Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The frenzy of social media & racism

I think I need to take a break from social media. Heck, I might need a break from the entire internet.

Yes, we all know how quick information gets disseminated. You blink and thirty new things are posted on your FB news feed. And it's on us to discern what's worth our time. The cute kitten videos? Sure, if you want to procrastinate from grading papers. The first-person essay about some shocking personal story slap-dashed together in five minutes? No thanks. Reports on the latest act of racism? Maybe.

But that's when things get overwhelming.

In the latest display of white privilege in the US, Matt Damon, an executive producer of Project Greenlight (a reality show about filmmaking, more or less) takes it upon himself to educate Effie Brown, an accomplished film producer who happens to be a black woman, on diversity. Seriously?? Seriously. He INTERRUPTS her to say: "When we're talking about diversity you do it in the casting of the film not in the casting of the show." Are you hearing yourself, Matt?? One, you interrupt the only person of color associated with this show. Two, as a man, you interrupt a woman. Three, you're telling someone who LIVES as an Other about diversity? Seriously?? Four, diversity isn't just about "showing" it on the screen with actors. I thought you were smarter than that. Guess I was wrong.

I am so pissed off. I am so outraged by this continual bullshit we people of color experience on a daily basis. Not surprised, but outraged nonetheless. And fed up, too. It's the twenty-first fucking century, people! What's it going to take for real change to happen?

Maybe that's the problem. Maybe we've all been fooled into thinking that change has been happening. Look at the civil rights movement and how that changed history. Which is not to say that the movement didn't make change --it certainly did!! And I am ever grateful!-- but that the trajectory of that change has stalled. Big time. The difference now is that we see it for ourselves. With our own eyes. On FB, Twitter, Tumblr -- you name it, it's here. In our faces. All of the time. Change isn't happening as much as we'd like to think. Racism and the structures that support it are so deeply seated that white folks can't see it. That, or they refuse to see it because it would mean they lose their privileges.

Take a look at the Black Lives Matter movement. Once the hashtag took off, some white person (probably a man) decided that hey, that's not fair -- ALL lives matter. See what just happened there? The erasure of black lives. (Note the double entendre of that last statement.)

But there is hope. As quickly as social media put the spotlight on Matt Damon, folks were quick to respond righteously. The speed with which "Damonsplaining" was born seems promising. We are working to hold people accountable for their actions, calling them out on their injustice --whether they're aware of it or not. Is Matt truly aware of what he just did? Based on his comments later in the show ("I'm glad Effie flagged the issue of diversity for all of us."), I'm guessing not. Which is too bad.

With regard to that White Guy who put on yellowface and got into Best American Poetry, Asian American Writers Workshop put together a forum in which Asian American poets and writers have responded. And they did it quick. Check it out here.

You know what else is promising? The National Book Awards just announced their long list of nominations for poetry. The judging panel is comprised for three writers of color and two women. Hooray! The long list has 5 books out of 10 written by poets-of-color. Yesss!!! (My fave to win is Ross Gay's Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude.)

So while I'm angry and exhausted by all of the bullshit that too many white folks are saying isn't racist, these other instances are showing me (and, I hope, you) that there is movement towards more significant change. And that this will incite you to help us along into growing this movement into fundamental societal change.

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