A few days ago, one of my childhood heroes passed away. Robin Williams was brilliance itself. Hundreds of my friends and family posted pictures of their favorite movies or quotes of his, and offered tributes to the amazing actor who lost his battle with depression and early stage Parkinson’s Disease, taking his own life. Then came statuses and memes like this:
So a white man kills himself and y’all mourn, but a white man kills a Black man and y’all don’t say anything?
I can’t wrap my head around the intent of conflating the two issues. Why can’t people be sad at the lost of a beloved celebrity AND be angry at the killing of Michael Brown? That isn’t much of a multi-task. It’s called Empathy.
I brushed it off as pseudo-intellectuallism hiding behind subverted truth. I seen it before, just about everyday in the shaming of Black women, posting pictures of a girl twerking next to one dressed for graduation. Someone analogizes one subjectively “bad” thing with a “good” (or at least “less bad”) thing with the intent to shame people into sharing their point of view. Many times it works, despite how unfair or hypocritical it is. Regardless, I will give my condolences and praise to Robin Williams at the same time I am concerned with the continual victimization of black males by the police. Life matters. Death is sad, whether it is suicide, homicide, fratricide, or genocide. That’s all there is to it.
But to further rebut statements like these, people are clearly mad. They are furious over the fact that deaths of Black males at the hands of police occurs far too regularly. Unfortunately, looters took advantage of the tragedy and subsequent protest. But for the most part, citizens of Ferguson and nationwide cities like New York, Chicago, D.C. and Los Angeles have peacefully rallied in solidarity for justice, despite extremely excessive policing of the protests, military grade weapons, canine units, snipers, tear gas, and armored vehicles. The news and social media have been extremely busy this week as the nation stays glued to new developments regarding Brown’s death. People share their opinions on Brown’s presumed innocence or guilt, argue, plead, vent, etc.
Amongst the discourse were statuses like these:
So y’all get mad when a white man kills a Black person, but don’t get mad that Black people kill other Black people all the time?
Statements like this upset me, because they lack of humility. Who in the world said Black people don’t get mad at inner city violence? If you live in certain neighborhoods in cities like Chicago, New York, New Orleans, or Los Angeles, you have felt that rage first hand. You’ve heard the shrieks of teary-eyed mothers upon learning their child was shot by a stray bullet. You’ve experienced the frustration of the neighborhood not coming forward to help find shooting suspects, but understand the very real fear of neighborhoods that cooperation with the police could endanger their lives as well. There are anti-violence rallies in plenty of major cities in the country, all the time, they just don’t get mainstream CNN or FOX News coverage. Some simply choose not to document these emotions on Facebook. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
I won’t get into the myth of Black on Black crime, because whether accurate or not, any person dying from senseless gun violence is one too many. But what lurks behind charges like these is really one of the paradoxes of social media based in two ideas: 1) Social media has influence over opinion. 2) What someone shares is an indicator of the type of person they are.
The irony is that we often make the assumption that what someone doesn’t share can reveal their character just as much as as what they share. Since we have the opportunity to portray ourselves as socially and politically conscious, not portraying must mean you aren’t. One of the problems is actually not that we are wrong to think this, but that we are right enough times to overlook the many times we are very wrong. Aside from the computer screen, self-righteous shamers can hide behind this logical fallacy.
A better approach would to help others channel their collective frustration towards dismantling systems of oppression, and fighting for justice in a peaceful manner. Whether finger-pointing is justified, or misguided, be sure to take your own advice. Trying to achieve this “Aha!” moment of catching someone in the hypocrite cookie jar is convenient when you’ve already had one for yourself. Most the time, I’m convinced they are no more than ducks chastising people for quacking out of turn. It’s a very human flaw to judge others by their actions, but yourself by your intent. When we make posts, it’s activism. When other’s make posts, it’s useless “Twitter activism” (especially if we don’t agree with why or how).
Binary thinking is one of the most destructive things we can do to each other, especially when trying to cultivate justice. There will always be an issue or cause bigger than yours, mine, or anyone else’s at any particular time. But if social media has any effect, we all need use our platforms constructively. If it doesn’t, then maybe we should log off. I think it’s somewhere in the middle. Like rapper Childish gambino tweeted yesterday , social media activism is “only half of activism”. So if you are condemning people for not being on the front lines, you better be there. If you attack others for being all talk, please have some action more 140 characters to back it up. Your character is not what you believe, and it’s especially not what you say you believe on Facebook. It’s what you do offline that matters, and that goes for all of us.
On any side of any issue, the #Revolution will not be hashtagged.