The Smoke Signal, MSJ's Official Newspaper


September Column: Aria’s Approach

by Opinion Editor Aria Lakhmani

Getting Comfortable with Feeling Uncomfortable

“Hello Kitty says, Cops Ain’t Cute!” While scrolling through my Instagram feed, a bubblegum pink image of the Sanrio character lay interspersed with other posts. Though it initially rubbed me the wrong way, I wasn’t able to put my finger on why until I saw more images in the same vein.


Though these posts may be created with positive intentions, they ultimately diminish the significance of the Black Lives Matter movement and other relevant movements by attempting to make them more palatable with aesthetics. We must remain cognizant of the magnitude and depth of the issue and be willing to consume less digestible posts to achieve that.

With the popularity of characters such as Hello Kitty and Kuromi, these images give the illusion of promoting messages like Black Lives Matter and All Cops Are Bastards. The appealing aesthetic combined with the relevance of the messages behind them makes sharing these posts an easy trap to fall into. Even though the images don’t contain any information about how to support the message or movement, shedding any sort of light on the issue is productive, right?

In this case, the images are actually counterproductive. By slapping short phrases that are representative of the movement onto sparkly, aesthetic images, the creators of these photos are inadvertently filtering the messages to be more digestible. With real people’s lives at stake, these messages should be far from palatable. Instead of associating messages like Black Lives Matter with the innocent people whose lives have been taken away, these images simply  spotlight 2D characters and cute color palettes. Beyond this, the popularity of these posts lead to them being favored by social media algorithms, which leads to them overshadowing posts that contain actual information or resources.

Particularly for the Black Lives Matter movement, our predominantly Asian community is on the inside looking in: we’re not directly impacted by it, and we’ll never be able to truly get a grasp of the experiences of someone involved. Thus, it becomes even more crucial for us to maintain perspective and understand as much as we can about the depth of the issue through infographics, statistics, and discussions with the affected demographic. When we’re exposed to posts that are more digestible and minimize the tragedy behind these movements, our perception is further skewed. 

So let’s get more comfortable with feeling uncomfortable – activism isn’t supposed to be aesthetic. Let’s avoid images that take away from the power of movements in favor of posts and discussions that help us contribute more positively.

Cover Graphic by Opinion Editor Aria Lakhmani

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