It’s not like there’s a lack of things to talk about. I just haven’t been sure I want to or I want to yet.
Some of that is because I have learned so much about the power of social media through having found a thriving, articulate community of people to hear and by whom I feel my identity – or aspects of it – reflected. Most people would probably never think I needed help speaking up but then I think people mistake hearing your voice ever with hearing it all. There’s plenty the world has succeeded in making me self-conscious to assert. Plenty of times I didn’t want to go through the work of replying to something unacceptable because I knew that the attention would be given to my response (with words like “here we go again”) and not to whatever caused MY “here we go again” moment – here someone goes undermining my beauty, worth, intellect, love, faith and identity as a Black woman.
And I’ve found so much – so. much. – relief in scrolling through my timeline in those times and “hearing” these people speak. Because the truth is, I have a right to not engage every time. Often, I think of Toni Morrison’s genius commentary on the work of racism:
“The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and you spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing.”
Sometimes I will exercise my right to be heard, to respond, etc. Sometimes I’m not having it. Just like the woman who tweeted that a male scientist at her convention commented that her attire was not appropriate (let’s not even) – and then so many women responded by affirming that her outfit WAS appropriate. This is our socialized response, no? Not “You do not have the authority to make such a claim/approach me in the first place” but defending the outfit in question. (And I know, for myself, part of the reason for that type of response is also born out of a desire to let the other party know that I know s/he’s wrong. Hashtag: Just so you know. So it’s not like I don’t get it.)
But sometimes, as when a deserved artist wins a National Book Award for the first time, I (a) know that one of these people I admire will speak and I will read it and be able to breathe deep because someone gets it and someone spoke and that means I have the validation everyone who takes it for granted wonders why I need and I (b) am unsure how best to support the artist. Does she want another thinkpiece to come up when her name and win are googled? Does it bother her at all? (Maybe it doesn’t. Maybe they’re best friends and while she wishes he hadn’t spoken that way in mixed and streaming company, she knows his heart. Maybe he thought he was making social commentary on the ridiculousness of antiquated stereotypes – yeah, that one’s a long shot but remember when I said we’re socialized to give anyone but us the benefit of the doubt?)
Then there’s times when a new tv show comes on – particularly one with a problematic or at least confusing title – and it is everything you hoped it would be and you feel for the first time in a long time like the audience. You feel this way because instead of being about the gaze, it’s actually about things as we see and experience them. And it doesn’t have to be perfect just because it’s one of few, and did I mention it’s that pressure to be the perfect representation for a varied and diverse people group that demonstrates the problem with white-washed broadcasting.
Then sometimes kids give interviews and ho-my-word, I don’t even think I can do this one. Because they’re kids. And despite the fact that they are basically the embodiment of what I can only assume would have been one of Dr. Marvin Monroe’s social experiments (what happens when you are tragically wealthy, do not engage in agencies of socialization such as corporate schooling, are “trusted” by your parents enough to make and immortalize your own life choices as a pre-teen who will have one of two options going forward: a really painful period of realization during which you are haunted by your nonstop public declarations and images – or – refusal to undergo said very-public process and therefore stay the course and just…just be horrible) – it’s not fair to anyone to have such an exhaustive record of these years.
Or what about when part one of a two part adaptation of a third book comes out and people are so upset over that concept – which apparently and seemingly has been done unnecessarily before but this isn’t that time and it isn’t those books and it was so good and I’m not sorry that we might actually lose friendships over this discussion because you will NOT badmouth MOCKINGJAY PART 1.