Celebrities Like Tamannaah Are Using #AllLivesMatter Without Understanding Its Context
It is natural to feel distraught after watching the heartbreaking video of the pregnant elephant taking her last breath in a river. But can outrage over this incident come at the cost of striking off another valid cause? Is it okay to endorse a hashtag or a slogan just because the words seem relevant, without understanding their context? Do our celebrities even understand the impact their reach could have when they unwittingly end up on the wrong side of the narrative? Actor Tamannaah Bhatia is being trolled for posting a picture on social media with the following text, “Your silence will not protect you. Doesn’t every life matter, human or animal? Muting any form of creation is against the universal law. We must unlearn and learn to be human again, express compassion and practice love. #AllLivesMatter #WakeUpWorld.”
How removed our celebrities are from reality? Are they getting their dose of news and opinions from WhatsApp and Instagram much like regular folks? Isn’t that a letdown?
Apart from inappropriate use of the very problematic hashtag AllLivesMattter, she has also used her pictures where it seems black fingers are covering her mouth and wrapped around her neck. Perhaps Bhatia’s intention was to call out violence that every human faces, across genders, races and class, and the cruel killing of animals. But in the end her very meaningful text came across as tone-deaf because of the hashtag and picture she used with it.
Sara Ali Khan also received social media flack for her Insta story, endorsed the tag “All Lives Matter” which seemed to have been posted as outrage over the pregnant elephant’s death. On any other day, a simple picture of an elephant trunk with that slogan may have not raised any eyebrows. But with the custodial death of George Floyd and the ensuing mass protests against racism and police brutality that African-Americans have been facing for ages, the issue is much more complex.
Black Lives Matter: this slogan is being raised, as it was before, to address the unfair treatment meted out to a specific community because of their skin colour. Now coming to Sara’s post, which was much more than just the image of an elephant trunk and the slogan All Lives Matter. In the said post the word Black has been struck off to be replaced with All and a series of hands of different skin colour accompanied it, with the last one being that of an elephant’s trunk.
In times of social media, you cannot use its power to expand your reach and then remain oblivious to all that is happening around the world at the same time.
Khan completely overlooked the cultural context of the Black Lives Matter slogan. This from a celebrity who completed her graduation from the reputed Columbia University in the US! She wasn’t the only one though. Superstar Akshay Kumar also tweeted on the elephant’s death, writing, “Maybe animals are less wild and humans less human. What happened with that #elephant is heartbreaking, inhumane and unacceptable! Strict action should be taken against the culprits. #AllLivesMatter.” There are 25,700 retweets on this. So 25,700 people ended up endorsing a hashtag that was being used to whitewash the Black Lives Matter movement in the US.
The coronavirus lockdown has perhaps distanced these celebs from their PR. With so many Bollywood aficionados in the West, no way could any PR have allowed a celebrity to use this hashtag, without throwing a fit. Does this debacle only show how removed our celebrities are from reality? Are they getting their dose of news and opinions from WhatsApp and Instagram much like regular folks? Isn’t that a letdown?
We are all mourning the pregnant elephant’s death, and while our compassion is valid and essential, we need to think harder about what we write, what we endorse and what it could end up saying about us. In times of social media, you cannot use its power to expand your reach and then remain oblivious to all that is happening around the world at the same time.
All lives matter, yes, but now is the worst time to endorse this slogan. Sara’s post sums up the effect of such Twitter hashtags, a relevant cause gets struck off because we would rather cash on a hashtag that is already trending than create a new relevant one which doesn’t eat into the activism that is happening in a nearby space.