Imperfect Activism & the Age of Social Media
Whether you’re outraged or outraged about the outrage, plain ole confused…this post is for you.
Imperfect Activism in the age of social media
I’m writing this as a way to make sense of my own feelings about the state of the country right now without rushing to immediate judgment. These are pages from my personal journal. I have some questions, thoughts, and observations.
Y’all want people to give you receipts on their activism before they can be outraged ?…
And what if there are none, Does that make the outrage any less pure? The persons emotions any less important? What are the requirements for someone to be acceptably outraged? What pray tell is the correct way to activate?
Show an NAACP membership card? A BLM tee shirt? A picture of them standing in at a town hall meeting?…
Because simply being outraged about others reeling against their oppression isn’t activism either.
If I have to showcase every donation made, march or protest participated in, or meeting endured for my words to ring truer then the problem was never my outrage.
The problem seems to be your belief on if I am worthy of it. Simple Outrage is not a strategy though it may spur one into action…at the core outrage is an emotion. This emotion can be used as a tool but it’s still an emotion.
I don’t need to show my involvement in domestic violence fundraisers before I can be enraged if a lover chooses to one day slap me.
I may rage first.
Then get involved through a deeper understanding because of my personal experience.
OR I can be the person who got involved because I know the same injustice could one day befall others I love or those who look like me. Letting empathy drive me into action.
OR I can live in the gray area of both.
In Black and White, Right and Wrong viewpoints we leave little room for emotions. Logic often is a luxury in and of itself.
This week online I’ve seen a lot of logic. I’ve seen a lot of emotion. Both riddled with judgment. I try and make room in my understanding for both and the acceptance that the avenue of expressing themselves many choose was social media.
Social Media Outrage is a form of Activism
There are those involved on front lines, meeting in back rooms, and sitting down at tables to address black issues including but not limited to police brutality. Not everyone is meant to be an Angela Davis figure head out on the streets draped in black; still, even the girl sharing her thoughts in 140 characters is contributing to the movement.
Simply because activism in its simplest form is outrage, strategically put into action.
This includes Social media outrage.
If not for social media…
Ahmaud Arbery’s killers would be free on the streets.
The officer who killed George Floyd would still be collecting a pay check provided by taxpayers including those of the community he terrorized.
We still wouldn’t know Breonna Taylor’s name.
Just because you don’t value social media doesn’t mean it’s not a tool.
Just because you don’t consider social media activism a thing doesn’t mean it’s not effective in the fight towards justice.
Social Media is a community of thoughts; when collective and intense enough those thoughts, words, posts, videos…that outrage can effect change. This does not mean the fight stops there but to dismiss those who express their outrage as a cavalier moment is irresponsible. Many do so intentionally.
Many are taking their first steps in their activism journey by simply expressing themselves online. Their words an act of courage.
Consider black policeman.
Speaking out like kneeling is an act of rebellion. My hearts cries for groups living both in a uniform and black skin; choices have become more tightly wound around each other and there will come a day when we all have to face our own outrage.
The first step for many is the acknowledgement of their plight and the hard contradiction of their situation.
Their words ARE action. and that matters.
Expand your understanding.
Outraged over Outrage
All of us pick and choose what to be outraged about online.
When I post about the plights of black women mainly black women engage in the conversation and repost. When I post about male views of relationships mostly men discuss the topic and the issue raised.
We connect to what pulls on our emotions immediately. We engage with what has usually affected us directly. It’s no coincidence that major cities and state capitols are having these riots. The same cities with black communities who have been historically heavily policed and more so policed since the start of the pandemic.
As a black woman I am well aware that we end up at the bottom of the agendas of many activists lists: from the terror that faces all women to the specific terror and dismissal that swallows black women; it is clear that many activists pick and choose their fights. Some completely ignore others. However, that is precisely the point.
MLK was concerned primarily with the plight of black people. It was an immediate fight that had to be addressed; only through evolution of his personal journey did he expand his fight to ALL People in the Poor People’s March. Understanding that racism is perpetuated by capitalism.
This didn’t take away from the fact that mainly blacks experienced the terror of lynching and white mobs. We simply can’t require black people who are outraged to be outraged by EVERY issue that oppresses others and themselves… black activism, as it is, is a perfect start.
Because no one is really free until black people are. Globally.
Let’s stop trying to silence online outrage with the understanding that it does often translate into real world action for a cause.
Oochie Wally or One Mic?…
Activism is a journey like most things in life. Many on social media use platforms as an immediate release of their thoughts and emotions.
Often in these modern times this is where they have been confronted with a case of injustice against yet another black body. Then there are those in inner cities, urban areas, and highly oppressed locations that are burdened by the color of their skin because of racism.
Too many step outside their door to face the terror of these truths in their communities.
If we can admit that blatant and unapologetic racism has been emboldened in recent years then it comes as no surprise that the response to it has as well...
During their journeys both MLK and Malcolm X evolved with their understandings of what getting justice meant, how it would look, and the hard truths that black Americans face.
In the end, their ideas exceedingly became more alike before their assassinations; a point many people don’t talk about enough when they encourage others to be more like one or the other.
Leave room and grace for duality in the black community much like you do within yourself.
You don’t have to be MLK or Malcolm X to get the green light in sharing your voice. Believe in both, or neither. Sharing your thoughts is a personal decision that can fuel your activism journey.
Face to Face with Black Policing & Black Privilege
If we only preach of holding ourselves accountable during injustices when others are outraged by the lack of it then we are the hypocrites we preach to.
Accountability and outrage can co exist. These situations aren’t as simple as saying “sweep ’round your door first.”
There are organizations actively fighting against crime in our communities perpetuated by us. Most don’t know this though because they only scream what about “black on black crime” when protesters are screaming “I can’t breath.”
Do we hold LGBTQ or white Feminist to the same standard of perfection activism as we do ourselves?
There is no shortage of black people being held accountable for their actions and inactions. From perceived black on black crime to victims of police brutality being falsely criminalized as a justification.
The entire world holds the black community accountable including many members of the black community. When this same community voices outrage about individuals, systems, and government not being held accountable they are meant with equal outrage.
If you’re showing your outrage about outrage on social media by frantically typing that no one discusses black on black crime then the paradox continues…
Because those outraged at outraged only speak on it along with “ALL Lives” and “What Abouts…” when police brutality is at the fore front.
With that thought we’re all black pots and kettles.
Many see that racism is the enemy for both marginalized and privileged groups but for those with power who proudly enact racism with deadly force, outrage is warranted.
Let’s be clear, many things can be true simultaneously like being a black women in America doesn’t excuse my 1st world privilege just as it doesn’t negate my oppression from patriarchy and racism.
Can I then not call out my oppression even when I’m inadvertently oppressing those in 3rd world countries?…this is the basis of outrage for black Americans being policed for their outrage everywhere.
Allowing ourselves to see the possibility that focusing on one immediate issue doesn’t diminish another is a skill that we all need to hone.
We preach about policing ourselves during times as these more than any other community. We ARE policed more than any other community. Then when outrage surfaces we are told to police ourselves more.
There is never a way to police yourself out of an oppression that is based on the color of your skin.
The privilege many of us have to live in an area less visually afflicted by the subjects of outrage rears-its-head when we make blanketed comments that dismiss the pain, frustration, and oppression of specific black communities. Scolding others on how to properly behave.
Many have been directly effected while online anti-outrage preachers have sat in a privilege of location, skin, body type, finances…
There is still a stratification of privilege many of us have to come to terms with as black people. There is still the reality that you can be both black and privileged against other black people. Many don’t understand this truth much like explaining to a poor white person that their privilege still exists.
From my soft, safe couch in my fully stocked apartment I write. I am privileged to live in a city where racism is still deeply covert.
I live in a non-threatening body that allows me to navigate certain spaces regardless of my dark skin. I have a career that plays into respectability politics. I don’t step outside my door expecting to see terror enacted out on the streets.
I should take the time to listen in an attempt of understanding others who don’t share these realities.
Many of you should do the same.
We can binge watch Hoarders and my 600 lb life connecting those occurrences with mental health issues. We acknowledge the PTSD that Soldiers and officers often develop during their service; we study the psychology behind someone cutting themselves.
Yet, we can’t seem to make the same sort of connection for people burning down an American city where a traumatic event occurred. CITIES where oppression and terrorism is the norm.
Group think is acknowledged when speaking of racists but never with the victims of it.
We love our dystopia societies too.
Reading Hunger Games, Divergent Series hell we even cheered in the theater when the recent movie JOKER flashed scenes of the oppressed class tearing down a city. We understood the meaning of a fire then.
How many think pieces have been written based on a movie where the oppressed class pushes back? How many times have these fictional depictions been praised? There are some of you right now with books on your shelves that represent the very things you are condemning currently.
Outrage is a part of an attempt at natural balance.
Extreme oppression has always been meant with extreme responses throughout history. People are blaming the symptom of this global sickness instead of treating the sickness.
Judging others for their display of outrage while promoting all the “good emotions” translates as someone out of touch. Life is not just made up of positive vibes and good, logical decisions.
It is outrage that has enacted change throughout history from the Boston tea party, to workers rights, to civil rights…outrage marks the apex of change. Even Moses had to repent for the outrage he acted out against an oppressor.
Organizing, voting, and pressing forward are efforts that happen in and around outrage. Outrage screams things must change or that the way we’ve been trying to change isn’t working.
We can have existential, logical talks about what is and what should be. But outage is an emotion and humans are emotional beings. Removing one unbalances the other. Racism is seated in emotion. And so is the reaction of outrage.
There are two victims of racism, discrimination and oppressions. The oppressor and the oppressed. To create a conversation for the first and not the second breaks the chain of balance in those actions. Truth is, while most people knowingly participate in racism they still benefit from it.
Outrage isn’t always just about anger. It’s about being heard. When the LGBQT+ community marches for rights, when women yell about equality. We understand. When black peaceful protesters are meant with riot gear we consider it normal.
Pressure Cooker Realities
I can not tell others how to display the thoughts they have about the recent events; in my fit of outrage I tried. I do not apologize for those words as it was an honest anger born from the emotional place that suppresses my feelings of racism. That place has gotten full.
I saw and understood it was never just about George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, Trayvon Martin, along with hundreds of other names that were hashtags. I understand that this is for those who never became hashtags too.
This is happening in a bubble where too many disproportionate hardships are highlighted and experienced during this pandemic. Too many 911 calls against black bodies for existing.
Too many false tears and disingenuous teachings about solidarity. Too many images of black bodies being terrorized online and realized in waking life. There’s been too much policing without understanding first within our community. Too much, for so long.
We resort to making this a right versus wrong issue when it’s not just about that. It’s also about emotion. Can we talk about ways to better control our emotions? Yes…should we only do that when people are in pain?…
I don’t what to be in the business of judging and yet I can never truly be neutral. My bias is formed from my experiences, beliefs, and values.
All I can hope is that I am able to have difficult conversations about this topic with those with a difference of opinion.
When the dust settles and the fires clear we can reflect.
So while I sit in my privilege, my words march with those who’ve screamed, my response is that I hear you. I understand you. Your activism isn’t perfect but it is not in vain either.
There is no perfect activism. And even if there were, racism doesn’t care about perfection.
Let’s Build better understanding.
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