Saturday, July 17, 2010

Your example of under examined privilege of the day

Some douchebag on Gizmodo decides he's being proactive on race issues by stalking a black woman on Twitter and writing about her as if she's a fucking museum or zoo exhibit:

Sometimes I find her faith charming; other times it is frustratingly childish. "Thanks Lord for letting me see another day!" can be followed by a retweeted "God is THE MAN!" All that can be followed by jokes about someone being a "squirter" in bed. I try not to extrapolate about her culture from just one person's Twitter stream, but that's also sort of exactly what makes following a random person so interesting. Are black Christians more open about their sexuality? Young people? Northern people? I've just got this single data point, but it's more than I had before.
Those zany black people!

People respond to point out how seriously fucked up that is:

You can't meaningfully diversify your social network -- online or off -- with just a couple of clicks. Your "friend list" on Facebook or Twitter might be as rainbowriffic as a college admissions brochure, but if you're not planning on developing real friendships with any of them (you know, in the I-care-about-you-and-want-to-talk-to-you way), then let's face it, those people are just window dressing. They're there to make you feel less racist. Which is, in and of itself, pretty racist.
Douchebag responds with the ever so typical self-righteous "You just don't understaaaand how anti-racist I am" rants and tells those fussy little people of color what's what (they are over-reacting, of course). He then tries to wave away the valid complaints about othering as if this were some new phenomenon that exists with the nature of the internets:

If that feels creepy and clinical to you, it's because it sort of is? But it's also the very nature of the modern internet. And honestly, it seems far, far creepier if I had tried to befriend her personally.

Shani O. Hilton writes on Postbourgie, "That woman he follows is not a person to him, she's a creature in the internet zoo, and it makes me shudder to think that there are more people out there like him."

Well...yes. You've been on Twitter, haven't you, @shani_o? It's a website where people post things they choose to display to the public, including—unless one has a perfect follower-to-follows ratio or a private account—several people you don't know at all who choose to pay attention to your life, your thoughts, and whatever else you choose to share.

Sure dude, but most people don't actively search out a black woman so that they can use "I follow a black woman on Twitter" as evidence of how enlightened they are on race issues.

Perhaps if you'd actually listen to what your critics are saying and spend two seconds researching it instead of just proclaiming that you are right because you are totally right you'd get why relying on some lame excuse about the nature of social technology just doesn't work for this argument. The concept of Othering is a discussion that we've been having for a long time now, and while it's a shame you've never stumbled upon it, this in no way means you get to own it.

Interestingly enough, if he wanted to actually start a dialogue about race and his own shortcomings on racial relationships, he could have done so. When you write a post on Gizmodo about how you are stalking a black woman on Twitter, you are probably going to get some responses on the subject, as this guy did. This could have been a teachable moment, if he were able to get past the knee-jerk "I'M NOT RACIST" reaction. The people responding to him did not write him off, instead they offered a civil, if a bit critical, conversation (most acknowledged that his heart was in the right place, but really dude, ur doin it wrong). Yet he refused and instead waved away their complaints as trivial. So apparently, he seems more comfortable when he was just watching and observing those exotic creatures from afar, rather then actual interacting with them on the subject. Because how dare people actually be real and have opinions that might differ, rather then passive objects one can observe safely from a distance? Race is such an easy subject when we don't actually have to talk about it, is it not?

So this is really no different from the "anti-racist" shtick of the past, like those that watch a documentary on race and feel they can lecture people of color about their experience. It's just that the people that brag about how many black friends they have at work while suspiciously never inviting them to their cookouts are on the internet now.

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