|Photo: Yoga Sole Brooklyn|
Perhaps you have heard the furor about this piece over at XOJane, "It Happened to Me: There Are No Black People In My Yoga Classes and I'm Suddenly Feeling Very Uncomfortable With It" where the author painstakingly takes us through the stages of her newly envisioned grief in a magically delightful scenario of imagined racially based hate.
January is always a predictable month on the Internet: it is inevitably jamdamnpacked with spillages of accidental racism from well-intentioned Whitepersons who have sworn to dole out new horribleness, new inventively offensive comments, and for the most part, whose cups of privileged cluelessness runneth muy over before February rolls around.
A few hours ago, as I tap-danced into my exceptionally fuckery-filled Facebook timeline, a fairly absentminded white woman put her good sense aside directly before my eyes. It appeared she had never pulled head from ass while browsing the Internet--she was Self-Victimizing around thoughtlessly, flossing her superiority, looking confused and painfully misinformed. Within the first few paragraphs of patronizing misdirected sympathy, I saw the attention-craving victim inside of her do a snowball, turning into rambling self-satisfier and then self-appointed hero. Before we made it into our first race-themed blunder she had stooped down atop her whiteness and privilege, head raised high into her own ass, proud and supremacist. She stayed there, self-aggrandizing, for the rest of the article.
I was drowning in front of her, I had no choice but to look straight at the enemy every time my head came up for air (roughly once a minute). I’ve seen people self-immolate or blow up on the internet many times, and it’s a sad thing, but as a person unable to turn away from a tragedy there’s nothing you can do about it. At that moment, though, I found it impossible to stop thinking thoughts of sudden and indefatigable lice about this woman. Even when I wasn’t positioned to stare directly at the enemy, I knew she was still staring directly at me. Over the course of the next five minutes, I watched as her need for a cause turned into temporary lunacy and then a quest for Emmy-winning white saviorhood starring Julia Roberts. I felt it all directed toward me and my body.
I was completely unable to focus on my being a human, instead feeling hyper-aware of my mahogany-hued uncrackable blackness, my enviably unfuckwitable sense of rhythm, my well-versedness in these unmistakable signs of proximity to "some bullshit" that I have been in close contact with way too many damn times. My chocolatey black boy body. Surely this attention-seeker was noticing all of these things and wishing she could be me for them, stereotyping me, resenting me—or so I imagined.
I thought about how even though The Internet comes from thousands of Al Gore-approved engineer hours, it’s been shamelessly co-opted by clueless patronizing wanksters as a country club for out of touch White men and women. I thought about my beloved sanity-based Internet that I’ve visited for years in my imagination, on which articles are very well-thought-out and often very rooted in things other than imagined victimhood and no one will try to put a deluge of oppression-seeking horribleness upon your spirit during a time in which I was a menace to south central while drinking your juice in the hood. They preach the gospel of colorblindness, that their style of being a privilege-oozing member of society is approachable for people who are not incestuous swampfolk, people who don't truly believe The Heist was actually better than Good Kid, those who walk upright, non-Beliebers, and human beings; that it is non-poisonous and humane. As such, the Internet is populated largely by faux activists, girls who cry out, "[Gods] of [Mount Victimhood], Hear My Cry", and broke Carrie Bradshaws, who are often all the same person, hey girl; there is a much higher ratio of those with the weakest of grips on reality to sanefolk than use of condoms should, in theory, result in, and you always see the articles freshly-published despite being marinated for a week in distatefulness and supremacy, from Evian-toting, Upper-West-Side yoga stereotypes who don't realize they have just described themselves.
I realized with horror that despite the colorblindness preached by the people who compose and publish things marinated in distastefulness and supremacy, despite their purported claims of lifelong humanbeingness, despite my attempts to surround myself with people who have grips on reality, words demonstrating firm footing on Planet LookingForExhaltationViaVictimization were bountiful and not very far between. And in the large and constantly rotating roster of Oppresionistas, I could only shake my head in disbelief that I was, unfortunately, much to my dismay, for all intensive purposes, despite beans not being capable of burning on the grill, face to face with "some bullshit."
Woe is me.
I thought about how that must feel: to be starring, in a Truman Show kind of way, in Who Wants to Be A Victim?, a woman soon to deal with, for the first time, via Twitter (and probably via FedEx in the form of a bouquet of dead flowers sent to your mother's 9-5 because Internet folks have no motherfucking chill and will therefore never have nice things), a Rejected Apology Era Justine Sacco-level windfall of hate that by all accounts seems to have been avoidable had you read your Application to the Sisterhood of Pity Me For I Am White Yet Kindhearted And Now, I Pray, A Hero aloud to a friend. What could I do to help her? If I were her, I thought, I would be retroactively mad at myself for not asking Santa F Baby for one of those memory-and-race-themed-infraction-erasing Men In Black things for times like this, and wish to be sent, via
Greyhound direct message, straight to hell, to say whatup to my demise, as quickly as possible—I would not want anyone to look at me or notice me. And so I tried to very deliberately avoid looking at the enemy each time I was on Facebook more frequently than I should have been but this isn't about me, but I could not avoid the enemy's If-You-Thought-I-Wouldn't-Bring-This-Back-Around-To-Me-And-My-Pain-You-Were-Wrong ass digipamphlet to Miss Anne's School For The Oppression-Hungry, as it was reposted and I was tagged for commentary six damn times just the same. Trying to ignore it only made it worse. I was tweeted about the shit. I thought about what the person who will likely come out of this whole shit with a damn book deal because that's the way the post-racial cookie crumbles could or should have done to help herself. Would a simple “What Would Ani DiFranco do?” whisper have helped, or would it be futile against a cup of clueless that runneth the fuck over? Should I tell her after I stop laughing how devoid of understanding I was while reading for the duration of my forced conjugal visit with her unique brand of FoxNewsIsSureToCallMe and encourage her to stop reenacting that damn episode of "Maude" (aquí) where Bea-Arthur-As-Maude met Florida Evans for the first time and was just drunk on self-satisfaction (and Moscato) and overcome with pity for Florida, the poor Black beast surely devoid of dignity and in need of mucho sympathy, or would that come off as massively condescending? If I asked her to articulate her train of thought to me so I could just listen, would she be at all capable of telling me about it? Perhaps more importantly, what could the system do to protect me more effectively from such a broad range of oppression-seeking missiles launched from the Antiquated Racial Attitudes Naval Base? Is having more racially diverse group of friends enough, or would it require a serious sit down with Al Sharpton?
I backflipped away from that article and promptly broke down crying. The Internet, a beloved safe space that has helped me through many dark moments of boredom and sexlessness in over [none of your business] years of use, suddenly felt deeply suspect. Knowing fully well that five minutes of perhaps self-importantly believing myself to be the undeserving target of a racially charged foolishness is depressing, is absolutely not my own psychological projection, is a drop in the bucket of "some bullshit," is the tip of the iceberg in my climate change-affected Sea of Frustrations, I was shaken by it all the same.
The question is, of course, so much bigger than unbridled self-importance—it’s a question of enormous systemic failure. But just the same, I want to know—how can we browse the Internet in good conscience, when such mindlessness is afoot? How do we create a space that is accessible not just to everybody, but specifically to sanefolk? And while I recognize that there is an element of spectatorship to my experience with this quest for Emmy-nominated White Saviorhood starring Julia Roberts, it is precisely this feeling of not being able to avert tragedy, not knowing how to look away from the carnage in the comment sections, that mitigates the hope for change.
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