the pineapples were looking a little green so i took a picture with them to cheer them up
i’m sobbing over tsn fanfiction instead of doing the english assignment that’s due tomorrow. i have lost control of my life
There’s something bugging me about the language being used about Ferguson in mainstream media, and that’s the use of the phrase “racial tensions”. Here are some examples of the phrase being used by popular news websites. What bugs me about the use of that phrase is that it implies two-way racism. It implies that the racial tensions exist because both sides are harboring racist beliefs about each other, and are taking racist actions against each other. BUT THAT IS FALSE.
There is only one-way racism in Ferguson, and that is anti-black racism from an almost all-white police force. The black people of Ferguson are not the racists, here. By saying that the white cops are unfairly targeting them, they are NOT BEING RACIST—they are simply stating a fact. A verifiable, quantifiable, undeniable fact with incontrovertible photographic evidence in favor of it.
And by protesting against that injustice, the black residents of Ferguson are not fomenting “racial tensions,” but are simply using their First Amendment right to protest lawfully, so that they can: a) find justice for a brutally murdered teen, b) prevent such murders from reoccurring, and c) achieve long-overdue equality. That isn’t racist, nor does it add to the so-called “racial tensions”. What’s adding to those tensions is the racism of the police force, not the protests of the black community against that racism.
I wish that the media would stop using the euphemistic and inaccurate term “racial tensions” to portray the situation in Ferguson, and instead just call it racism. Anti-black racism. I want the media to call it what it is, point-blank: white racism against blacks. Because that’s the truth. Will it make some white viewers/readers uncomfortable? Yes, but only if they’re racist, too, and don’t want to be called out on it. Employing the convenient phrase “racial tensions” in commentaries on Ferguson makes it seem like white cops getting called out on their racism is itself a racist act by the black community. It is not.
It’s strange that the very same white conservatives that tout the sacredness of the Constitution are silent when it comes to the Constitution-defying violence being practiced by the police of Ferguson against American citizens, in limiting and even attempting to destroy their constitutional right to protest.
The reason white conservatives can get away with that silence is because they can claim that they don’t want to worsen “racial tensions,” because, according to many media outlets, that’s what’s happening in Ferguson. Bilateral racism. Clearly, black people are participating in those racial tensions by being racist, themselves, which lessens some of the culpability of the white conservative establishment, and relieves white conservatives of the moral responsibility to speak out against racism. Since it’s a two-way street anyway, right?
WRONG. It isn’t two-way. Ferguson isn’t suffering from bilateral “racial tensions,” but from unilateral racism. Call it what it is.
I think this is a deeply flawed way of looking at the world.
Now, I have talked about Ferguson, and I’ve talked about Gaza. (In fact, I’ve been writing and talking about Israel and Palestine for more than a decade.) But there are many important problems facing the world that I haven’t talked about: I haven’t talked much about the civil war in South Sudan, or the epidemic of suicide among American military personnel, or the persecution of Muslim Rohingya people in Myanmar.
Is that okay? Is it okay for me to talk about, say, racism in football and lowering infant mortality in Ethiopia? Or must we all agree to discuss only whatever is currently the ascendant news story? Is it disrespectful to Ferguson protesters to talk about continued political oppression in Egypt now that we are no longer reblogging images of the protests in Tahrir Square? I think this is a false choice: If you are talking about Ferguson and I am talking about Ethiopian health care, neither of us is hurting the other.
I think the challenge for activists and philanthropists online is in paying sustained attention, not over days or weeks but over years and decades. And I worry that when we turn our attention constantly from one outrage to another we end up not investing the time and work to facilitate actual change. We say “THE WORLD IS WATCHING,” and it is…until it isn’t. We’ve seen this again and again in Gaza and the West Bank. We’re seeing it in Iran. We’re seeing it in South Sudan. And we’re seeing it in the U.S., from net neutrality to Katrina recovery.
The truth is, these problems are complicated, and when the outrage passes we’re left with big and tangled and nuanced problems. I feel that too often that’s when we stop paying attention, because it gets really hard and there’s always a shiny new problem somewhere else that’s merely outrageous. I hope you’re paying attention to Ferguson in five years, anon, and I hope I am, too. I also hope I’m paying attention to child death in Ethiopia. I don’t think these things are mutually exclusive.
I really don’t want to minimize the effectiveness of online activism, because I know that it works: To use a personal example, I’ve learned a TON from the LGBT+ and sexual assault survivor communities in recent years online. People on tumblr make fun of me for apologizing all the time, but I apologize all the time because I am learning all the time, and every day I’m like, “Oh, man, Current Me has realized that Previous Me was so wrong about this!”
But we can only learn when we can listen. And when you call me a hypocrite for talking about X instead of talking about Y, it makes it really hard to listen.
At times, online discourse to me feels like we just sit in a circle screaming at each other until people get their feelings hurt and withdraw from the conversation, which leaves us with ever-smaller echo chambers, until finally we’re left only with those who entirely agree with us. I don’t think that’s how the overall worldwide level of suck gets decreased.
I might be wrong, of course. I often am. But I think we have to find ways to embrace nuance and complexity online. It’s hard—very, very hard—to make the most generous, most accepting, most forgiving assumptions about others. But I also really do think it’s the best way forward.