Scrolling through Facebook when this meme was shared by three of my friends...
Generally when I post things on Facebook or respond to something on Facebook I take my time to think about what I want to say but my reaction to this was a visceral one. I typed my response without thinking and realized afterwards that if I posted it I was potentially setting myself up for a fight I really didn’t want to get into. But I posted it anyway…three times. After the deed was done I was nervous because I didn’t want to get into a fight and I wasn’t exactly sure what I would be fighting about.
My response to all three people:
“Nope! Not today! Don't come for Kanye. Y'all are not going to dehumanized that black man. Y'all are not going to diminish that black man's mental health! Not when I read all the shit about y'all wanting to support all the "minorities". And I'm saying y'all because I'm talking to you specifically and white people in general because white people been making me mad lately (aka Trump is going to be our president and y'all did that shit). So rethink this shit. Madd love 👊🏾✌🏾️✊🏾”
It wasn’t until conversations began that I realize what my visceral response was about.
First, there is something problematic about the juxtaposition of Kanye West’s glaring black face and three pictures of a white woman who was injured protesting the Dakota Pipeline: one where she is smiling holding a puppy and the other two of her visibly injured.
On one hand this meme wants us to feel sorry for one person and not the other. On the other hand it wants us to be angry at the media for covering one person’s story and not the other. In a world where racism did not exist this meme would not be problematic, however, we do not live in such a world nor do we live in a post racial world.
It is our cultural history that the experiences of black people are less important that those of white people. Subtly that is exactly what this meme is saying. In this day and age racism at its worst is subtle unconscious racism that is overlooked and is seemingly harmless.
I’ve been fortunate enough to never have had a run in with someone who expressed their racism overtly but I’ve sat in classes with, shared beers with, partied with, am friends with, shared my secrets with, and have loved deeply white people who have said racist things that they didn’t realize was racist.
When racism can be perpetuated and only marginalized people can feel or notice it then we know racism goes much deeper than lynchings and burning crosses. That is the world we live in today. We live in a world where well intended white liberals can perpetuate racism just as much as the KKK without ever recognizing it.
I have no idea what Kanye West is dealing with in his life but I do know the life of a celebrity is a difficult one, so I feel for him. I remember when people mourned Robin William’s suicide.
A suicide that seemed to do with how dark and lonely the life of a celebrity can be despite it the positive ideas we associate fame and fortune with. I imagine Kanye West knows a lot of about the dark sides of fame and fortune.
The woman in the meme whose name I don’t know was attacked by police while protesting the Dakota Pipeline. Police violence against protestors has been a frequent occurrence especially during Black Lives Matter protests and we’re seeing it in Dakota as people protest the pipeline.
We need to discuss this violence because it is an issue. Both of these stories deserve coverage but for different reasons. To assume we can have one story and not the other or that one story is more important that the other seems outlandish.
Two of the three people who posted the meme replied to me. Here is the first conversation that ensued. I will call the first person Ted.
Ted’s response to my initial comment:
You don't have to appreciate that man or how he handles himself but he is a prime example of how black men are turned into monsters because we don't appreciate or like how they carry themselves. We have no idea what its like to live his life or know what he has been through so let him live.
If you want to highlight the media's failure to properly do their job choose a scapegoat who does not fall into the category of a historically marginalized person. Don't use Kanye to highlight whatever wrongs may exist in the world.
Sorry about the Trump comment. White America has me on the edge and its not fair to take that out on you.
We definitely can but It would be important to do so objectively. And the behavior of black people in this country is too often laced with our history of racism.
This is true. These are the things I'd like us to think about especially during these trying times.
Conversation 2. I’ll call this person Matt:
Matt’s response to my initial comment:
If this isn't about Kanye then don't use him to make your point. If you want to criticize the media do that but leave Kanye out of it.
Using Kanye (which this meme directly does) to criticize the media is just another part of the hatred and violence aimed at the black people
To the first comment:
Don't be a patronizing white man. Its not cute. I am upset and its not fair to take that out on you because that is definitely apart of where I was coming from with my comment. So as far as that goes I apologize.
To the second comment:
If you want to criticize the media do that. It is important, however, don't criticize the media by diminishing someone else's experience especially when that someone is apart of a community that is dehumanized on a daily basis by the media. The "real" pain the black community faces has to do with all of the pain experienced Kanye's included.
To the third comment:
This meme in no ways shed lights on how the media ignores or stigmatizes mental health issues or Kanye's privacy. This meme was meant to do something and its execution is poor and perpetuates the very issues you want to believe it is speaking to.
If you really want to be about this life consider how this meme is problematic in that it juxtaposes a black man we love to hate and a white woman we want to praise for her good work.
I wouldn't dare argue with you about what this is all about. So no worries there.
Fine lets disregard the color of the people in the meme. How exactly does this shed light on the lack of understanding of mental health issues? Where is the sympathy aimed by this meme?
Do I want to increase the divide? No. Do I want to acknowledge that there is a divide and examine how that divide works? Yes.
There is no real basis for the notions we have about people's skin color but we can't start there because we do live in a society where those notions are deeply ingrained into every aspect of our culture. If we want to move pass those false notions at the very least we need to acknowledge that they exist because we've created them and examine how they managed to gain traction as well as how we perpetuate those notions.
Those may be the intentions of this meme but its poorly done. This meme says "why are we talking about this person when this other person is so much more important". That is arguing over whose problems are worse.
Once the dusted settled and I reread them I took note of a few things that stood out to me.
Ted was open to acknowledging the fact that his dislike for Kanye may have a lot to do with racism even though he doesn’t quite want to admit it. For me that feels like an important place to start when white people and black people talk about race. The truth of it is every American is effected by racism.
Racism isn’t an aspect of our culture that we can choose to opt out of. The reality is all white people are racist. People don’t like to hear that because it sounds like you’re saying all white people are bad hateful people.
That isn’t the case. As I said early the most harmful perpetuations of racism are the subtle unconscious ones that we’ve learned and act out without realizing it. When Ted said “Definitely. I'm sure, even as much as I wouldn't want to admit it, that even my disgruntled attitude with him is tied to that, because let's face it, racism is latent and viciously good at hiding” it sounds like he doesn’t want to think of himself as racist but he probably is and that sucks.
During my conversation with Matt I felt like he was being condescending and patronizing which may be the most ironic thing when a black woman and a white man are talking about race. From the begining he dismissed my reaction to the meme by saying it was “exactly what oppressive America is trying to get out of you”.
He even encouraged me to be angry and to continue to allow this to divide us. He also mentioned his disapproval of the media not covering the “real” pain of the black community.
A key component to moving towards eradicating racism is shifting power. Marginalized people need to be empowered and white people need to give up some of their power. In this context that looks like Matt giving up the idea that he knows everything and sees the full picture as it truly is. In conversations of race when white people dismiss the experience of a marginalized person or tell them they are apart of the problem they are in turn perpetuating racism.
They are using all the hidden devices they’ve been taught to assert their superiority and let the marginalized person know that they are wrong in their experience. Sometimes white people need to step back and listen when marginalized people are talking about race and other forms of oppression much like women often express their desire for men to take a back seat in conversations about reproductive rights and contraceptive rights.
That doesn’t mean white people don’t have important things to say about race or that they shouldn’t ever say things about race. They do, however, have to be mindful of what they say and how they say it as well as being open to the possibility that they will say something racist.
That is the unfortunate reality of it much like it is the unfortunate reality that marginalized people experience social and systematic discrimination on a daily basis and have to maneuver a world that is such.
When Matt said, “Did you ever think that maybe there could be others who aren't black who see this and are sick and tired of this shit?”. I didn't specifically address this question in our conversation but my response is “yes I do and racism at its worst is subtle unconscious racism that is overlooked and is seemingly harmless”.
The idea that someone may see this meme and won’t think it is problematic doesn’t justify its use. After the questions he also said, “Maybe this is meant to bring light to a nation that does in fact have a innate lack of understanding for mental health issues?”. That may be true, however,
I don’t agree that it does but if it is would it helpful to do so in a way that is problematic? It seems counterintuitive to use problematic arguments and/or techniques to shed light on problematic issues. If we did that with every social ill we face we would run in circles and never change anything.
I also had to take a moment to apologize to Ted and Matt for yelling at them about President elect Trump. That felt like the kind of language and behavior that divides us and prevents us from having conversations.
Ted called me out on it and I appreciated it. Its also important I think to realize marginalized people have been and continue to be sick and tired of the state of things in this country so we’re not always going to be able to eloquently deal with racism, sexism, homophobia, or heterosexism all the time.
Some of us are angry and we have every right to be so cut us some slack and take witness to our pain when we can’t hold it in anymore or express it in a way that feels comfortable to you.
All in all I’m a queer black woman out here tryna have a good time and trying to figure out how to I create change in this wild world.
Let’s talk sometime.
Though most of us hoped November 9 would be the end of the nightmare that has been the hellish politics of 2016, it was only the beginning. Since then, president elect Donald Trump has begun assembling his advisory teams-- and he has chosen no one other than Steve Bannon, former Breitbart chairman, as his chief strategist. While we’re not too surprised, we are still disappointed. Trump has recently begun to back away from the extremist rhetoric we’ve grown used to hearing from him in the last year, going as far as dropping his plans to repeal Obamacare and strip LGBT members of their rights.
It’s become clear that Trump is willing to edit his morals based on who he is trying to please, whether it be conservative Republicans, queer people, women, or people of color. At this point, no one can be quite sure what to expect from our president elect next year, let alone next week. However, one ugly thing that’s come out of this election that’s sure to stay is the extreme alt-right movement we are seeing more and more of.
An abandoned building tagged on election day in Wellsvile, NY. Photo by Brian Quinn, Wellsville Daily Reporter.
Websites like Breitbart publish nationalistic content that continues to feed the fire of prejudice and oppression in America today. This party, often referring to themselves as “the alternative right,” has been commonly tagged as our generation’s nazi regime. Many Trump supporters categorize their beliefs under this party- the same voters who proudly shout chants and wave signs that uphold their white supremacist beliefs.
Throughout his campaign, Trump has constantly condoned and/or encouraged racism, whether it be through his hateful rhetoric towards immigrants or by refusing to acknowledge the KKK’s obviously hateful motives. He took it one step further last week by appointing a white nationalist to a top White House position. As chairman of Breitbart News, a self-proclaimed “platform for the alt-right,” he controlled content of the site and allowed aggressive bigotry to be trafficked through it. The sea of examples is painful to sort through; one particularly heinous article from the site was written by none other than Milo Yiannopoulos, one of Twitter’s most hated users. The entire piece is based on claims that birth control makes women “sluts” and “fat.” Another one frames being transgender as an epidemic, consistently using a slur to address the LGBT members. Countless other articles have obvious racist and extremist undertones that could be mistaken as ones written in the early 20th century. Bannon himself has a history of anti-semitic beliefs, on top of the prejudiced articles he had published on Breitbart.
Now that one of the highest positions has been filled by a hateful nationalist, it’s been made clear what direction our country is headed in for the next four years. Trump has opened a gateway to hate in America that extremists like Bannon have made impossible to close. His entire campaign made it easier to excuse and even justify oppression: hundreds of hate crimes have been committed in Trump’s name since November 9. The most hateful racists, misogynists, and homophobes have stepped into light while hiding behind an unsuspecting title-- “alt right.” Why don’t we admit that the phrase is synonymous with hate?
An Open Letter To Trump Supporters, and an Open Letter to the People Who Will Never Stop Fighting Him By Allison Pinski
Once again, we were forced to watch an overly-qualified and rational woman suffer a deafening loss to a man with no experience in her field. This happened all the time, maybe not on as large a scale as President of the United States, but it’s a tale most women are used to hearing. I sat hunched over my laptop in Croatia for almost nine hours, watching every development of this election through the New York Times. I watched as the votes came in, and I watched helplessly as my home state, New Hampshire, flipped between red and blue, sometimes showing less than 1,000 votes separating Clinton and Trump.
When it finally ended, and the last precincts were reporting, I was shocked. Crushed. Desolate. Hopeless. Hillary was supposed to win. She had the experience, confidence, knowledge, drive, connections, motives. She had it all. Trump was a laughing stock, a lunatic who happened to make it past the primaries. He was never supposed to win the coveted position. He was never supposed to be elected President.
To the Trump supporters telling us we’re overreacting: Do not tell me to calm down. Do not tell me I’m being overdramatic. And do not tell me everything will be okay. You’re assuring me the world won’t end because you cannot even fathom the horrors you’ve unleashed on so many Americans.
The Trump/Pence platform is a disaster for anyone who isn’t rich, white, male, straight, or any combination of the four.
If you’re a member of the LGBT+ community, you’re already familiar with Pence’s long homophobic history of conversion therapy and the outdated beliefs that only a man and woman should share a last name.
If you’re a woman who cares about her rights, you already know your access to safe and legal abortions and affordable healthcare through groups like Planned Parenthood are under attack. You also know that with Trump leading the White House, rape culture and “locker room talk” will keep protecting boys like Brock Turner, while punishing women like Daisy Coleman, Audrie Pott, and all of the courageous women who spoke out against Trump.
If you’re a minority, you’ve lived under the overarching shadow of white supremacy your whole life. In a nation built on the backs of slaves and spilt Native American blood, you saw the Trump presidency as a delay in real social change for another four years.
If you’re an environmentalist, you’re already imagining how worse our impact on this earth is going to be under a president who won’t acknowledge the existence of climate change.
To the white Trump voters: In the midst of some of the worst racial violence I’ve seen in my twenty-one years, you chose to completely undermine the work of our first black president. Race and ethnicity played such a large role in this election whether you recognize that or not. You also voted for the same dynamic duo that David Duke of the KKK endorsed. It’s no coincidence that a candidate as ignorant as Trump is elected (and endorsed by the KKK) after Barack Obama. I am genuinely baffled you chose to overlook Trump’s supremacist politics scapegoating minorities. Reminds me of another European leader elected into power who scapegoated Jews.
You need to recognize how fortunate you are to not fear the policies of the candidates you just elected President and Vice President.
To the Trump supporters who were afraid of electing a female President: We almost elected the first female president. We almost made history. We almost showed little girls and hardworking women that they’re valued and appreciated. We almost took the most powerful stand we could against sexual assault, corruption, and rape culture.
But instead, you elected Donald Trump. A self-proclaimed champion for women, Donald Trump has been accused of sexual assault by more than 12 women. And he’s going to sue every last one of them for slander. Is this what passes as a “champion for women” these days, because I am not impressed. You showed that a candidate can simultaneously grab women and the presidency “by the pussy.”
To anyone who voted third party: I support your passion, I support your protest, and I support your intellect, but you really messed up. When Bernie Sanders conceded to Clinton, he wasn’t giving up. He recognized that a divided front could never overcome Trump’s promises of fewer Muslims and Mexicans. Sanders endorsed Clinton because a Trump/Pence presidency would undermine all the progress made under Obama.
I respect Jill Stein and Gary Johnson, but I think they should have taken on the same responsibility to withdraw from the election. This election wasn’t about electing the lesser of two evils, it was about taking a stand against racism, bigotry, xenophobia, and climate change denials. This election was so close, especially in Pennsylvania and Florida (who should remember what happened between Bush, Gore, and third parties in 2000).
I support third parties and their validity. But social change needs to precede political action. If you want a candidate like Stein or Johnson or Sanders to have a chance at the presidency, we first need to elect third party candidates to local and state offices.
You just handed Trump and Pence not only the presidency, but the power to appoint at least one Supreme Court Justice and the cooperation of a Republican majority House and Senate.
To everyone who recognizes the danger of Trump’s impending presidency: We need to keep fighting. We will recognize the results of this election, but we will not recognize Donald Trump and Mike Pence as our presidential team. We will never refer to Trump as “President Trump,” and we won’t be complacent when he starts fulfilling his horrendous campaign promises.
We are going to fight him and his followers every step of the way to protect the rights of my friends and family across the world, and the environment. We are going to keep fighting, because this isn’t over.
Never stop speaking out, never stop fighting, never stop standing up for injustice.
We will never stand with him.
(Watch Hillary Clinton’s concession speech here or above.)
If you feel angry, upset, nauseous, defeated, or saddened by the prospect of a Trump/Pence presidency, you are not alone. Take a stand with us, join our team, and speak out against injustice. If you're interested in writing for us about social justice issues, and want to fight back against Trump, email us at email@example.com. Don't let your voice be silenced. The US needs you now more than ever.
Very recently someone asked me this question: “Tai, do you think I’ll ever amount up to anything?” Being a light hearted person who values fun above all things, you can imagine my shock at being asked such a loaded question. What made this even more shocking was that one of the facility workers at my job, who is in his 80’s, asked me this.
Now, like many other college graduates, I have felt more than a little lost at times. Although I am working in my field, the existential fear of having peaked at 23, being unable to escape the comfort of a steady paycheck, or failing to find work outside my small town can be debilitating. I still struggle with this fear, however being asked that simple question by someone four times my age, albeit sad, was also strangely comforting. I say this because it put into perspective that you can feel that your life is going nowhere at almost any age.
An article published in the Huffington Post by Jamie Varon, titled “To Anyone Who Thinks They’re Falling Behind in Life,” speaks a lot about the fear of not being or doing enough to further ourselves when it comes to all aspects of our lives. She states that “you are as you are until you’re not. You change when you want to change. You put your ideas into action in the timing that is best. That’s just how it happens.” She goes on to say that we forget the nature of life, which often times teaches us lessons and gives us what we need in roundabout ways, and we can’t control it. She also mentions that we must accept the fact that we are just where and when we are supposed to be.
The stigma that comes from not being successful financially, romantically, and career-wise stunts our growth, and can cause us to become even more stagnant than we already feel. Furthermore, the daily assault of self-help articles, inspirational quotes, and people telling you that “you should do yoga and mindful meditation,” or “just be positive” only exacerbates your own feelings of being stuck or falling behind; feelings which I know very well. After graduating I picked up four jobs, two in my field and two just to make some extra cash, and I still felt that I was doing absolutely nothing with my time. It wasn’t until I decided to stop perceiving myself as a failure that I was able to realize how much success I had actually accrued. Also, like Varon suggests, let go of the “shame around the idea that you’re not doing your best,” and stop comparing yourself to other people. Their successes are no more or no less than your own, and comparing them will only ever make you feel that yours are lesser.
Okay, I know what you’re thinking, “How can someone who just admitted that they feel utterly lost writing be a self-help article about not listening to self-help articles?” Yes, it is slightly hypocritical, but what can I say, I like you am only human; and sometimes reading an article that confirms some of my fears and lets me know it’s okay to have them is cathartic, and aids in sorting out some of the mess in my mind. The point of me writing this is to tell you it’s okay to feel that your life is going nowhere. I can’t tell you the amount of times I have made a plan and sworn to stick to it, only to have it fall apart the next hour, which is why we have the proverb “man plans and God laughs,” so I’ve decided to just laugh along.
I’ll leave you with this advice: look around and ask yourself if everyone if your life, besides you, is where you believe they should be; and then ask them. Chances are you’ll find that a lot of your friends, family members, coworkers, and even bosses will give you similar answers: that they are on their own journey, trying their best, and hoping they made the right decisions. Or, you may find they are exactly where they want to be, but didn’t get there without a struggle. No matter the answer you get, remember that you are allowed to be human, and that you are changing and evolving every second. In fact, I bet that you aren’t even the same person right now than you were when you first started reading this article. So have confidence in yourself, and believe in the path fate has assigned you, and if you’re unhappy with it, know that fate and life will always listen and readjust that path to meet your needs. All you have to do, my dear reader, is have the strength and conviction to simply ask.
It feels like the Trumps are making headlines every week. Ivanka Trump recently presented the Trump campaign’s paid maternity plan, which would have no benefit for fathers or same-sex gay couples. In the words of Ivanka, “the original intention of the plan is to help mothers in recovery in the immediate aftermath of childbirth.” It makes a very clear statement that women belong in the house, and men belong in the workplace.
This past week, Donald Trump Jr. tweeted the following image about Syrian refugees.
Not only does Jr. compare refugees to Skittles, thusly stripping them of their humanity, but also implies that we should not accept any Syrians because of a few “poisoned” ones.
I don’t even know where to begin.
1. Letting refugees into the country is not the same as letting terrorists into the country.
According to an article from The Economist featuring Kathleen Newland at the Migration Policy Institute, refugee resettlement is “the least likely route for potential terrorists. Of the 745,000 refugees resettled since September 11th, only two Iraqis in Kentucky have been arrested on terrorist charges, for aiding al-Qaeda in Iraq.”
The most common form of terrorism is homegrown or domestic terrorism; acts of violence from citizens or permanent residents already living in the country. When people like Donald and Jr. blame refugees for terrorist attacks, they are not only dangerously misinformed, but also dangerously ignorant. This ignorance permits these acts of violence to continue, because the real source of the events is overlooked.
2. You cannot compare a human being to a piece of candy.
The Syrian crisis is much more complicated than a few “poisoned Skittles” mixed into the bowl. These are real people trying to escape unthinkable violence. What Jr. (and his father) lack is the respect to recognize their humanity and the experiences they’ve endured.
3. If you’re going to share a racist metaphor with the internet, be original.
That’s right; Jr. didn’t even think of this atrocity of a tweet on his own. The only thing he can be credited with is photoshopping in a bowl of Skittles and slapping his father’s logo on the bottom of the image.
Not that Joe Walsh should be making such a big deal about Jr. stealing his metaphor (because it’s still a terrible thing to say), but it’s amusing that the discriminatory tweet wasn’t even from Jr.’s own wit.
4. We don’t have a Syrian problem.
We have an ignorance problem. We have a problem with privileged people speaking out about issues they know little about. We have a problem with [white] non-Muslims making dangerously misinformed assumptions about Islam.
Jr. and his father need to be held accountable for the fear they’ve instilled in their voters about Islam, the Syrian crisis, and refugees. Xenophobic ideologies like these need to be corrected before they’re permanently ingrained in our society.