THIS WEEK IN WHITENESS: Living While Black (11-03-12)
11 March, 2012:
This week’s post only highlights a few of the major blows dealt to POC, specifically Black people, at the hands of white people unaware (or not so unaware) of their own racist tendencies. Although, as the subject of the middle topic suggests, the outcome is lethal.
Being Spoken For While Black: On Monday (5 March), non-profit organization Invisible Children debuted their new film “Kony 2012,” a film about the Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony. The film, which lasts about 30 minutes, decries Kony (pronounced Kohn) for his abduction of children in Uganda, turning them into tools of destruction and terror. “The arc of the video tells you that before, no one cared,” wrote Michael Wilkerson of The Guardian.
"But, thanks to technology and Invisible Children, everyone can now take the necessary action to earn Kony the infamy and arrest or death he deserves. But since Invisible Children as an organisation began with a few north Americans stumbling into a conflict they didn’t know existed and then resolving to help the child victims by making a movie, the base level of great white saviourdom is already high. Implying that finally now, by getting the word out about Kony via celebrities, bracelets and social media, can the LRA be ended plays into this narrative of white rescuers coming to help poor Africans and totally ignores the efforts, good and bad, by Ugandans to fight the LRA for 25 years."
Except one of the major problems with KONY 2012 is that it raises awareness without context, giving its newfound followers only one command: Stop at nothing. Apparently, this command has a corrollary: “Stop at nothing, even if Ugandans have told you to stop.” People from Tumblr’s own Amber Ha to the director of the World Peace Foundation to Anonymous have criticized Invisible Children, often citing its propaganda-like qualities and complete dismissal of African voices. Africans across the continent, especially in Uganda, have spoken out against Jason Russell and his organization’s film.
This case of drowning out Black voices is worse than The Help: should Kony 2012 enter US politics, the potential consequences - such as further US military intervention - will be dire for Ugandans. But this is lost on many of Invisible Children’s followers, who often cite supposed African helplessness and the US’s right to intervene.
“The white savior supports brutal policies in the morning, founds charities in the afternoon, and receives awards in the evening,” tweeted Nigerian-American author Teju Cole. There’s truth in those words: “They [Hollywood producers] are getting in touch with the Academy Awards. They want this to be up for an Oscar.”
Walking While Black: Although the event didn’t happen this week, 17-year-old Treyvon Martin’s untimely death at the hands of a white racist vigilante Neighborhood Watchman is making the news as more details are released. Website Sandra Rose reports:
On his way back from the store, carrying only a bag of Skittles and a can of Arizona ice tea, Trayvon was spotted by 26-year-old George Zimmerman. Zimmerman was the self-appointed Neighborhood Watch “captain” of the gated community called The Retreat at Twin Lakes in Sanford, 20 miles north of Orlando…A police report indicates that Zimmerman called 911 to report a “suspicious person” in the area. The police dispatcher reportedly told Zimmerman to “stand down” and wait for backup to arrive shortly.
But Zimmerman, who is white, ignored that order and exited his vehicle to confront Trayvon, who is black.A fistfight ensued and Trayvon apparently got the best of Zimmerman. Police found him standing over Trayvon, who was dead from a single gunshot wound to the chest.”
Zimmerman has never been arrested; it’s worth pointing out that had Martin been holding the gun and Zimmerman was the one shot, Treyvon Martin would be sitting in a cell. The police cited Zimmerman’s “squeaky clean” record as part of why he has yet to be arrested and charged with murder.
Martin’s family’s lawyer asserts that race played a huge factor in Martin’s death, as it was “the 600 pound elephant in the room. Why is this kid suspicious in the first place? I think a stereotype must have been placed on the kid.” Zimmerman could very well plead self-defense, a plea that would unfairly shorten his prison time - if, indeed, he receives any.
Change.org has generated a petition demanding justice for Treyvon Martin, which can be signed here.
Arguing While Black: Today is the last day of “KBURD Week,” in which POC members of the Tumblrverse - especially Black tumblers - implemented an effective stonewall against the hateful, racist commenters flooding their inboxes. Tumblers such as thegoddamazon, thenegroxperiment, dumbthingswhitepeoplesay (who was actually threatened by Tumblr staff with suspension), and jwesterlings (who is being stalked and Tumblr staff have done nothing) have been under greater attack than normal for Black bloggers who dare to talk about race and white privilege. In reaction to Tumblr staff repeatedly ignoring harassment of POC on Tumblr while acting without discrimination whenever white bloggers cry wolf, the blog POC Harassment was created to archive the death threats, racial slurs and other terrible things that white people - some of whom claim to be Feminists and allies to POC - have hurled at them. It’s worth noting that the Tumblr staff is over 90% white.
If they continue to ignore the cases being built (and they shouldn’t have to be) by POC bloggers on Tumblr, the Tumblr staff and their replies to POC will be a regular feature of This Week in Whiteness. Racism and white privilege are never too hard to look for - and for many POC on Tumblr, it’s often right in their inbox.
Want to see a certain topic discussed? As you go through this coming week, feel free to send in any topics you want highlighted on This Week in Whiteness! Drop submissions here before 11:50pm EST Tuesday night (for the Mid-Week Highlight) and 11:50pm EST Saturday (for the Sunday post). If you want to become a regular writer for This Week in Whiteness, drop a message here.
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