There is nothing gentle about racism and our responses to it don’t warrant subtlety or kindness in return.
By Shannon Barber
When it comes to social media etiquette, we are all still learning how to interact with each other while respecting boundaries and the spaces we give ourselves.
What has translated over straight from our in-person interactions are racist, sexist and ableist micro and macro aggressions. How do we navigate those? Well it would help if folks with privilege recognized the ways in which they are routinely demanding labor from marginalized people online.
In regards to white folks and their anti-blackness, here is a list of 10 ways they can stop annoying people of color on social media:
1. When we post about racism – like being called racist names, racial harassment, feelings about being called racist things or being racially harassed – stop saying you’re shocked. Don’t say, “I can’t believe this still happens”. Don’t tell us all the ways you’re surprised because you’re either lying, or you haven’t been paying attention. Don’t show us how much you don’t listen when we talk with a careless statement of “shock”. Think about what it says to us about how you see us before you say something.
2. When we share whatever flavor of racial pain we’re in, don’t proclaim what a good white person you personally are and go on to tell a story about that time you rescued a poor Black child from the ghetto. We don’t want to hear about that time you bought some jammy pants that gave five cents to an elephant in India or whatever. Just don’t do it because it’s not about you personally unless you personally caused the problem. If you want to tell your story about what a wonderful white person you are, take it to your own space because we’re not here for it.
3. Related to #2. Say you come across a post on Facebook, and there is a lengthy thread where people of color are going off about how terrible white people are, don’t be the white person to #notallwhitepeople the thing. If you are personally offended by the “stereotyping” and “generalizations” of a group of people either sharing their pain or cracking jokes about Whitey, calm the hell down. There is not a comment thread long enough full of things like BECKY NO! You, singular Good White Person, cannot be the savior of Whiteness.
4. Not all conversations need your stories about something tangentially related. For example, a group of Black folks on social media are talking about hair issues. Maybe we’re talking about things like little Black girls being threatened with suspension from school over wearing their natural hair, or wearing braids. Maybe we’re talking about living in majority white cities and not being able to find certain products, whatever. Mind. Your. Business. The time someone told a blonde joke that hurt your feelings or the glossy lady rag article you read that says curly hair isn’t serious, please do not insert yourself. Stay in your lane.
5. If you don’t understand a Black colloquialism, AAVE or other brown people slang do not start yammering about the demise of the english language and how terrible slang is. AAVE is among the most vibrant and ever changing dialects of the english language. So don’t. If you don’t understand, Google before you ask or just deal with the fact that it isn’t for you.
6. Related to #5, think about how you use AAVE. Do you use it when you want to feel sassy? If the only use for Blackness you have is to consume it and regurgitate it, skip it. Quote Miley Cyrus or Katy Perry or somebody until Blackness means more to you than two seconds of cachet or sass.
7. Stop letting your white friends act like a-holes on your friends’ posts. You don’t have to be confrontational, you don’t have to ride to the rescue. You can say to your friend: this is not appropriate here I am sending you a message so that we can talk. Handle your own people.
8. If ignorance suddenly turns you into the sort of person who leaves four inches worth of a comment on a Facebook thread where you tone-police, demand emotional labor and refuse to do your own research – just stop. Your anti-black biases are making you perceive our responses as being aggressive thanks to racist tropes like the Angry Black Woman. There is nothing gentle about racism and our responses to it don’t warrant subtlety or kindness in return.
9. Don’t ask us why we hate white people. Just don’t. Please stop. Don’t commend us if we decide to say not all white people, don’t demand to a light on you for being the One Truly Good White Person.
10. If reading this list has you furiously writing up a long comment to explain to me how you’re not the problem, how racism is bad, how I don’t really know the struggle, if you are going to in earnest #notallwhitewomen and/or #notallwhitepeople me – you ain’t ready. If you believe this is directed at you personally– it definitely is.
Author Bio: Shannon Barber is a 40 year old author who resides in the Pacific North West. They are most often found in their natural habitat, walking very quickly while brandishing a cigarette in one hand and an enormous cup of coffee in the other. They are the author of the forthcoming poetry book, Gasoline Heart by Lark Books this summer. For more of their poetry please see #gorgonpoetics and all the genres at their author site.