Memes of hate: Do we need to look at them?

Today’s post is from guest contributor Mo Nunez (bio at the end of the piece)

There is a Facebook meme where white Jesus is standing behind Donald Trump—they are at the Resolute Desk. In the White House. I am to presume from the meme that Jesus is there to guide our “dear leader” as he signs yet another awesome winning something-or-other into existence. It is a reminder that our porn star in chief is guided by God (read: Suck it libtards!)

There was a point in time where I felt that I needed to see a picture like that. Shortly after the election of Trump, I began to see these memes pop up all over my social media timelines. I felt that it was important—essential—to keep the people posting pro-Trump stuff in my timeline. In my sight. I thought to myself: I did not want to run away; I want to know what they are saying. By looking directly at the hate, I was doing a good thing, I thought to myself—a proactive thing.

Over time, the memes did what memes do and they became more absurd, more abstract. I noticed something else was changing—what happens when life imitates absurdist imagery and thought? The lines between “holy shit that would be insane” and “holy shit that’s totally insane” are being blurred and erased on a daily basis by our abstract-improv-artist-in-chief.

I can remember the first time I read the sentence “I am proud to be a nationalist and I see nothing wrong with that.” It was here in America, in the 21st century, and it was not an “ironic” statement. I actually read that way before Trump said it at a rally (10/22/2018). Soon I began to see more blatantly racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic content popping up on my timeline. Eventually my timeline resembled a combination of the front page of Stormfront—classic Onion articles come to life and an Evangelical Tent Revival. But each time I saw hateful content I would go down a racist rabbit hole chasing after the original poster’s previous shitty things they’ve posted. I have to look, I reminded myself. I have to force myself to not turn away.

The thing about memes is that they are satire. They are the furthest extrapolation of an already absurd observation. The thing about Trump is that he is the furthest extrapolation of an already absurd, racist, sexist, xenophobic society. The memes I was coming across my feed morphed from cheerleading and silly ignorant slogans (“Build the Wall” anyone?) into a concoction of Trump idolatry, flat-earth-levels conspiracy theory, and pure unadulterated hate. “Build the Wall” was literally replaced with “Brown people are animals.” Specifically, I noticed the memes and comments were now centered around hate for anyone who believes that we should care about the state of the world and care for one another. Women who pointed out unpleasant truths about men, Black and Brown folks who pointed out racist realities of their everyday existence, immigrants who dared ask for their humanity and respect—these were all the fuel for the hate that I was seeing on a daily basis. But it was not just the trumpers whose hate was being fed.

One of the side effects of my severe anxiety disorder and depression is that every once in a while everything makes me cry. Full. On. Big. Fat. Tears. Everything. It does not last very long, a couple of days usually, but I cannot control it. During these spells sad news, good news, mundane news—all of it makes me break out in tears.

I know that I am being triggered by everything right now and yet I know that I have to stop seeing this shit on my Facebook timeline on a daily basis. Despite being triggered by everything, this hate I am forcing upon myself is different. It’s not triggering me to the point of tears. I can deal with that. I have been dealing with that my whole life. Something worse is happening to me, and I fear to my friends who feel that duty to subject themselves to the cult of Trump. We are moving to the dark side. We are fueling our own transition with their hate. What happens when we are consumed by our hatred for “these fucking garbage humans”?

At first I thought it was my duty to keep that shit in front of my face. I felt it was my duty as an activist and educator to stare down the hate and keep it moving. “I need to know what they are saying!” “I need to remind myself these people exist!” I’ve gone beyond knowing to hating. With a passion. This cannot be good. Right?

Last week a guy I barely know (but who keeps popping up in my Facebook timeline) posted a picture of a woman, let’s call her Nazi McGov, in a Nazi uniform. This woman works in Maine. She works for a government agency, in fact. Now. Today. The man who posted it noted that it was insane that this woman has a job where part of her responsibilities are to “monitor” and “assess” people’s behaviors. Immediately after posting the picture, which he made quite clear was a “publicly accessible document” that she herself posted, he was bombarded by people, some of them not even her friends, accusing him of being racist towards Nazi McGov. He was a “bastard for posting the pic” and “insinuating she was a bad person.” He was an “asshole for posting her picture” and “slandering her.”

“Bro you are so dumm, posting that pictur! you libtard!, do you EVEN KNOW what slander menes?!” 

This man stuck to his guns the whole way through; he consistently reminded folks she posted this pic—it doesn’t really matter if it was five days, five years, or five decades ago. He reminded his attackers that shortly after WWII most of us agreed Nazi stuff wasn’t cool. You know, like blackface. Or so we thought.

Watching the people come after him made me realize that I would rather have people like him on my feed than the people who are coming after him. I don’t actually need to keep seeing the hate that these folks give. Its real. I’ve lived it, and it would be insane for me to suggest that statement should only be in the past tense like some of the folks kept “reminding this man”—“that was in the past; get over it!”

I’ve begun the process of weeding out people who post hateful memes. I am weeding out the Trump zealots (read: zombies) along with the “devil’s advocate” sympathizers. I am prioritizing positivity. In just a short time I feel happier.

But I’m left troubled because I’m not sure why I felt that I HAD to keep myself connected to the viotrol, hate, and ignorance that is currently abundant in this country. Was I afraid I would have a hard time finding some? My whole damn professional trajectory is a reminder that this stuff exists. Why am I inviting more of this into my life? What did I think would actually happen if I stopped looking?

I have some new questions now: Do white people need to be the ones to stare this hatred in the face?  What is the difference between self-care and avoidance? Does anyone need to chose to see this kind of ignorance and hate on a daily basis? How do people stay motivated in the fight if they look away at what is actually happening? If we do chose to look how do we respond in a way that does not deplete our positivity?


Moises “Mosart” Nunez is an educator, activist, and Ph.D. dropout with a master’s degree in education. Mo’s professional focus is on issues of teen violence, at-risk-youth intervention, the social-emotional education of teens, creating inclusive school environments for students with special needs, school redesign, community engagement, and dismantling racist practices in public education. Mo currently designs and leads community engagement based anti-racism and implicit bias workshops for district and school leadership across the country. Mo has taught English, social studies, and special education across the Northeast in public schools, alternative-education programs, private independent schools, and several universities. Mo has also designed and served as director for several successful at-risk-youth programs, most notably at New Beginnings in Rochester, N.Y.—an alternative education school that focuses on educating and reintegrating recently incarcerated youth. Mo has served as administrator, program director, and program manager for several alternative education, day treatment programs, and public schools in New England and the tri-state area. Mo recently won The Phoenix magazine’s Hip Hop DJ of the Year 2018, and released an album of original music under the name “mosart212.”


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Photo by Jannis Brandt from Unsplash

You’re gonna have to pry the straws from my cold dead hands

Today’s post is a guest contribution from BGIM friend and fellow writer Liz Henry.
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First they came for my cigarettes and I said, alright, makes sense. Then, they came for my smoking outside and I said, you know, this seems like a little much but I rolled with the inconvenience of other people policing the freaking air. And then they came for my Diet Coke with a tax on sugary drinks in Philadelphia even though Diet Coke is full of not even sugar but aspartame so fine, whatever, the chilwran diabeetus. Then, they came for the straws and I knew all bets were off, the turtles were just gonna have to die.

I like beverages and I love them with straws and if that means turtles have to eat it, well then the turtles need to eat it. Even if those turtles are Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael and Leonardo.

Look, maybe this is making you uncomfortable. There are many moments I’ve been uncomfortable in the past few weeks when straw-banning went from low-key, under-the-radar cause to full-blown self-righteous plague. Like, for instance, the moment I came across a growing list of companies in the process of banning straws and I saw McDonald’s on that list.

I THOUGHT I WAS GOING TO DIE—the turtles had come for me and won. My eyes couldn’t move fast enough through the sentence and by the time I got there and it said, “shareholders struck down a ban” I’ve never been more proud of capitalism in my life.

I raised my Diet Coke and I toasted the motherfucking shit outta those rich white men for holding it down for straws.

So, yeah, it’s been an uncomfortable few weeks for me, too.

I’ve had conversations where we whisper to each other “team straw” because we’re in a group and unsure of the company we keep and once the whispers go around and the eyes have darted and the nods have been reciprocated we let it out that paper straws ain’t shit.

I’ve had people tell me I’m “sad” like I need saving and I want to tell them they can come to my door with that kind of attitude and ring my doorbell so I can ignore them.

I’ve gone the Jurassic Park route and doubled down on evolution: “If turtles beat out dinosaurs, I’m pretty sure they can beat straws.” And, if they can’t, well who sold us “slow and steady.” Maybe turtles shouldn’t been liars.

I’ve also thought FINE, BAN THE STRAWS. I’ll create straw speakeasies and I’ll be rich and you’ll be stuck with adult sippy cups at Starbucks with no whip but Crush from Finding Nemo as your overlord just like you wanted. COOL DUDE.

I need you to know that I stared down the totalitarian talk points of crusading do-gooders, looked them in their profile photos and said, I LOVE STRAWS, and lived to see another day.

I want you to know that when I get a fountain beverage, and put that single-serving plastic straw into my cup, I look at the person next to me and say, “I’m making a political choice and the hate makes it taste better.”

Honestly, I’m having an Allen Iverson “TALKIN ‘BOUT PRACTICE, flashback but with straws, people. STRAWS.

The strawsistence will not be played by fake news. The 500 million plastic straws Americans allegedly consume per day? That number was arrived at by a then nine-year-old conducting phone surveys of straw manufacturers in 2011. How he arrived at that number? I dunno, go pound a calculator.

According to Bloomberg, if all the alleged 8.3 billion tons of plastic straws found on global coastlines washed into the sea, they’d “account for .03 percent of the 8 million metric tons of plastic estimated to enter the oceans in a given year.”

The greatest threat to marine life and our oceans isn’t plastic straws, Bloomberg reports, but fishing nets and other abandoned fishing gear.

Which leaves me so freaking pumped right now that we’re making the lives of people with disabilities that much harder because Johnny Jackoff filmed a video of one turtle with a straw booger and then everyone else was like BAN STRAWS!!!

So how many straw boogers would it take for women to get some rights up in this bitch? Just spitballing here.

And that’s why, you’re gonna have to pry the straws from my cold, dead hands. Which, if that even happens, I will haunt you with a glitter plague on your home and paper cuts on your person with Melania pumped through some Bose giving Michelle’s speech ad infinitum.

WE’RE TALKIN’ ‘BOUT STRAWS, MAYNE.

BIO:
Liz Henry writes good stories and makes bad choices. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post and the anthology, The Good Mother Myth. She lives in Philadelphia and marks her territory in Diet Coke.


If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.

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Photo by David McEachan from Pexels

On being the Black friend

Today’s post is written by special contributor “Aya,” a Black Millennial making her way in Maine’s most populous city. 

Even before moving to Maine, I’ve spent most of my life in primarily white spaces. I’ve learned to accept that if I want to be surrounded by people who look like me, I have to deliberately seek those spaces out. I’ve come to live with the constant underlying discomfort of knowing that everyone is aware that I don’t quite fit in. It’s become my norm, to the point where I hardly recognize it anymore. And I’m used to people being “polite” enough to pretend they don’t notice it either. Which is why I was taken aback when a colleague interrupted a spiritual breakfast sandwich experience to proudly share a story where she used my existence as a Black person in the periphery of her life to one-up a friend in a game of Who Is More Open-Minded.

She’d gone with her friend to see “Get Out,” a movie I’d deliberately avoided discussing with non-POC, and one they only considered worth seeing when it was being shown for free at a rooftop bar. Over post-movie beers, the friend conceded that she kind of gets it; there are places where she feels uncomfortable too. To which my colleague apparently angrily replied “No you do not! I have a coworker who comes to work every day knowing she’ll be the only Black person in every room!” After telling me this story, my colleague looked at me, seemingly with the expectation that I will commend her for so bravely standing up for Black people everywhere. Instead I took another bite of my breakfast sandwich (seriously, don’t interrupt my meals, particularly pre-coffee, especially with nonsense) and told her I had a lot of work to get to.

First of all, we already know how rude it is to expect Black people to be happy to drop whatever they’re doing and take up the emotional burden of discussing race with you. Second, you don’t get any cookies for not being racist. It’s the correct way to be. If that is the sole purpose of you engaging in a conversation with me, don’t bother; you won’t get what you’re looking for. Now third, let’s talk about tokenism.

It’s bad enough when people assume all Black people share one collective brain. Whenever I’m asked to be the voice of all melanated people, I’m quick to reply with a “I have no way of knowing what any other individual thinks, but here’s what I think and why.” Normally people get it, and reply with an embarrassed “Oh, I mean you keep up to date with facebook/blogs/think pieces so you know what people are saying out there; I didn’t mean that.” And we generally leave it, both knowing they meant exactly that. I won’t even get into how I respond to people who claim colorblindness. But what I find especially frustrating lately is the people who use me, without my permission and often even without my knowledge, to make a point about themselves.

Here’s the thing: there’s a difference between the friend who happens to be Black and The Black Friend. Usually, I have an idea of which I am to someone. A friend who happens to be Black is someone you regularly interact with in a way that that does not center around their blackness AND has nothing to do with commitment to work/church/family/etc. You know what is going on in their life and they know what’s in yours. Maybe they’ve presented themselves as a resource for you to educate yourself, but even then, you’re respectful of the emotional labor they’re investing in you. The Black Friend is the person you apologize to for other people’s racism; the one to whom you make a point to prove how “woke” you are. They are the person you think of when the news is full of reports of another person unjustly victimized, and desperate to separate yourself from “those people, you send them a meaningless text that you’ve got their back, before you change the channel to GoT and move on with your life. The Black Friend is not really a friend at all, or maybe more accurately, you’re not really a friend to them.

In that moment at work, as my breakfast sandwich grew colder with every wasted moment, my colleague made it clear: To her, I am someone who exists solely as a symbol of how not-racist she is.


If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.

Comments will close on this post in 60-90 days; earlier if there are spam attacks or other nonsense.