I've Got an Indictment For You: Why Aren't Internet Famous People Posting about Ferguson?
New-age and personal power transformational coach/entrepreneur/bloggers/people with a following PUT DOWN YOUR CRYSTALS, AND LISTEN UP. Take like five minutes between your next colonic and your core power yoga, sit your green smoothie-drinking, Lululemon-wearing ass down at your Twitter feed and ask yourself,
WHY HAVEN'T I POSTED ANYTHING ABOUT THE CIVIL RIGHTS FIRE BURNING THROUGH AMERICA?
At first I was disappointed, but I paused. Sometimes thoughtful responses take time, especially around racially charged events. So I waited to see what the Internet Famous might offer. I'm scrolling through my feed of "new paradigm" "thought leaders" and I feel like Jebidiah Atkinson on Saturday Night Live hollering "NEXT!!" between critiques. I mean, it's just business as usual: end of year sales, posts about "radical self-care during the holidays," product launches, sparkling text overlay inspirational quotes, and the incessant drumbeat to DIG THYSELF: -perfunctory Rumi quote--something about the creation of a website being "soul-work"--Buy my shit--Buy my colleague's shit with this affiliate link--holiday crap--holiday crap--holiday crap--that fucking Mary Oliver quote AGAIN -- SERIOUSLY, ENOUGH WITH THE MARY OLIVER. THERE ARE OTHER POETS.-#soblessed--Instagram selfie--Instagram selfie--some kind of vulnerability porn about not believing you "deserve" something and then being "brave" and "deciding" you do and then thanking the Universe for it--attitude is everything quote- (((UNLESS YOU'RE AN UNARMED BLACK TEENAGER. JUST SAYIN.))) From like, all the internet A-listers that purport to call on humanity's greater good...as well as from some minor arcana in my sphere who claim to be in service to people's desire to be uplifted, to rise up, to achieve their potential. I get that it's scary to use your internet clout when you're a personality-driven brand to take a stand on something controversial, especially if it's not obviously relevant to your [mostly white] audience, might alienate them, or cause them discomfort, and isn't quite "on-message." Especially if your brand is "spiritual" or "heart-centered" or about staying focused on the good in people. But this kind of militant positivity is a spiritual bypass which is used to fast-forward into an "enlightened" perspective that's free from the grit and pain of the fact that WE ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM. To post about Ferguson or the non-indictments would shine a light on the places and people these brands don't serve: the poor, people of color, people with "mental illness" and trauma, the non cis-gendered, the people who shop differently than you do. To post about it could be such a departure from the the cult of the self at which so many of these brands worship that it would be mad startling. It would illuminate just how little direct contact we actually have with people whose children are murdered, holding a bag of skittles, by those who ostensibly are here to protect us. It would spotlight our lack of many close friends who aren't white, our lack of direct experience with these issues and therefore our own lack of insight about them. In the arena of personal development, not having immediate solutions isn't great for business. And it would take time to navigate the responses. To refute the baseless arguments. To educate ourselves about howmanytimesthishashappened. It will bring up feelings that it's not enough to just post about it (because it isn't), and of not actually doing enough (because most of us aren't).
That's what it means to have privilege.
It's a bubble we live in, and it gets punctured by these kind of events. It's a lens we look through and when it gets removed for a moment via a confused but heartfelt Facebook post or #blacklivesmatter hashtag, it could make everyone, including yourself, uncomfortable. And OMG I MIGHT LOSE SOME FOLLOWERS
[AND I guarantee that the discomfort you and your audience of mostly privileged middle class white folks feels is about .000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001% of the discomfort being felt on the streets where Mike Brown was shot in the back twelve 6 to 10 times.] I'm not saying you have to be a raging pain body leaking your despair and white guilt all over the internet and making blanket statements about what "the world" has come to (one can't know "the world" -- one can scarcely know oneself), or diverting the focus with your tears (see the percentage above), but anyone with a following online has a responsibility to use every available set of tools including social media to affect the norms to which our privileged audience is exposed. And I'm not talking about that viral hug photo (I've met that family, and they are amazing -- but I encourage you to stay with the discomfort and not be distracted by the trope of reconciliation). Because when the NFL is communicating more effectively and with greater poetics than the people who claim to be supporting others' potential, you need to wake up and smell the outrage. It's literally the least you could do. Here is a powerful post by Shira Erlichman (linking to her Facebook fan page as her original status is private):
What I'm interested in: Accountability. I will do more than pray for change. I will do more than "send light & love." I will listen to how change makers want help from me. I will take cues. I will read articles and books. I will educate and inform myself. I will support actions spearheaded by POCs [People Of Color]. I will be more conscious to support Black businesses. I will question my preconceived notions of "peace" and "violence." I will maintain a personal spiritual practice to replenish my hurting heart. I will not rely on POCs to replenish my hurting heart. I will not use people of color in my life as "props" in my own journey and necessary work. I will honor a movement whose particular daily struggles I don't bodily share, am most often blind to, and possess a privilege to turn away from. I will not rack my brain trying to "fix Ferguson" (where very real activists are daily organizing their own community and protesting) - I will recognize that this impulse is Whiteness attempting to control. I will, instead, listen. A lot. I will check my privilege and honor my blind spots. I will call out other white people, and allow myself to be called out. I will shed what I take personally so that I may serve the universal: Human Rights. I will hold myself, and my country, accountable. I will not willingly turn away and pretend this isn't happening - or hasn't been for centuries. I will love myself in my journey, and never let my floundering become an excuse, nor my learning become a trophy. There is work to be done. It is my work. Because of love, I will be ready before I am ready. If you want to share this post, you may do so but I ask that you write your own I statements within your share. Thank you, as always, for listening.
So here are a few of my "I Statements": I will use the internet and my social media not just to promote myself and my products. I will be vigilant about how privilege shows up in my partnerships, projects, income streams, and ambitions. I will make my activist leanings a bigger priority. I will do a shitty job sometimes but that's better than not trying. I will keep adding to this list. And I hope you do, too. With huge shout-outs to unwitting contributors Cristina Orbe, Christa Bell, Wes Hamilton, Ace McCarlton, and everyone who commented on this post, and took action.