Staying off the megaphone and in the movement: Cultivating solidarity and contesting authority among white anti-racist activists

  • Amie Thurber Vanderbilt University
  • Kelley Frances Fenelon Vanderbilt University
  • Leah Marion Roberts Vanderbilt University
Keywords: Social Movements, Race, Activism


In the last two years, Black Lives Matter (BLM) emerged as a multiracial movement which foregrounds the experience, leadership, and values of Black people in the United States while suggesting distinct roles for White people to participate. Among these suggestions is the compellingly illustrative to ‘stay off the megaphone.’ This exploratory, participatory case study traces how a group of White activists grapple with the literal and figurative megaphone in their anti-racist activism.  We focus on three key dimensions of engagement: content (how do White activists engage the megaphone – literally and figuratively?), subject positions (how are White activists positioning themselves within the BLM movement?), and social relations (how are White activists positioning their relationships with the movement’s values and leaders?). Grounded theory analysis reveals three distinct activist profiles, each bringing particular strengths – as well as limitations – to anti-racist organizing. We explore these profiles in depth, and conclude with recommendations for White activists engaged in BLM.

Author Biography

Amie Thurber, Vanderbilt University

Amie Thurber (M.A.Ed, M.S.W) has fifteen years’ experience in community development practice. Her research interests include social inequality and social justice; intergroup conflict and collaboration; processes of socialization and social identity development; and critical theory and pedagogy. Thurber is a doctoral student in Community Research and Action at Vanderbilt University.