them to sign petitions and protest. Nobody should remain silent during this time.”

Celebrities are using their fame and fortune to aid in the fight against systemic racism.

Some celebrities have been called out for their lack of responses to the murders and the protests. Tana Mongeau, a known YouTuber, was criticized for this exact reason. She has since then apologized for her inaction, and has been sharing positive messages and resources. Mongeau also discussed her white privilege and encouraged others to reflect on what it means to be white in America. When asked about negative reactions from celebrities, CRLS freshman Andrea Roman commented, “I haven’t really seen anyone reacting in a negative way, but I also haven’t seen a lot of them reacting at all or talking about it. That doesn’t put them on our side, it puts them on the oppressor’s side.”

 There has also been backlash towards famous individuals who used hashtags in an inappropriate way. The hashtag “#AllLivesMatter” has caused much controversy within the country, and has widely been regarded as an insensitive and ignorant claim. Natasha Fischer, an Instagrammer with over 1.1 million followers on a page dedicated to Trader Joe’s, posted #AllLivesMatter with links to help the BLM movement. After receiving heavy criticism for her actions, she apologized for her ignorance. However, the “#BlackLivesMatter” tag also created tension on social media as influencers rebuked its application on Blackout Tuesday, which was created by activists to bring attention to racism and show respect for those who have died as a result of it. So, many users on social media, especially Instagram, post a black square on their feed in honor of Blackout Tuesday. However, activists have also said that posting black squares with #BlackLivesMatter would make it harder for viewers to find real posts that resonated with the movement. 

One of the most prominent topics being discussed at the moment is the best way one can be an ally to people of color, especially if they already experience privilege. Junior Samia Gamentore stated, “People who want to be an ally have to, first of all, acknowledge the pain that black people have been going through for over 400 years from slavery to now. They have to acknowledge their privilege and ask themselves how they can help. They can stop feeling uncomfortable talking about racism and have the courage to defend the victims of it. All lives can’t matter until black lives matter.” With great power comes great responsibility, and celebrities have a duty to their supporters to become proper allies.

It is important to remember that although the media is displaying more examples of racism and injustice, this is an ongoing issue that has been around for centuries. Jean-Louis referenced this as she declared, “I think the country is in a scary place right now, but honestly it’s always been. Now, it’s just out there for the world to see.” In a time when the population is being affected by both health and moral issues, there is a need for solidarity more than ever. Everyone, famous or not, has the ability to make changes to society and its views. Freshman Asmayt Medhanie expressed her opinions on allyship etiquette, “The biggest thing is not to be silent, make sure you are vocal about how you stand with the protesters, but don’t overshadow those who are mostly affected by these acts. Uplift the voices of black people without silencing yourself.” 

Many consider celebrities to be role models, and that is why it is disappointing if they do not advocate for a marginalized group that is likely a significant portion of their fanbase. It is disappointing for many to find out their heroes are not as incredible as they were led to believe. For those that are doing their best to fight for change, there is much love and thanks.