I’m no Beyonce, but I have a busy life. If I’m not at work, I’m at school or taking care of something related to an extracurricular project or activity. I don’t have a lot of time on my hands and lack of idle time makes me miss things. While I’m slinging dishes or facilitating meetings, it isn’t rare for something blog-worthy to pop off.
This week’s hullabaloo came in the form of a tweet from the Comedy Central-run Colbert Report account. The tweet was a quote from a Colbert Report segment that was meant to be a dig at Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder, his disregard for the team’s racist name and his brand spanking new foundation with an equally offensive name. Without the context provided by the segment, the tweet is flat-out racist and that out-of-context tweet pissed a lot of people off, especially members of the Asian and Asian-American communities. Activist Suey Park was one of those pissed off people and from her timeline, #CancelColbert was born. People were out for blood and they wanted it from Stephen Colbert’s veins. The hashtag eventually became a trending topic and soon enough, the trolls came out to play. Suey received a barrage of insults, including death and rape threats and she was also accused of being of being too extreme, angry and reactionary. Her detractors went out of their way to harass her and in response, her supporters tried to shut them down. All hell broke loose and the argument became very polarized. Anyone that didn’t agree with #CancelColbert was assumed to be an insensitive troll. On the other side, people that supported the campaign were written off as too sensitive. I would love the say this outcome is unexpected but I’ve seen this happen one time too many.
Someone does something bad.
Someone gets offended.
Someone tells them not to be offended.
Hijinks ensue and nothing good comes of it.
When digital debates go off the rails, it is impossible to have a truly nuanced discussion because people are too focused on being right. There have been too many times I’ve wanted to engage someone about a topic but I kept my mouth and pen shut because I didn’t want someone to jump on my back and play privilege/social justice police. Don’t get me wrong, if I fuck up, I expect to be called out. However, sometimes it seems like people are in competition with each other and calling it activism. I’ve been guilty of it myself but I’m also learning how to check myself and more of us organizers, activists and advocates need to learn how to do the same. A marginalized group doesn’t owe the privileged an explanation but if someone shows a willingness to listen and learn, I am willing to teach and vice versa. I’m no one’s porch monkey but I can only get so far by yelling about privilege checking to drown someone out.
Additionally, there have been times where I’ve chosen silence because I didn’t want to deal with someone telling me why I shouldn’t be offended by something. I am entitled to my feelings and If I feel a way about something, I shouldn’t be shamed for that. Engage me with some decency and consideration, especially if you have privileges that I don’t possess because your lived experiences might affect your ability to be empathetic. Be considerate and receptive because you are mature and have the ability to listen.
If a women’s issue upsets me, I don’t need no man telling me I’m being too emotional.
If something terrible happens and it affects queer people, I don’t want to hear a hetero try to explain to me why it isn’t a big deal and so on. I’ll try my hardest to do the same for others.
It is okay to be offended or not offended. There is nothing wrong with feeling a way or not giving a damn.
Just don’t be an asshole. No one likes an asshole.