Sunday, 30 March 2014
The humanity of activists:
Recently Suey_park has come under fire on twitter due to #CancelColbert hashtag, this is because while Colbert's "satire" was legitimately racist, awful and hurtful to Asian People of Color, the greater part of the attention and conversation has been spent on it and the fact that it was directed at Snyder's racist Mascot justifying has pretty much being absent from the conversation entirely.
Much has been made of how Native American folks complaining is supposedly "throwing Suey_park under the bus" and how "she's done all this for you, how can you criticise her". Reality is?
Firstly Native American's have a right to be criticizing how criticism of the racist "satire" has completely eclipsed the issue of racist offensive NA mascots. The issue has been eclipsed, Colbert's racism matters, but the original issue of racist mascots also matters and is pretty much being sidelined by the #CancelColbert hashtag conversation. Activists like Suey are focusing on the racism in the "satire" to the exclusion of Snyder's racism whether or not they mean to doesn't matter, the fact is it's happening. Pointing this out is not "slandering" anyone, it is not "throwing them under the bus" it is talking about them excluding the original issue.
We should be able to talk about how problematic it is to "satirize" racism with more racism without excluding one type of racism. It's as simple as that. It doesn't cost us anything to acknowledge the original racism as well as the racist response to it.
Secondly? No matter how much good you think someone has done for another group? It is that group that gets to decide if it's enough not you. Fact is if you're erasing someone right now, they still have a right to be pissed at you for right now even if you spent the last week being amazingly inclusive. Being for social justice is a constant effort, we don't get to sit on our laurels, there's no amount of "good" that gives you a free pass in future. Suey's actions and focus on Colbert above all else have erased Native American people. Her prior actions do not exempt her from their anger.
I'm going to make this clear, we as social justice advocates really have to start treating even big names like Suey_park as human beings instead of as perfect SJ robots who can never ever screw up. Suey has incredibly valuable things to say on racism (especially racism that impacts her racial group) that are worth listening to, but she is just as capable of screwing the hell up as anyone else.
We don't get born perfect social justice activists and even with immense effort, we ALL do get it wrong sometimes. When we protect and defend people from their screw ups, we enable them in those screw ups. We also send the message to the minority hurt by them that they don't matter to us, that we literally value them less than this one person.
This problem is a toxic value system hierarchy we've imported from the mainstream. It's the same value system that causes communities to stand by rapist football players because their value to the community is seen as more than the value of their victim. In the same way, social justice as a whole views celebrity activists as having sufficient 'value' to excuse them anything and to defend them against all valid criticism. This is a problem.
It's not only hard on the folks harmed when a social justice activist proves to be merely human, it's hard on the activists because it puts them on a pedestal and pedestals are cold, lonely, narrow places which people tend to fall off. We need to be able to face the reality that people we respect and look up to are also human, with all the flaws and problems that come with that.
It also represents another toxic viewpoint we've imported from the mainstream. The toxic idea that the world is split into good or worthy people and bad people. Therefore any criticism is the same as saying so and so is a bad person. There is no such thing as a good or bad person. There is only their actions at that moment which are good or bad, and even then, those actions are not always necessarily that black and white. We can and need to respect the good people do without shying back from confronting and talking about the harmful things they do.
We also need to respect people's right to criticise those we respect without resorting to demonising them just because we don't like to hear ill spoken of those we respect.
Social justice is about our humanity and that includes the humanity of those who are seen as leaders, and that of those who criticise them.