12 Jun Blog: Social media blackness
By Francio Guadeloupe.
Where is my golden pen? An academic cannot be an anti-racist activist today without a smartphone. I know, I can also join a protest march and carry a placard stating that Black Lives Matter. I can, yes, but then I will get lost in the crowd. I need to be seen. People need to see me, notice me, even if indirectly. I need everyone to know that I am down. Yes I am in academia but I am not like the rest. I am special. I care. I am black, so I know the pain of African Americans. I feel pain too.
Time to put on my dashiki, loosen my locks, and write a post on facebook. Or better yet put a picture on Instagram! And snapchat too. In the age of selfies, it is all about social media likes.
Not any fool, or any old story, will do on social media. There are rules to this. Three scripts to be precise!
1.The poor me one act. You tell sad tales about growing up secretly wanting to be white. People read and are touched. Sympathy is a way towards social media likes. Others who see the attention you are getting, usually join and tell their tales to. A gathering of sufferers.
2. It’s a black thing, you wouldn’t understand. You put a post about the prime minister or some white celebrity who all of a sudden is openly against racism of Zwarte Piet/Black Pete. You want white people to respond, or black people who defend these white people, so you can school them. Picking a fight with sleepwalkers who defend the hypocrites is a way towards social media likes. Others, including a few white allies, join you to counter their whitesplaining. A gathering of teachers.
3. Black Panthers with a crowd funding project. You have done your homework and write about institutional racism and capitalism. You combine this with offline meetings. You become the darling of those who are just waking up. You get social media likes that only rappers get. Others join you and start financially supporting your cause, while implicitly also talking about theirs. A gathering of marketers for black business.
…Well there is a fourth script, that of Candace Owens. Black US style Republicanism. 5 million likes in five days for bashing the protests for Floyd George. Nah, you don’t want to go there. No way. No matter how much likes you can get. This, yes this, says that within social media blackness, there is something genuine. Solidarity, and that is enough.
The essential problem which social media blackness avoids is that black lives are not meant to be producers of things. They WERE things. Commodities. Do we just aspire to be fellow thingifiers of the earth? If so, we are then trapped in the same binary. Perhaps, it is better to be humans metamorphosing. In undergoing this transformation, we can wed human rights to the rights of animals and rivers and trees and mountains and skies. Our task is then to recuperate the blackened lives, and stop the blackening of living and supposedly inanimate matter. Posthumanism. Inter-being. This is what Black Lives Matter means to me. What does it mean to you?
Image by Melvi Lando.
(Francio Guadeloupe is a senior researcher and staff member of the KITLV. A Social & Cultural Anthropologist by training, Dr. Guadeloupe has worked at all the major universities in the Netherlands. He served for four years as the President of the University of St. Martin (USM), until hurricane Irma led to the temporary closure of the institution on the bi-national island of Sint Maarten and Saint Martin.)