Media is feeding the toxicity; this needs to stop

I recently posted online about a toxic experience I had during a presentation in Kittery, Maine, on encouraging conversations about race and racism. Also recently, a story was run about the incident, and while me and my co-presenter and friend Debby Irving were quoted (in terms of our comments from the talk), I find it interesting neither of us was interviewed regarding the man who disrupted the event and worked very hard to remain menacing to me up until the end of the event and past it. He was given voice; I, the person who was made to feel under literal threat of harm, was not.

The problem with interviews like these with people who feel threatened by talk of racism (or feminism or LGBTQIA rights or Islamophobia or whatever)—which have become so commonplace now on cable news, in magazines, at online media venues and more—is that it gives space to people with abhorrent viewpoints that are manifestly unjust.

Now, am I saying one should never write about people like this and never interview them? No. There are times and places. But so-called “journalism” (and a lot of the journalism nowadays seems to be more and more about generating page clicks and viewers and boy does controversy and bile help that along, which is part of the circular problem we have now) is not just covering the white supremacists. Media is elevating them. Giving them forums and a voice, often entirely unchallenged. Empowering them and making them seem reasonable.

Richard Spencer dresses well and doesn’t scream at the top of his voice and avoids racial epithets on-air, and so he seems “well-meaning.” And yet he espouses white supremacy and racist policies. He see non-whites as inferior. What is well-meaning about that?

Or writing human-interest pieces on people running Nazi websites. Let’s talk about how this person who hates Black, Jews, gays and/or a heap of other “non-mainstream” folks shops at Whole Foods and loves his kids and is warm and friendly. He hates large portions of the American population for being different from him. That is not humane; why are we humanizing that kind of person with a feel-good piece?

Media stories keep justifying the views of people who literally want to oppress other people or keep them from gaining equality in life. What is justifiable about that? To do so only makes such people feel more empowered. Making them seem reasonable when they hold unreasonable views only helps make it easier for such people to insidiously sway more people toward white supremacy and making America more racist.

And people like the guy who tried to disrupt the talk I was part of in Kittery who say they are “pushing back.” Pushing back against what? I am pushing for people to be treated according to their abilities and the content of their character rather than to be judged and held back (or shoved away) because of the color of their skin or their gender or their sexuality.

White straight Christian men have long held most of the cards in the deck and still do. For them to “push back” against people like me calling for equality means they are pushing back against people being treated the same no matter what their color or gender or sexuality. To push back against equality is to push FOR supremacy. White supremacy. Male supremacy. Cis supremacy. Christian supremacy.

And when has pushing to be supreme over other people and control their lives ever been something we should cheer for—or even give the time of day in the average news story? Supremacy and control are something we are supposed to fight against as a matter of basic decency.

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Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

8 thoughts on “Media is feeding the toxicity; this needs to stop”

  1. Jean- He came to a talk about cross-racial conversations and stated “the Irish succeeded by relying on their ingroups – why can’t black people do that?” This comes across as someone who supports separatism – red flag – many of us are scared now. He also used the term “white pride” which is a term that has, and continues to be, associated with horrendous violence and oppression aimed at Black people. Red flag – These are not simply “questions we don’t like.” I’m about as white an anyone can get, and I am incredibly afraid of this person now. He won’t let go of the mic. He aggressively insists on having his questions answered. How can you state that adds up to non-threatening? I’m wondering how this will escalate. The behavior isn’t rational. Never mind that there is countless evidence explaining in detail why Black people cannot simply “lift themselves up.” The education system, the justice system, the banking system, the mortgage system – all designed to be pro-white, anti-black. This is not theory, this is fact, supported by the U.S. government’s own data and historical fact. The information is widely available. If he were actually interested in this topic, he would have come across this information by now, and that comment would never have come out of his mouth.

    Be proud of your hard working ancestors. Be proud of your Irish and Italian heritage. Celebrate it. But own that the very concept of “white” came directly from the enslavement of Black people. If you want to use the term “white pride” you don’t get to pick and choose the parts you want people to focus on, and then play the victim when they push back. If you want “white pride” you need to own the violence it represents, and own that your and your ancestors success is a direct result of their non-Black skin.

  2. And the Nazis came to Charlottesville to just to engage in a dialogue about statues. Shay thank you for all your writing which has been so thoughtful and helpful to me in shedding light on so many areas I had not seen. I am so sorry not only for the incident but the further insult of the “coverage” of it. If it helps any this all brought my attention to the opportunity to give monthly support for your work thru paypal- its not much at the moment but is also a monthly affirmation of support. Love, blessings and all protection to you & all your loved ones. ❤️

  3. It is odd that you seem to know so much about him “Jean”. You (I mean he LOL) claimed to be Italian and went on to specify Sicilian. It’s quite ironic that he is mad about getting rid of his whiteness… since Italians have never been considered white by actual white people. It is also ironic that he got mad because in 827 when the Moors occupied Mazara on Sicily (and consolidated the rest of the island and some of southern Italy) they (the Moors… you know Black people…) had many a relations with the very fine Italian women left behind by their men who ran into the hills to fight. The result is you (I mean Alex) is part Black man. This is why he is so angry. You see a very famous Black man (James Baldwin) said “To be a Black and conscious in America is to be in a constant state of Rage.” Perhaps you should (I mean he should) reflect inwardly and embrace the fact that he is not white at all. Perhaps you (I mean Alex) should embrace his true heritage which is “other” and not sit up here pretending to be something he is not. -Signed ‘That dude you don’t want to meet ever in your life, who happens to be whiter than you’.

  4. And he did not “push back” on your call for equality. His point is why do you have to drag down those you do not agree with to elevate yourself and your cause.

  5. Please tell me how a 5′ 3″ 135 lb man who asked a few questions you did not like was “the person who was made to feel under literal threat of harm.” You are even worse than the article that was printed in the newspaper. He went to be informed and instead listened to you all tell him to rid himself of his “whiteness.” So he asked a few questions and then someone tried to rip the mic from him and he refused. He did not “threaten” you or even pose a threat. You simply did not like that he challenged some of what you had to say. And he is not afraid of race or any type of diversity — religion, sexual orientation, and I could go on. He has a biracial family filled with many LGBT. He has traveled the world to educate himself on other cultures, religions, etc. He has a more worldly view than you do and is willing to discuss. He even went to talk to you after the discussion and you lectured him and then ran away to your husband parked outside. You want to discuss race issues on only YOUR terms, not what others want to discuss. And your blog today shows you ARE NOT open to other viewpoints.

  6. ” To push back against equality is to push FOR supremacy. White supremacy. Male supremacy. Cis supremacy. Christian supremacy.”

    Excellent, Shay.

  7. They normalized the Nazis too. They are measuring us for striped pajamas. All of us need passports, self defense strategies, and some liquid money stashed. This will continue as they have to scapegoat “out groups” to distract low information white people from increasing white poverty and the growing wealth of the (mostly white)1%.

  8. I’m for anyone speaking out for truth and equality. Keep up your truth-speaking, and calling out the media, and pseudo-media. It’s unfortunate that the bullies often get more attention than their victims. I applaud your courage!

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