Social activism is a noble endeavor requiring a substantial amount of time and energy. Most activists dedicate themselves to their causes in varying capacities, make a host of sacrifices, and endure significant pushback to affect change.
In addition to the creating and amplifying platforms to engage actual work on the ground, activists frequently need to create a delicate balance of asserting their voices and placing themselves in the spotlight to draw attention to their causes and acquiring critical funding without making it about their egos or wallets. Unfortunately, some fall short of the mark, and some create a cult of personality void of material socio-cultural change.
Muslim Anti-Racism co-founder Namira Islam took to Facebook to express her frustration at what she labeled “Diet Woke,” which involves activism endeavors for the sake of social media notoriety and organizational funding without alleviating the plight of stakeholders:
“Woke” is the new sex appeal in the time of 45, and I’m sitting on a mental bank of notes on the behaviors of American Muslim activists and leaders over the last few years.
Reminder: it isn’t backbiting/gossip to warn others about people who exploit labor, gaslight, and culturally appropriate. This behavior is violence.
I am not here for the people and orgs who “take initiative” to set something up… that they have no intention to supply or fund labor to sustain. I am not here for the people and orgs who get the “leadership” PR and optics right but can’t put bodies in seats or volunteers on buses. I am not here for the people who can’t employ or include Black American Muslims in leadership positions but have no issue lifting language, optics, or vibe to be edgy, cool, or trendy. I am not here for the orgs who pigeonhole Black speakers to only talk about race and racial justice issues at their major events. I am not here for the people or orgs who are more concerned about making an image or video or story “go viral to counter Islamophobia” than they are about being polite – much less supportive – of the community members whose social capital and work they use to create those viral moments.
I am not here for the Desis who near-worship Arab or white leaders or speakers, nor am I here for the leaders who open doors to some people and slam them shut for others so they can reference the work being done in a slick package with their own branding instead of putting the actual labor in the room (or even linking to where it started).
I am not here for the #dietwoke crowd who lift up surface level discourse on intersectionality or solidarity without SUSTAINING a relationship with the very people they are “standing in solidarity” with. (Reminder: this is ableist language.)
Because it’s a Muslim org or leader doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed this question is being answered: “What are you doing to SERVE people?” People. Not your brand, not your Instagram followers, not your likes on Facebook.
What’s happening now is the Kardashianing of Wokeness. Keep your eye on the money. Follow who gets money and for what and how their behavior changes.
Forget “activism.” Materialistic, consumeristic, ego-centered engagement is un-Islamic. Period.
The test of the character of a leader is how they treat people they think are voiceless when they think no one’s watching.
1. No one is voiceless.
2. Some of us have been observing.
3. I’ve experienced it myself: there’s always room for those putting in work.
To the #dietwoke crowd, this is your notice. People ‘accept’ us to the extent where it becomes uncomfortable for us to call out problematic behavior, but aren’t really here for us at the end of the day.
How do you fix this if you realize you’re off the path? Humility. Young people are not all stupid, women do have expertise in specific subject areas, and being marginalized in a community means you need them, not the other way around.
Renew your intentions daily, people, because going astray creeps up on you and slams you quicker than you could think.
Follow Namira Islam
Learn more about the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative