Much of American culture is immersed in every move celebrities make, with fans jumping on any opportunity to to prove their idol is more than just a figure on TV, in a magazine or on an album. During times of crisis in the U.S. or around the world, many of us look to Hollywood’s elite and ask “what are you going to do about this?”
Since celebrities have unique platforms that reach millions of people, they are expected by many to take action in the form of donations, protests or by speaking up. While a number of celebrities do take on that opportunity, those that don’t are often criticized by the public.
Celebrities aren’t tied to any contract that says they have to be social activists. If they choose not to get “political” that’s a personal choice, however, if someone doesn’t take advantage of their prominence in society to help make social change, that’s simply selfish.
Political pressure is vital to making social change and it starts with a group of people who have a common goal and sometimes that group needs people of importance to bring their cause to the surface.
When former San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick first began kneeling during the National Anthem last year, the people who criticized him said he was disrespecting the troops and the country itself. In reality, it was a display to show his solidarity with people of color and their current civil rights struggle. He took advantage of his platform every time he refused to stand to show his support for one of the biggest social movements in the U.S. today.
Actor Mark Ruffalo has been applauded for his readiness to take on social activism and recently marched from Charlottesville to D.C. as part of the March to Confront White Supremacy — he is one of the few.
Rihanna quietly takes part in social activism by donating money and creating foundations that unfortunately do not get as much publicity as her albums, public appearances and outfits rece
ive. She created the Clara Lionel Foundation in 2012 which funds efforts to promote education and health globally. The Barbados Micro Grant Program provides funds to sustain the area’s education system while the Clara Lionel Foundation Global Scholarship Program directly helps students from Brazil, Barbados, Haiti, Cuba, Grenada, Guyana and Jamaica receive an education in the U.S. The Clara Braithwaite Center for Oncology and Nuclear Medicine established in Barbados to provide the people of Barbados with cancer screenings and treatment. The foundation believes that by giving people access to a proper education and healthcare, they will be able to be active members in society.
It isn’t important how a celebrity takes part in social activism and exercises their platform — what is important is that they do take action. By not taking any stance during a time of political and social unrest says a lot about a person, including their morals and priorities.
It’s also ironic that some members of the general public are so quick to criticize a celebrity’s stance, or lack thereof, without putting the same pressure on the President of the United States or the go
vernment. President Trump donated $1 million to Hurricane Harvey relief which, while it’s better than nothing, is pocket money to a man whose net worth is $3.5 billion.
When it comes to addressing the current social movements regarding race relations and police-civilian relations, President Trump tends to present a false equivalency narrative. In response to the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville last month, he said there were good people on both sides.
He has said he doesn’t believe in climate change and therefore hasn’t taken political action to make environmental change. Instead, President Trump signed the order at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) undoing a key part of the Obama administration’s efforts to tackle global warming. The order reverses the Clean Power Plan, which had required states to regulate power plants, but had been on hold while being challenged in court.
He degraded the LGBTQ community when he banned transgender military recruits. He degraded immigrants when he placed a travel ban in March that places limits on travel to the U.S. from certain countries and by all refugees who do not possess either a visa or valid travel documents.
So why do we turn on our TVs and expect a celebrity to have made some great stride in bringing social justice or helping victims of a natural disaster? The energy spent criticizing celebrities needs to be channeled to criticizing the government and putting pressure on our lawmakers.