Right now, we are witnessing a surge in institutions and leaders co-opting language and reinventing and marketing themselves as “antiracist,” “inclusive,” or “equitable.” But many have been and will continue to engage with important issues in performative ways.

We know performative activism occurs when those with power wish to give the appearance of supporting members of Black, Indigenous and racialized communities — but aren’t willing to transfer power and transform organizational cultures, policies, practices and behaviours.

We also know those engaged in performative activism often do so reactively, to avoid being called out on racism, or are motivated by benefits they can derive from appearing to be antiracist — for example, increasing profits or brand recognition — rather than a commitment to a more racially just world.  But why should we care about performative activism in the sector?

Firstly, given the sector’s historical relationship with white saviorism, performative activism is widespread in settler-led nonprofits, charities, and philanthropy across Turtle Island.

Secondly, according to numerous scholars and experts, performative activism leads to new and insidious forms of oppression for Black, Indigenous and racialized people. Performative institutions distract from the real issues at stake and also create additional labour for the Black, Indigenous and racialized people who end up collaborating with them. This can take a toll on our emotional and physical health.

Too often, it’s white-dominant institutions assessing the credentials, experience, and projects of Black, Indigenous, and racialized people for alignment with their missions and visions. But what if we flipped the script and asked them to demonstrate their alignment with our objectives too?

I spoke to antiracist leaders, advocates and workers in various industries to see if there were commonalities that could help identify those engaged in performative activism on racial justice. It turns out there are several signature behaviours that indicate you have a performative institution on your hands.

Read the full article about performative activism by Sanaa Ali-Mohammed at Community Centric Fundraising.