I have a few personal rules for myself when I am frittering my time away on social media. The first of which is: NEVER FEED THE TROLL. It’s actually surprisingly easy to follow, as the troll is most generally identified as the one who lives beneath the bridge and postures himself on some notion of power.
It’s my second rule that is more challenging: NEVER READ THE COMMENTS.
I struggle with this one, because comments are everywhere. New York Times articles, Twitter feeds, Trendy Blogs, and of course, Facebook. While so many of us think nothing of the few seconds it takes to post a pithy remark on how we really feel about Kim Kardashian’s latest attention-grabber, or Ice Bucket challenges, a Congressional kerfuffle, where we stand on Affordable Health Care, the merits of a Keystone XL cleaving into protected lands, there will always be someone who has carved enough free time to sputter out a poorly written missive fueled by hate and ignorance. A ‘like’ here, a smiley face there, all peppered by some whining fool wondering why the traffic around Miami’s Art Basel was so heinous this year.
If I find one of these commenters on my feed, I take a deep breath, remember Rule Number One, and click to hide. I hide that person and their hate, but I do not forget, and I do not unfriend. I want these people in my network. I want them to have the ability to read my wrath, see what I share, watch me try to spread awareness in at least one way. The fact that Black Lives are under attack is becoming a harder truth for many in this country to dispute, but people try.
It’s not that I don’t like those videos of tiny hamsters eating tiny meals (offensive to me because of my opinions on rodents and, also, starving children.) It’s just that I have a hard time taking someone’s public search for how to use a bidet in a Parisian Pied-a-Terre seriously when it appears in my feed so perfunctorily between an eloquent evisceration of the system that has allowed racial inequality and fearful ignorance to remain controls in the American Experiment, and another re-posted video of Eric Garner being choked to death. I still haven’t watched that video, and I don’t ever think I will be able to. However, my choice not to watch the video doesn’t mean I am turning my head from the tragedy.
I am currently unable to move past the fact that another Grand Jury failed to indict one man who was without a doubt responsible for murdering another. I have so many questions.
Was it because Mr. Garner was guilty of committing a petty nonviolent crime (with which he will never be charged) that a White Police Officer was exonerated?
Now, the widow Esaw Garner must eke out her family’s survival, so where are the initiatives endlessly touting their Traditional Values and Two-Parent Households?
Now I have to wonder, when will the next Grand Jury deliver the stinging reassertion that, as far as the Criminal Justice System is concerned, there is no Black Life that Matters?
Now I have to wonder, if these juries are comprised of our peers, how have we allowed our peers to be so comfortable in their unabashed racism?
Now I have to wonder, is the fiftieth anniversary of the Voting Rights Act really worth celebrating? (Hint, I don’t really think White People should be letting ourselves off the hook for a piece of legislation that offers protection to someone who is Poor and Black or Poor or Black and would like to exercise the Right to Vote within 50 feet of their designated polling area, with the fiftieth anniversary of anything.)
Now I must wonder, who among my peers feels comfortable doing nothing?
This movement is not the dripping faucet I am choosing not to hear while I type these words. This movement is not the car alarm blaring down the block. That car alarm could mean that someone is committing a crime, but I honestly do not care. It is not my car, and anyways, it’s cold out there.
I may be able to ignore some posts, so comfortably pampered in privilege. I may be able to ignore the racist, ignorant comments that are like zits on the complexion of my social network. I may even be able to ignore the troll who taunts its weak victims into a time-consuming debate on the SEC rankings of a football team that enjoyed a winning season thanks to a date-rapist, or perhaps the ‘dubious science’ of climate change.
But I will not ignore the fact that so many of my ‘friends’ in social media have chosen to ignore the pervasive institutionalised racism in this country.
The systemic violence and hate must end, and I cannot ignore that I have long had the space and ability to help make it stop. Hatred only needs your complacency.
Freedom requires vigilance.