On having two identities and marginalization

“The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly. Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.” – Mark Zuckerberg

This is a line from an article written about the ways that Facebook is slowly and subtly destroying our free will. It’s very good and if you have time you should read it but I want to talk about this quote from Zuckerberg because it shows the mind of a person who has never had to hide parts of their identity just to exist safely in the world. This quote reeks of unexamined privilege and it is from one of the people who stands at the forefront of ushering the world into a new, connected age.

This is the statement of a person who has never had to pretend to be something they were not, something less than their whole selves in order to get and keep a job. This is a person who has never been afraid of the type of ridicule that could lead to violence for simply being 100% of who they were. This is the statement of a person who has never had to pretend to renounce their own identity in order to survive in the greater culture.

This is a statement of cis hetero white man. You don’t need to know that it was Mark Zuckerberg, Mr. Facebook himself, who said this to know that a white many said this. It is dripping with the privilege of safety and the knowledge that who you are in the world will always be accepted and treated with respect.

There’s nothing wrong with being a cis hetero white man but the world looks a lot different when you aren’t one. The difference in relationships between co-workers and other friends is, for him, the difference in wearing a tie or t-shirt to work. It is a surface difference. It is not the difference in appearing as a woman before your coworkers when they know you primarily as a man. It is not the difference of using your first initial only or going by your more ambiguous middle name so that people don’t realize that you’re a woman of color and reject your application outright.

White boy Mark has never had to do those things so he doesn’t understand how people who have had to do those things use his platform and perceive the future. It’s not a space where everyone is free to be who they are because all of these lines between people have been broken down.

Instead it is a place with less ways to form walls of protection. Although being online has allowed many people to find and build community, many marginalized groups have also become more open to abusive attacks from those that seek to continue to oppress and intimidate them. When Zuckerberg and other social media mavens speak of their imagined future, they focus on the first part because they have no real concept that the second issue is such a widespread concern for so many people.

In no statement has it been so blatantly clear that the creator of Facebook has limited understanding of the world outside of his own viewpoint then in that statement. When you exist at some intersection of marginalization, it doesn’t matter which one, you automatically must operate in much of the world as less of yourself, simply because the world was not built for you. If you want to survive, making concessions until you have the strength to fight the status quo.

That’s not what this quote is suggesting, that you fight. It is assuming that how you are will be fine for everyone you meet. That there is no reason to parse relationships between people, that everyone can be “friends” because in the homogeneous culture of Silicon Valley, this is possible. It is a utopia because it is built for and by group of people to support exactly who they are and what they want.

In that world, there are no reasons why anyone would need to present a different face to the world, we’re all just people right? But the world doesn’t see all people the same and everyone isn’t a friend, whether you’ve added them on Facebook or not.

The future can be a wonderful place to exist in. There are many exciting things happening in the realm of technology but while moving forward we must remember that those same biases that excited are still coming with us until they are dealt with. It’s not enough to say, everyone should just be excellent to one another (Rufus never showed up for anyone in this timeline), you must accept that people are still living under oppression and marginalization and that hiding is a survival mechanism.

Having two identities isn’t a lack of integrity. It’s a way to survive in a world that is often hostile to people who exist outside of the ideal of our society. Instead of fighting against an honest survival mechanism, why not call out the people who feel they have nothing to fear and use their social privilege to bully and harass people who are just trying to live?

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On Cheap Glasses and the Myth of Affordable

Glasses are expensive and if you have less than perfect vision, you need them. Whenever anyone talks about needing glasses in an online space, they are met by a chorus of “Oh go to this *insert online dealer*! I got mine there and they were just *insert seemingly nominal amount*!” The thing is though, that what seems nominal to one person may be a cost too high for another.

Story time. My glasses broke in half last summer. I went to put them on my face when I woke up and they fell into two pieces. I’ve been wearing glasses since I was three years old, my prescription is quite high. When I talked about my glasses breaking, immediately I was flooded with recommendations for various online sellers.

The thing is, because my prescription is so high, the glasses that were costing my friends $30 were more in the $75-100 range for me. Which is a big difference! In fact, what was a nominal cost for them became a choice between being sighted and paying a bill for that month for me.

And this is a reality for many people.

There is room in this discussion for the intersections between class and ableism to be examined. After all, it is only those with low prescriptions that can access the low-cost options with using these online dealers. It also ignores the fact that people need to be able to be seen for a prescription which, without insurance especially, can be a hefty cost. What I’m bringing this up for today is to discuss the ever-changing goal post of “affordability”.

Not everyone operates from the same financial level and we really need to stop speaking as though “cheap” is the same level for everyone. Not everyone can access the same opportunities due to their unique circumstances (like my high prescription vs my friend’s low one) and not everyone is working with the same amount of capital.

This isn’t to say that we should never suggest things to others looking for help and guidance, it is only to say that we need to be aware of the difference between people that will change their experience. Instead of “go here it’s so cheap!” try “I had a good experience with this company under these circumstances”. Be aware of the fact that a cost that may seem low to you may be a budget breaker to someone else. After all, even $30 may be a tough choice to a family that is stretched thin financially.

It’s good to try and help but don’t forget that you are not an authority on anyone’s life but your own and even though something may work really well for you it may not be so great for someone else. The idea of affordability across the board is a myth. The only thing that is affordable for everyone regardless of life needs is free. Anything above that and it cheap really depends on what you consider expensive and that’s different for everyone.

Don’t Hit Share : Here’s what to do instead

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In less than two weeks, we’ve experienced rapid changes to our political landscapes and in the struggle to stay up on all the changes so we can understand the order of the new world, we have turned our newsfeeds into bastions of fear. The easiest way to combat this toll on our mental and emotional well-being is to stop hitting share on every news story but I don’t mean stop sharing the news.

Instead of just hitting “share” on a post, copy the link of the news article. It’s really easy from mobile. Next to the share button are three dots. Tap them and the second option in the drop down menu is “copy link”. Select that. Go back to your page, make a new post with your thoughts on the article and what the topic is. Hit post. Then, in the comments share the link itself.

By doing this, it removes the constant news reports that come with their “urgent” and “devastating” headlines so people can pace themselves without missing anything. The Facebook machine is going to push all those similar news reports to the top of your feed if you just push share because chances are, everyone is sharing the same article or handful of articles. By removing those headlines and photos from the direct feed, we’re still sharing but giving people some mental distance so they can stay engaged without becoming so quickly overwhelmed.

We need to continue to share and speak on what is happening in the world today. That is the only way we can prepare for things and make plans for the way the new regime may harm us. Social media is a powerful tool as it allows us to share news quickly, however, thanks to its algorithms, it is also giving us a window that is largely fear based and causing greater anxiety in its users.

That’s us. We’re the users.

We saw this after the election when we looked the feeds of people on the Red Team. What was found was that, aside from the “Fake News” problem (which was and likely still is a problem) were that these feeds were drowning in these fear based messages. The use of really salacious headlines and scary reports was designed to keep people engaged and clicking.

In the past less than two weeks, I’ve noticed my own timeline has become more and more anxiety filled as it’s flooded with news reports, all slated to get you to read them and I thought, “Is this what the Red Team has been dealing with all the time? No wonder they think liberals will be the death of the country!”

I don’t want the Blue Team to be that. I don’t want the Red Team to be that either but one problem at a time.

You may have seen the meme calling for people to “make Facebook fun again”. It’s a picture drawn in pen with different colored highlighters like it was done in middle school during a boring science class. Ignoring the art style, that meme is hot garbage and what I am suggesting is not that.

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I don’t think that people should ignore what is happening in the world in favor of puppy pictures. Puppy pictures are awesome but being up on current events is also REALLY, REALLY IMPORTANT. That meme (and resulting thought process) treats political movements as a sort of hobby that isn’t particularly enjoyable right now as opposed to events that could affect one’s life for years to come.

Feel free to push share directly on single creator blogs and networks, they NEED the clicks to get their content shown. Times, Reuters, CNN, HuffPo, WaPo, etc, do not need Facebook traffic from clicks so moving the content to a comment will not kill them. But it will give people a chance to engage with the news in a healthier way.

Social media is important in keeping us informed but we need to adjust how we interact with it so the negative consequences don’t outweigh the positive benefits.

Information Illiteracy in the Internet Age

Someone on my Facebook feed posted this video of a “thugs” stopping an ambulance at the cancelled Trump rally. There was no additional evidence or facts. Just a video of black people “stopping” an ambulance and the assumption that there was someone sick in there or they were on their way to a sick person. Which may or may not be true. So I looked it up.

The only sources I could find were right wing, conservative media outlets which, by their very nature, are bias and terrible sources for news. So I am left still in the dark around what was going on in that video which I will not be sharing.

The reason why I am sharing this story however is because it dawned on me that the person who shared the video and the people who liked and commented on it, likely did no research and if they had they would have served up on of those bias sites as proof that these people were thugs and hurting some nameless infirm person. Which long story short is today’s topic: In 2016 we are flooded with information but most people are information illiterate.

Like most things centered around reading and digesting information, the concept of information literacy is an academic one because prior to the modern times we live in, information was funneled through very limited means. Now, we all have free access to a wealth of information but not many people really know how to vet it.

Information literacy is a set of skills that help you find and evaluate information. It is more than being able to Google something (although that is some part of it), it is also being able to look at a source and determine whether or not it is reliable.

This isn’t a terribly important skill set when dealing with something like celebrity gossip. It doesn’t really matter whether or not so and so is really getting a divorce or is pregnant. Those facts or fallacies do not impact anyone’s actual lives but there are many cases that have much more impact.

The lack of information literacy shows strongest in the way that we share things on social media. Sometimes it’s just a silly viral story about something gross someone found in their fast food. Sometimes its misinformation about refuges or dangerous health “advice”.

Because people do not take the time to engage in simple steps to check what they are sharing, they fuel these sorts of viral hurricanes of bad information. They can’t tell opinion from fact in many cases and treat them both as if they are interchangeable.

This is happening not because people are dumb but because they simply do not have any background in information literacy. We have been conditioned to believe that media, be it TV, newspaper, or internet, has already done the leg work for us which is why the joke that “it’s on the internet, it must be true” is still relevant. Because so many people haven’t realized that this is NOT true!

The nature of the 24 hour news cycle means that there is a lot of information out there and a lot of it is nonsense. A lot of it is opinion masquerading as fact or entertainment pretending to be news. It’s awesome that people have so much access now but the cost of that is that you have to do your own legwork.

It is irresponsible to just post things blindly. It is up to all of us to take a few lessons in information literacy. But for starters, just make it a habit to question things before you hit share. If the story is too salacious or fits too perfectly into one narrative, it’s probably not the whole tale. Real life is messy and complicated, it doesn’t fit perfectly into a 250 word article.

The Problem With “Make Your Own”

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When marginalized people talk about the lack of diversity in popular culture, one of the more common and ignorant responses is just make your own. Not enough brown superheroes? Make your own comics! Not enough Asian people staring in lead roles? Make your own movies! Not enough people with disabilities in books? Write your own novels! This response is about as thoughtless as responding to someone’s starvation with, “Just eat some food.”

The biggest issue is that, first of all, people from marginalized communities can and do create their own media. They make movies, draw comics, and pen epic fiction in all genres. A quick Google will spit out a ton of projects that anyone can follow and help support.

However, support is the second issue.

Thanks to the internet, non-mainstream creators have been given a platform on which to showcase their work. Be it art, written, or film, the internet gives these creators a way to get their creations to the people who would most like want to view them. But they’re not mainstream so they don’t have the type of support that your known director/writer/actor has.

They don’t have the type of support that will write them a check to fund their enterprise on a proposal. Even with crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, the people that generally end up with the most money are those that come in from a position of being known in their field.

Those are the people that get funded and they get this funding by continuing to make the thing that they know people like. Meanwhile, creators who are out there taking chances and forging their own path are overlooked because by and large, people want to buy things they know they like.

Be it a franchise or just a particular artist’s work, people like the things they like and they want the things they like. So the real issue isn’t creators aren’t out there making new and exciting media that features a diverse cast of characters, it’s that people aren’t supporting their work.

Artists need that support so they can keep creating. Not a pat on the back for how clever they are but actual money so they can buy supplies, rent space, quit their day jobs. You can’t pay your rent on kudos and “likes”.

The mainstream is starting to wake up and we are starting to see some diverse characters and moving away from many age old tropes but there’s still a long way to go before we can call all things equal. Until then, support indie creators.

Buy their books, see their films, share their stories. They’re out there, they’re making stuff. Help people see it.

What the Conversation Around Irish Slavery is Really About

Irish Slaves

If you’re on social media, then you may see your “not racist” white friends and family posting memes or articles about Irish slavery or even slightly more recent “Irish need not apply” signs as some sort of argument that it wasn’t just Black people that went through hard times. Although historically, the Irish did have a bit of a rough start in America, in some places, what these memes are leaving out is that in 2016, there’s no trace of that history left in the average everyday life of people of Irish decent, not because they pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, but because eventually they were just accepted into general whiteness. Which is important to note because when we talk about slavery, we’re not actually talking about the past, we’re talking about today.

When people speak of slavery in regards to Black people in America, we’re not saying that the literal issues such as having our children sold, being beaten by white people for not working fast enough, or hung for stepping out of line* is still happening but that the effects of these practices still affect Black people to this day.

We are not talking about the past in so much as we are talking about how the racial practices and attitudes that helped fuel that period have subtley shaped today’s culture. That the ideas that allowed White people to be ok with owning Black people played into why they were ok with segregation, Jim Crow, etc.

And that’s why Irish slavery as a response to Black slavery is a false equivalency, aside from the wealth of historically inaccurate information that is usually posted in regards to Irish slavery. There’s actually an excellent series on Medium that goes over many of these.

The people who post these memes want you, the viewer, to make the connection that “Irish people were slaves but they are not suffering now ergo, the slavery was not the problem, Black people are the problem.” What this counts on is not taking into account ANY of the other history that affects the positions of different groups in the country today.

There are other marginalized groups that have experienced a great deal of harm throughout America’s history but the reason they aren’t toted out as some proof that anyone can just “get over” the abuse of a past time is because they still suffer under the same racial issues of the past.

The Japanese were once looked down on to the point of being interred against their will in recent memory. George Takei talks about it all the time (bless him because it should be talked about) but they make poor examples of getting over a past wrong because they still suffer from racial prejudice.

An even better example are the Native Americans who have suffered through a whole host of abuse throughout the centuries but the reason why they aren’t pulled out as models for “getting over it” is because the effects of those atrocities still linger today. For every casino, there’s a wealth of people who live in poverty due to the conditions forced upon them by the government before they realized that they couldn’t treat people that way.

These groups aren’t posted about as a “secret history” (although we rarely speak of them) not because what happened to them wasn’t as horrible as what happened to Black people but because their stories do not fit the narrative that you can just get over racism, they don’t fit the narrative that the failings are in the group of people, not in the system that was created to keep them oppressed.

The Irish are picked for their stories not just because of their physical Whiteness but because their history matches up fairly closely to the narrative that anti-Blackness isn’t the problem, that racism isn’t an issue but Black people themselves are the problem. All while failing to acknowledge that at some point, the Irish were accepted into general whiteness in America which is a reality that very few other groups can claim.

Ultimately these memes aren’t about what happened in the past, they’re about what’s happening right now, today. Their goal is to draw attention and conversation away from uncomfortable topics by presenting half the information as if it is a complete testimony. They work because the majority of people accept things at face value. History is very complicated. A meme is meant to distract not tell the whole story.

*You could argue that all of those things are still happening in one shape or another and I would likely agree with you however, for the purposes of this blog, we mean that they are still happening as a direct result of ownership vs systematic racism. For example, this person literally sold my son to his neighbor as opposed to my son was given a very harsh sentence by a judge as part of a for profit prison complex that criminalizes Blackness.

Activist Advertising: Monetizing Outrage in the Internet Age

 

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Hasbro announced that they would be releasing Rey figures for their Star Wars line after much hullabaloo was raised when the main character was missing from a variety of toy lines. Rightfully fans pointed out that it was insane that the main character from the biggest film of all time was missing from the merchandise. The company apologized for their “oversight” much to fans delight. But I imagine that the company is even more delighted. They will profit from the outrage that was generated. The internet culture of outrage has been successfully monetized.

This isn’t to say that the company shouldn’t have been questioned as to the lack of representation in their toys and merchandise. That is a HUGE problem in the world of geek which despite having been proved to have a dearth of female consumers still panders to the cis White male audience and the trappings of Western society’s gender beliefs. This is something that needs to be called out and pushed back against.

Still, that doesn’t mean that those same companies haven’t found a way to profit off of that pushback. There’s a saying that all press is good press and that’s not true in every situation but in a situation where the damaging effects can be mitigated? Free publicity.

For those issues that cannot be corrected, think Pan, the movie that bombed months before it was released due in large part to the issues it had with it’s terrible casting choices, obviously, the press it received killed the film. There was no way to recover. But for other situations where a shirt could be removed or a few toys added, how much are all of those thought pieces worth?

This fiasco with the Star Wars franchise is just one example in a long list of times that activist have spoken out against companies and although they at times had offensive clothing removed, websites re-branded, etc, they also have driven a ton of traffic to those businesses.

The reverse works too. When people petitioned to (rightfully) have the confederate flag removed from government buildings, There was a huge spike in sales of confederate merchandise. Although no one group (unless you count Amazon) really profited from that, it’s clear that the new found buying power of the symbol came in part due to the storm of internet outrage that surrounded the event.

When we vocally complain about something, it creates a lot of buzz around the product. It causes people to write think pieces, news outlets to pick up the story, conversation. It puts the issue on people’s minds. This is good, there’s nothing wrong with that.

It also creates free advertisements as people double check, follow links and the like. Which large companies want.

This shouldn’t stop people from calling out issues when they find them. What should happen is critically looking at the companies and to determine whether or not they are truly in the wrong or if they are using activism as a way to generate free advertisement.

This may be an unavoidable side effect of operating on an internet platform where all of our thoughts, feelings, and viewpoints are in the public eye freely shared far and wide. However, being aware of a system doesn’t mean you have to be completely complacent in it. Certainly, question practices that continue to exclude women and people of color from pop culture but also question whether or not you’re unwittingly part of a profit building venture.