Monday, January 7, 2019

Separate Worlds

Facebook is one kind of neighborhood, and Twitter is another. This is not a new discovery of mine. But never has it been more driven home to me than this weekend.

Over on Facebook we had the usual family stories and photos, taking down the holiday decorations, excitement about the upcoming Ravens game, and various statements of frustration about the ongoing Government shutdown.

On Twitter, it was three whole nights (and days)  on Survivng R.Kelly.  It was horror and heartbreak and rage. I couldn’t make myself watch the show itself. Did you? Did you know about the years and years of manipulation, false imprisonment, and sexual abuse of minors? And how the music industry knew and looked away?

Insomuch as media is an extension of a predominantly white worldview, the largest spotlight has focused much more on white victims. Just as black boys are often perceived to be older and more physically dangerous than they actually are, black girls are often perceived to be sexually mature beyond their years. And with that comes that age old assumption that “they asked for it.”

This weekend I was silent observer to many ugly truths of abuse and betrayal from women who had seen it or experienced it. Relatives had let them down. Pastors had let them down. Friends had brushed off concerns, looked the other way. They spoke to each other in tweets, crying out to the world for once to stop and take notice of the pain of black women and girls.

But I didn’t see any of this on Facebook. My Facebook world is largely white.  My Twitter world is enriched by the words of women of color I do not know in real life but learn from daily. Let’s face it. My only significantly integrated world is my Twitter stream. Over in my white Facebook neighborhood, it’s been silent on this.

Here’s the crux of the matter, in a thread from @DrSamiSchalk:

Most black folks I know have posted about the docuseries in the last few days (thankfully black people in my networks are expressing support of the victims of sexual abuse & coercion though their posts suggest to me that is not the case with their entire friends network)

In contrast, nearly all white folks I know are not even acknowledging the docuseries, the #RKelly conversation, nothing. This divide/contrast reminds me that white people are not required to know what’s happening to and among black folks.

Yet black folks always know what’s happening with white people—it’s essential for our survival. So to every white #feminist I know who posted, raged and bemoaned the events surrounded Dr. Blasey Ford’s testimony and the #Kavanaugh appointment:

Where is your outrage for the many black girls & women who have been victims of R. Kelly for years? If you don’t know what I’m talking about, ask yourself why. Why are you not hearing about these black women’s stories which we’ve been talking about for years (see #MuteRKelly)?

I share this with you today because it’s important for me to use my voice to say: I see this, I hear this, I will not be silent. These wounded lives are our business. It is our responsibility, too, to fight for justice and offer to carry the burden of the pain. Do I know exactly what to do? No. But I need to begin.

I need to be willing to open the windows of my Facebook world and let the Twitter voices flow in.

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