Lili Reinhart is the latest white celebrity to apologize for making tone-deaf remarks on social media amidst the Black Lives Matter movement sweeping the nation.
Reinhart came under fire recently when she posted a since-deleted nude photo of herself to Instagram and captioned it,
“Now that my sideboob has gotten your attention, Breonna Taylor’s murderers have not been arrested. Demand justice.”
Unsurprisingly, Reinhart’s attempt at “demanding justice” drew a hefty amount of backlash. Although the photo was ostensibly posted to draw attention to Breonna Taylor’s murder, all it really did was draw attention back to Reinhart herself, with the subtext (however unintentional) being, “I’m not a regular activist. I’m a sexy activist.” And, as one Twitter user put it, Breonna Taylor is “not a meme or a marketing tactic.”
Reinhart is just one name in a long list of celebrities uploading cringe-worthy, if well-intentioned, posts across their social media platforms. Ellen DeGeneres posted a tweet that, though it vaguely advocated for change, essentially said nothing. Other celebrities, including Cara Delevingne and Kendall Jenner, reposted Black Lives Matter “chains” on their Instagram stories following the death of George Floyd.
And then, of course, there was the disastrous #ITakeResponsibility campaign, which featured celebrities like Stanley Tucci, Aaron Paul, and Kristen Bell denouncing police brutality and “taking responsibility” for their role in perpetuating white privilege. (It’s worth noting that the “responsibility” these celebrities vowed to take didn’t seem to include donating any actual money or taking any tangible action. Instead, “taking responsibility” consisted of, as journalist Josh Spiegel wrote, “talking earnestly for 30 seconds on a cellphone video.”)
As many black celebrities have advocated, proper white allyship is more important than ever right now.
In a video uploaded to Instagram, Lizzo stressed to fans the importance of being actively anti-racist, saying that, “as long as you stay silent, you’re part of the problem.”
Janelle posted similar sentiments in a since-deleted Instagram post, writing,
“When will the majority of protests & outrage be led by white people & police officers everywhere… why are OUR voices & outrage LOUDER THAN YOURS during these times? WE DIDN’T DO THIS.”
Their sentiments are absolutely valid and correct. But I don’t think when they said, “do something,” they meant, “flash some sideboob.”
Lili Reinhart boasts an Instagram following of 24.2 million users. It’s understandable that she would feel an enormous pressure to speak out, and she should. But it seems that, in a panicked attempt to prove themselves as allies, many celebrities have chosen to forgo taking the time to put together a thoughtful statement and, instead, decided to blurt out whatever comes to their heads first. For many white people who are uneducated in America’s long history of institutionalized racism, these desperate attempts often lead to insensitive and/or inaccurate statements.
It would be nice to instead see these white celebrities capture some middle ground, where they can admit that they are ill-equipped or unused to talking about race, but that they’re learning how to become better allies. Lili Reinhart has historically supported BLM and has been spotted marching in the streets with other protestors. She is doing the work and is, hopefully, doing the learning as well.
There’s nothing wrong with simply saying you don’t have all the answers. And it would certainly be a whole lot better than stripping down “in the name of justice.”
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Michelle Vincent is a project manager and freelance writer. She enjoys traveling, is worried she won’t love her future children as much as she loves her dogs, and is actively recruiting podcast recommendations.