Culture

7 Commenters You’ll Find on Facebook Social Justice Debates

Over the past few months, I have done a lot of observation via social media, as we dialogue about the very important events unfolding in our world. As we engage in socially conscious topics, there are a few patterns that I’ve seen pop up in my timeline over and over again. As time went on, I began to code these patterns into a list of the types of dialogue strategies and commenters that you will find in Social Justice (SJ) conversations. I compiled a fraction of this list into a satirical blog for your enjoyment… and also to let you know that you aren’t alone… I see it too, boo! 🙂

*Important Disclaimer – I will not be talking about The Social Justice Activist or The Ally in this piece because I want to refer you to the brilliant work that they are already doing and to the things that they are already saying. [Please see below]. I will also not direct any of my attention here to those who engage in online dialogues to openly terrorize and antagonize through racism / sexism / and / or any other form of oppression.  I have seen their comments but prefer to give more energy to work against systems that allows them to feel so comfortable in being antagonistic.

*Disclaimer #2 – While there may be consistent patterns on Twitter, I’m not as familiar with the medium… soooo these are observations drawn from Facebook. In addition, not everyone will be described as a Commenter – some are posters, some are commenters, and some are observers. I’ve grouped them all as Commenters because Dialogue-rs and Responders didn’t flow nicely: executive decision #1. In addition, you will find I use debate / dialogue interchangeably. I am aware that they are not the same thing… but Facebook Social Justice Dialogues and / or Debates is too long to post: Executive Decision #2. If this were a forreal-deal paper, you could consider this my Limitations section… but it’s not. It’s a satirical blog post. I’ve also made fun of myself in this post but I’ll leave it to you to decide which one I am:

7 Commenters You’ll Find on Facebook Social Justice Debates

1. The Diplomat – You will often find the Diplomat posting attention grabbing and / or controversial articles, offering a vague call for responses. At least 5 of the 7 responders described below will comment, like, dislike, argue, and / or counter-argue. The comment thread becomes a space for both open racism / classism / misogyny, etc. and / or coded racism / classism, misogyny, etc. and the counter-arguments that roll on for at least 30 – 50 comments. During this time, you really won’t hear from the Diplomat. A few hours later, after the comment section has cooled off a bit, the Diplomat arrives back on the cyber-scene. The Diplomat will respond in one of the following ways: a) Deflect – introducing a completely different topic here [many times, this tactic is disguised as ‘Additional questions / angles for you to ponder or an exclamation about how many comments they have to work through’], b) Diffuse – work through everyone’s points, trying to find the validity in all of them [insert trite sayings here], and then officially closing the conversation without really saying what they thought / felt in regards to their original post, and / or c) Destruct – Simply deliver an implicit or explicit ‘closing message’ via the thread in order to stop the conversation, again… without saying what they thought, challenging any assertions, and / or

2. The DroptheMic Mogul – To ‘drop the mic’ typically means to say something so profound & poignant that the individual who said it can simply, ‘drop the mic’ after they’ve said / typed it: No closing statement. No clarification. No further statement. The medium for the DroptheMic-er really does not matter. It could be on their own timeline, on another’s page, in a comment thread, on Twitter, on Instagram, etc… the objective is to Drop the Mic. I can’t lie – I love a good #DroptheMic moment when it’s organic and when it resonates with me. You don’t understand… I will throw confetti and facilitate a thundering round of online-applause before you leave the stage if you manage a #dropthemicmoment well. But I will share a little side-eye if it seems that you engage in dialogue online JUST to #DroptheMic.

3. The Receipt-Puller – On the whole, it seems that the Receipt Puller is disengaged in conversations about social justice via online forums… until they post the obligatory Pulling post that sounds a bit like… “A lot of you are talking about systemic change but what are you doing to create systemic change?!” If this is done generally, it can sometimes work as a call to action. However, if there are tags and direct responses in a comment thread or on a timeline… then you’re probably encountering someone that’s trying to pull your receipts.

It’s important to remember as we navigate social media dialogues, that it is tactless to assume that because someone is spending time in dialogue online that they are doing nothing OFFline. As my students say, ‘You don’t know their life’. Quite a few people who are consciously engaged online are also engaged offline in civic matters, writing, research, activism, community service, scholarship, and more. My Gramma says, ‘You are wise to not make folk have to pull out their receipts because you just might have to issue a refund on your statement’. Welp!

4. The Positivity Promoter – You may not see the positivity pusher actively in your comment thread, but you will see them in your timeline. To the positivity pusher, engaging in topics such as race and / or social justice is just not positive… and so, not worth cyber-space. So, during heavy times of sociocultural unrest, you will typically find them posting pictures of animals, and food, and flowers. Though I disagree with the assumption that dialogue / information = negativity, their page could be a space to decompress and / or disengage for a while. Or… you could log off.

5. The Critical Race Scholar – The Critical Race Scholar can be described formally as someone who has done extensive study, writing, and / or research including Critical Race Theory, its tenets, and its implications. They have an understanding of how the system of racism works and how it trickles down to the interpersonal level. But on cyber-space, I’m using this description  sarcastically, formally, and informally for those who a) study extensively, AND / OR b) intermittently use words like systemic, intersectionality, microaggression, lived experience (and a host of other terms) within their comments and analysis. I’m talking about The ‘New To’ the games and the ‘True to’ the games. [I’m not even mad at either – come on through and nuance this thing!!] However, as someone who definitely has some Critical Race Scholar commenting traits, I do want to make a stronger commitment to code-switch a bit more if / as I engage in online spaces that are not my own. I want to be able to take some of the concepts that we’ve given language to, and break them down and define the terms, as I mean them and as I feel the need to.
6. The Rambler-Gambler: Because I grew up around a lot of older folk, I’m aware that there’s already a co notation in place for the words ramblin’ & gamblin’. I’m talking about NEITHER of those things (let me just be clear right here). During an online dialogue about race & social justice, a Rambler-Gambler takes a look at something that you have already posted – a status, an article, a video etc.- does not read past the headline or watch past the first few seconds… and then goes on a complete tangent. It really doesn’t matter to the Rambler-Gambler whether or not they actually read the article you posted. What matters is that there is a platform upon which they can ramble… and take the gamble on whether what they’ve said was actually congruent with the original post (or even prior comments). My Spidey-senses kick in the highest with Rambler-Gamblers because I’ve worked in education for a bit. I know when you haven’t actually read the article or watched the clip ;). So, typically, I pose questions about the source material, the original post, etc. to confirm. To help out the Rambler-Gamblers on your wall, it’s okay to remind them that it is not helpful to read a headline that someone posted without asking questions about a) context of the article b) author [and the author’s lens], c) context of where it was posted [what posts have you seen on that particular wall before – what do you know about this person and / or their line of work? How does that inform your response?]. THEN, actually read (or at the very least skim) that article and what the particular ‘friend’ had to say about that article… BEFORE you craft your response. Turn to your neighbor and say, ‘Before’…
7. The Derailer – The derailer comes in many forms and is best summed up in this picture, found on NotAskingforPermission’s tumbler page. I had to share it here because I think it is absolutely genius:
derailing-bingo
The derailer comes forward with any tactic that they can, in order to prove that your points are moot, invalid, and / or ill constructed. Some of the tactics they use are a) Erasure – “Not everything is about race”, b) Making it Personal – “I think you’re letting your own biases as a [insert sociological identity here] get in the way of your objectivity, c) Making it Interpersonal / Individual – “This is about one or two ‘bad apples’ spoiling the bunch,” d) Name-calling – oh trust me, I’ve seen it before, e) Disassociating – “I wasn’t there when [insert one of the horrific historic events here that led to systemic subjugation of peoples of color] – why am I being blamed? What does that have to do with me?” and the list really could go on and on. In fact, RaceForward (2014) did an entire report on how mass media essentially derails conversations about race and social justice. Oop! (Read it… you will get your whole life)! People typically take three approaches to the Derailer, when they are found in the comment section: 1) They ignore / block them, 2) They engage them, 3) They call them out. The most successful attempts that I have seen in terms of Derailers is to either ignore and / or call out the behavior. Engaging Derailers ‘points’ is like trying to put mist into a time capsule, as they tend to simply pull out another tactic (see chart above) to see if they can successfully derail the conversation. I’m still looking to see whether or not ignoring and / or calling out the behavior is most effective, but my gut feeling is that you really can only discern that on a case-by-case scenario.
8. The Like Lurker – The Like Lurker is giving you abso-lute-ly nothing except a subtle online head-nod of solidarity… in the form of a Like. The like lurker may (or may not) hit up your inbox later to unpack what’s unfolding online. The engagement here seems to be primarily by consumption. (However, I will say that the like lurker makes you feel like you’re doing your GOOD talkin’ by offering up their Media ‘Amen’s’…;)

Honorable Mention and / or To Be Unpacked Later:
The Confused Ally
The Judge & Jury
The Spiritual Warrior

Who I’m Following / Reading & LOVING:
Nyle Fort
Dr. Brittney Cooper
Johnetta Elzie
Dr. Tamura Lomax’s work on The Feminist Wire
Dr. Alisha Lola Jones’ insights
Aida Manduley on The Ferguson Masterpost

*Image Credit: Home Office, Maresa Smith, deathtothestockphoto.com

Which of these themes have YOU seen as you engage in dialogue online (and / or offline)?! Which do you gravitate toward, if any? Which aggravates you the most, if any?

A Raisin, A Piano, & A Bible: Reflections on the King Lawsuit

“Gin my cotton Sell my seed Buy my baby Everything she need” -Skip James, musician
Opening line of August Wilson’s “The Piano Lesson”

“MAMA: Oh—So now it’s life. Money is life. Once upon a time freedom used to be life—now it’s money. I guess the world really do change . . .
WALTER: No—it was always money, Mama. We just didn’t know about it.”
Raisin in the Sun, Lorraine Hansbury, Act I, Scene II

I am trained in Theater performance and the concept of art imitating life has always been intriguing to me. Prior to studying identity theory in my M. Ed College Student Affairs program, I learned about it intuitively from my time spent in the pages of playwrights. Two plays that consistently strike chords in my being are Lorraine Hansbury’s Raisin in the Sun & August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson for their concepts of legacy, family, and the history of people of color in America. Both plays feature a character, specifically, a man of color, with an elusive dream. In the Piano Lesson, Boy Willie & Lymon dream of selling a family heirloom (a handcrafted piano explaining the history of the family) in order to secure a plot of land. They believe that this land will yield riches for them, and a symbolic place and space in the earth. Berniece, the matriarch of the family, refuses to sell the piano and therein lies the complication of the plot. Likewise, in Hansbury’s Raisin in the Sun, the Younger family awaits Mr. Younger’s life insurance check. This check is in the amount of $10,000. Mama is the primary beneficiary, yet everyone in the family has important opinions on the allocation of the funds (further schooling, a family home, etc.). Her son, Walter Lee, dreams of opening a liquor store with his friends Bobo & Willy. And just like Boy Willie in the Piano Lesson, Walter Lee believes that this will yield additional riches for the family for generations to come. In both plays, the matriarchs are primarily concerned with upholding and honoring the legacy of the family. In both plays, the principal male characters believe that some type of concrete, physical space (for one, land for farming… for the other, a liquor store) will allow them to yield profits for the unforeseeable future.

Though these plays were written decades ago, a similar plot is unfolding right now… with the children of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Two of his children, Martin & Dexter, are suing their sister, Bernice (who ironically holds the same name as Berneice from August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson) because she refuses to sell two family heirlooms: Dr. Martin Luther King’s Bible and his Nobel Peace Prize medal. Though the details are unclear, Martin & Dexter King are looking to sell these items “to a private buyer”, as cited in the LA Times. The LA Times also references Bernice’s response: “There is no justification for selling either of these sacred items. They are priceless and should never be exchanged for money in the marketplace.” And just like the old plays, the plot complicates…

What is it about the selling of life investments, of family heirlooms, to acquire material wealth? What kinds of strain does this create in families of color; so many precious things ripped from their histories, families, and legacies?

For may years, communities of color have been denied capital in a variety of systemic ways: denial of bank loans, socioeconomic poverty, red-lining, denial of employment opportunities, and the list could go on for the length of this piece. For many years, economic growth and equality has been a battlefield where we have searched to gain more ground. What happens when a window of opportunity opens… but in order to access it, you are asked to sell your birthrights, your family heirlooms, your ancestral history?

Can we compare Dexter and Martin to Boy Willie (The Piano Lesson) and Walter Lee (Raisin in the Sun)? In Theater, we (the audience) have the privilege of being invited into the internal landscape of the characters. We know what Boy Willie wants but more importantly, we know why he wants it. We know the psychology of his desire to sell the piano… a family heirloom that illustrates the story of his ancestors. In his mind, selling that heirloom affords his family the chance to reclaim / buy back the land that his family was enslaved upon. Perhaps, it affords the chance to claim a legacy of freedom that he wishes were weaved ages ago. Likewise, we know the psychology of Walter Lee’s desires. He believes the money offers the true freedom to his family (and implicitly, to families of color in America). Freedom, to him, is not as clear cut as ownership of self and of family. To Walter Lee, freedom can be funded…accessed through money. So, we grapple with this motif of freedom: does freedom come by grasping family legacy, or does it come through the selling of goods? A Raisin in the Sun, The Piano Lesson, and the King lawsuit all beg the audience to grapple with the question: as people of color in America, what things can you justifiably give up… in pursuit of a dream? In pursuit of greater freedom? In pursuit of wealth?

In this life-drama between the King family, we are not as privileged as we were as audience-members in a theatrical drama. We don’t know the psychology of Martin & Dexter’s desires to sell Dr. King’s Bible and Nobel Peace prize medal. And all that we know about Bernice is that these pieces are “sacred” and so, she refuses to sell them. Although we don’t know these things, the questions still remain: what do you give up? I mean what do you really give up… mentally, relationally, spiritually… when you sell symbols of your legacy in pursuit of a dream?

Image courtesy of Nuttapong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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A Raisin, A Piano, & A Bible: Reflections on the King Lawsuit by Jade Perry is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.