America is a polarizing place.
Maybe you don’t share my opinion on that. That’s the beauty of the United States of America. We can disagree.
To say that I’ve been feeling a little down lately is the grandest of understatements. This year in black death has left me troubled to the very core of my being. I notice subtle changes in myself. Things that aren’t apparent to the outside world. First my appetite changes, I’m almost never hungry and sometimes eating feels like a chore. This appetite change is strange for winter, which is a time when I usually busy myself eating bread and potatoes like it’s my job. Things which normally bring me joy feel like chores as well. I haven’t felt the desire to dance ballet in a month. And then there’s Christmas. I asked my family early on if we could skip presents. To quote a friend
“Healthy countries deserve healthy economies and this one is sick”.
A wise old fool once said “women be shopping” and while that statement is totally faulted, I laugh because I would normally include myself on the count. Not right now though. Too heartbroken to think about those little things. The worst part was that people whom I had formally felt close to, seemed to live in blissful bubbles of unawareness.
Not knowing quite how to deal with this mixture of sadness and annoyance I felt, I turned to black twitter. Because if I believe in anything right now, I believe that black twitter is a humongous source of power. We can spread messages quickly, effectively and frankly … there’s safety in numbers. Not much, but some. What I wanted to know most was, did this year in our home country leave other black twitter users else feeling as down trodden as I currently felt? And I wanted it to be short. #AmericaInFiveWords was born. I started a few tweets myself. My personal favorite:
Because frankly it’s one of the most beautiful and poignant images of 2014. In America, one can be both dedicated to throwing a tear gas canister and clutching tasty snacks.
I knew with my mere five hundred some followers, I couldn’t do this alone, so I decided to ask some friends.
We were off and running! It happened so quickly, I went to bed and woke up to find my phone aglow of twitter notifications. My brief moment of excitement was QUICKLY replaced with a sinking feeling of utter dread. I know what happens to mouthy little suffragettes like me when we speak out of turn. Let’s start with the fact that Imani Gandy has twitter trolls who make up screennames after getting blocked by her every week, just to call her the n-word (and various combinations on said word). That is some serious dedication to racist trolling and that’s just one story of many. I sat back and enjoyed some of the beautiful and heartbreaking five word combinations which came my way, but knew that my time in the sun was limited because the troll party would show up shortly.
I even had wonderful friends who had never really gotten into twitter, signing on to join in. They recognized how exciting it was to watch something trend and I could not have been more proud of them for jumping in!
It was all getting too good. Soon a certain political pundit jumped on board calling us all “grievance mongers”. Yup. That’s right. Asking for justice for lives stolen is simply impermissible, isn’t it? Like clockwork her troll posse rolled up in my mentions calling me a “bitch” and “fuck u” and what not. That sort of stuff rolls off me like water on a duck’s back. My “block” hand did start to tire after a few hours though. I knew if I let my mentions get filled up, the hate would be overwhelming, so I stayed glued to my phone in this unfortunate way. Awful words can be easier to digest in small doses. Eventually the hatred directed towards me died down. But not before one friend who was new to twitter told me,
“I had NO IDEA how much racism was on here.”
The amount of abuse minorities and women encounter on twitter for simply speaking their minds is simply intolerable. People would tag me in arguments they were having with trolls and it made me realize I wasn’t the only one under attack. One friend called me in the middle of the night because someone I had blocked was saying “horrible things” about me. I just felt lucky there were no death threats or rape threats involved.
I felt more concrete in some of the things I already knew.
1. Dissent is often seen as “unpatriotic” to those who find the system works perfectly fine for them.
2. Trolls love calling people who are unhappy with the current state of things “lazy”. But is there anything quite as lazy than knowing that your country is broken, it’s citizens are hurting and you’re name calling because it works for you?
3. Trolls also love to tell you that “if you don’t like it, you should leave”. That makes zero sense. If someone didn’t like their house, should they walk away from it one day never to return? No. We make repairs. We replace the kitchen. But also, when saying that to a large group of black people, please try and remember that our ancestors did a fair amount of the leg work for this nation and there’s NO WAY we would walk away and leave it for you. We’re not going anywhere.
The trolls did not disappoint. But neither did black twitter. Black twitter never does.