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The Columbusing of Black Twitter

In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue and thus began the pillage of culture and resources from people of color. Hundreds of years later, in 2014 popular YouTube channel, CollegeHumor coined the term “Columbusing” in a viral video titled, “Columbusing: Discovering Things For White People.” The video highlights an interaction between a young black man and a young white man. When the black actor arrives at the restaurant and says it’s a “great place” the white actor replies, “oh yeah, I discovered it.” The black actor replies that the place has been around for years to which the white actor explains that he Columbused it, AKA the term for discovering an already existing place or thing while white.


According to UrbanDictionary, the official unofficial mecca of slang, the definition of Columbusing is “when white people claim they have invented/discovered something that has been around for years, decades, even centuries. Ex: Miley Cyrus is totally Columbusing with this twerking shit.” This is similar to what Christopher Columbus did with the Americas. Christopher Columbus became an infamous American hero for “discovering” the Americas which he dubbed “the new world” despite indigenous peoples having lived there for hundreds of years. Columbus brought widespread suffering with him to the Americas. His “discovery” had disastrous results for indigenous people including the deaths and displacements of thousands if not millions of people.
The same can be said for white people invading the spaces of people of color today. Gentrification is a very pertinent issue. More and more young middle and upperclass white people are moving into neighborhoods that were, for generations, primarily inhabited by people of color. Neighborhoods like La Brea, Washington Heights, Dyckman, Flatbush, Williamsburg, and Park Slope that were once full of vibrant diverse cultures are being whitewashed. Jamaican food spots are closing while artisanal vegan butcher shops are taking their place. Because upperclass white people are moving in, rent prices are being jacked up and people of color who have lived in these formerly lower socio-economic neighborhoods are seeing their neighborhoods changed drastically or being driven out completely.
It is important to note the historical origins of this trend. In what we now know as the United States, it began with Columbus. The trend continued throughout US history and has strong ties to colonialism and racism. Colonialism is directly related to Columbusing because it is the practice of taking land from others and claiming it as ones own, dominating, oppressing, and taking ownership of native inhabitants. There has always been a black and white binary in this country, from its “discovery” to its founding, until today where white people are higher up on the hierarchy and constitute the ruling class. From there columbusing has manifested in different ways in the US. For example, white people Columbused rock music which was invented by a black woman named Rosetta Tharpe.

Today, white people have practiced Colombusing through cultural appropriation. Black people are culture. Every major food, sport, fashion, music, and pop culture trend or moment in society is derived from black culture and Columbused by white people. Suddenly, cornrows, a traditional black hairstyle worn for thousands of years, became trendy “boxer braids” discovered by the Kardashians. Twerking became a million dollar exercise business for white suburban moms after Miley Cyrus made it “mainstream.” Long acrylic nails, doorknocker earrings, and African American Vernacular English all became trendy and no longer considered “ghetto,” but now referred to as “Baddie Culture,” because white people start sporting, adopting, and discovering them. The truth is, white Americans do not possess culture. The only culture they can really lay claim to is that of the WASPy 1% or redneck culture. Country clubs, hedge funds, and suburbs basically constitute white culture and only because historically, blacks have been excluded from these things through racist social practices and institutions like redlining practices and the Federal Housing Act. Even regional cultures we consider “All-American” like cowboy culture was Columbused from people of color.

The types of gentrification and cultural appropriations outlined above aren’t just happening in physical spaces. Virtual spaces inhabited by people of color are being gentrified as well with damaging results to the communities of color being Columbused. Black Twitter, the holy mecca of culture, is one of these such spaces.
The Atlantic describes Black Twitter as “a force…a large network of black twitter users and their loosely coordinated interactions, many of which accumulate into trending topics due to the network’s size, interconnectedness, and unique activity.” Wikipedia defines Black Twitter as “a cultural identity on the Twitter social network focused on issues of interest to the black community, particularly in the United States.” Feminist activist, scholar, and member of Black Twitter, Feminista Jones, describes Black Twitter as, “a collective of active, primarily African-American Twitter users who have created a virtual community and are proving adept at bringing about a wide range of sociopolitical changes.” Black Twitter is a space that reinforces community and cultural understanding through the widespread sharing of jokes, memes, videos, and other forms of media content.

As Berger said, “people love to share stories, news, and information with those around them” (Berger 7). Black Twitter is where culture is created, shared, and unfortunately, Columbused. Sadly, many Black Twitter users create popular cultural content on the platform, but because of public domain often aren’t credited or compensated for their work when it is used in other ways. For example, there has been a huge trend in “traditional” news sites like CNN, Fox, and Buzzed, which strays a little away from traditional, on reporting trending topics from twitter and bringing those trends to “mainstream” (i.e. white) America. The result is lazy journalism and an insult to Black Twitter, which is full of people who are actually qualified to write detailed articles about the trends the are partaking in. The author of the “Politics of Trending” article discusses this phenomena and makes some great points:

“I bring this up to point to how the “journalistic scholarship” around visibility and trending is completely and utterly misinformed, misframed and just plain silly. The exceptional attention given to hashtag discourse by critics, news platforms and journalists — to what they perceive to be evidence of visibility — takes the focus away from the spaces created by gendered and racialized users, and rewrites it as a singular confrontation racialized/ gendered users are having with white audiences within a white space. This rewriting positions trending tags to be isolated explosions. It does not labor through the possibility of communal, ongoing engagement and sustainment, for better or for worse. Though this is clearly their fixation, this fixation should not prevent us from thinking through and recentering the persistent and ongoing labors involving disobedience, disturbance and cyborg mutations: alternative discourses.”

Buzzfeed is especially notorious for this, and anytime something trends on Black Twitter black tweeters comment on this phenomenon. There has been a call for publications to hire black content writers instead of just report on black content.

In 2015 major news publications like The Huffington Post and The Washington Post reported on a story picked up from Black Twitter. A young black woman named Aziah Wells, known on twitter as _zolarmoon, shared a “story time” with her users. Her fascinating account of stripping, prostitution, domestic violence, and stacking checks took twitter by storm. Her story quickly went viral with people dying to know if the story was real or not. After several major news outlets contacted her she shared that parts of her story were true while others were made up. She wants to be a writer and eventually make her own movies and shows. The problem with major news sites picking her story up is it goes along with what the “Politics of Trending” article stated. These major news sites brought visibility to Wells’ work, but took the focus away from Wells as a creator and choose to focus on the more criminal aspects of her story, going so far as to fact check people, places, and events. Is it within there right to do this? Wells told her story to a few hundred followers for the fun and creative aspects of it, news sites turned it into something else. Suddenly the authorities were involved trying to track down people from the story and bring criminal charges to them. If Wells didn’t want to get involved that was her right, publications made the choice for her though while simultaneously reporting her story in a different way than she presented it, transforming it into something it wasn’t meant to be. While these major publications garnered page views and ad revenue from Wells’ story, she gained nothing aside from a few thousand more twitter followers and a brief 15 minutes of fame.

The people creating the content should be given recognition for their work as well as compensation. Berger says that “word of mouth isn’t just frequent, it’s important. Social influence has a huge impact on whether products, ideas, and behaviors catch on” (Berger 8). A black teenage girl named Kayla Newman, known online as Peaches Monroee, coined the phrase “eyebrows on fleek da fuck,” eventually transformed into the infamous shorter term “on fleek” back in 2014. Similar to “meme” being nonexistent before Richard Dawkins invented it in the 1970’s, before 2014 fleek did not exist. Today, the word is everywhere. Hefty brand used the word in a 2015 ad campaign. Retail giants like Walmart, Forever21, Asos, and so many more have used the term on countless pieces of merchandise ranging from clothing, bags, shoes, and home goods. Newman has never seen a dime of the revenue collected from the content she created. She is just one example of many twitter users who see their content used for profit while not receiving any of the profits. On the flip side, two white teenage boys who came up with the viral “Damn Daniel” videos both saw immense recognition and compensation for their content. They were invited to Ellen Degeneres’ talk show where they were awarded gifts and a lifetime supply of Vans sneakers which later turned into a branding deal with Vans. Because Newman is a normal everyday black teenage girl from an inner-city she isn’t seen to have social influence. Because the creators of “Damn Daniel” are two upper middle class conventionally attractive white boys, they are seen to have much more social influence in a society that allows people like Nash Grier to become famous. Black Twitter expressed frustration and outrage at the similarities yet vasty different outcomes between Newman and the creators of “Damn Daniel” but to no avail. To this day Newman still does not receive the recognition she deserves.

Jenkins explains that successful creators “understand the strategic and technical aspects they need to master in order to create content more likely to spread, and they think about what motivates participants to share information and to build relationships with the communities shaping its circulation…in addition, creators consider elements of media texts which make them more likely to spread.” This can be observed often in marketing campaigns for major brands. Several food brands like Hamburger Helper, Chipotle, Pizza Hut and many more have studied Black Twitter closely to see what types of language, memes, and content go viral. They have used this information to their advantage and used language and content from Black Twitter to make their brands go viral. Hamburger Helper has tweeted things like “to bae or not to bae, that is the question” as well as a meme playing off of Drake’s infamous album art for “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” by subbing in their own titled, “If You’re Eating This It’s So Great” in the same stylized way. By picking up on trends in Black Twitter, these brands have been able to go viral and appeal to larger audiences. They even go so far as to interact with Black Twitter, attempting to establish ties with the community they are gaining marketing ideas from. The problem with this is, again, it is a form of appropriation. These companies aren’t hiring black marketing grads or social media buffs to run their social media accounts. Rather, white people are just studying and picking up on black social media trends and using it to their advantage for revenue. It may be more beneficial to the company to hire someone who is actually well versed in and a member of Black Culture, which would also benefit black people who are, traditionally, given less opportunity than their white counterparts.

Shifman uses two quotes one by Christian Bauckhage to explain memes as “inside jokes or pieces of hip underground knowledge that many people are in on” and another by Patrick Davison, “an internet meme is a piece of culture, typically a joke, which gains influence through online transmission.” Most memes are created and shared on Black Twitter then circulated enough that they eventually reach White America. Once they reach White America do they hold the same meaning? Because Black Twitter is a cultural space, formed because of similar lived experiences, members of Black Twitter can relate to the jokes being told. White people do not have the same lived experiences as black people therefore every joke and meme cannot be retold with the same meaning and cultural understanding. The internet consists of different worlds. Black Twitter makes up a subculture of the internet, though seemingly small, their influence is large nonetheless.
screen-shot-2016-12-16-at-1-04-16-pmShifman says another interesting thing about memes. He says, “as the term appeared more frequently in public spears – and as it was invoked as part of political and activist agendas – its automatic association with humorous communication diminished, opening way for alternative definitions.” Black Twitter does not only possess the power to make millions of people laugh over tweets and memes, through the sharing of viral content, Black Twitter has proven they possess the power to invoke real change. #BlackLivesMatter, a now infamous online hashtag created by black feminist activists Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi. The Black Lives Matter movement has been central in attempting to change legislation regarding the systematic oppression of black people. Black Lives Matter has helped bring justice, recognition, and help to families who’ve fallen victim to police brutality and other atrocities. Through the hashtag lawyers, doctors, activists, and so many other people have offered their services to those in need. The movement has brought national attention to the injustices black people face and has become a household name. On a smaller scale, #FeminismIsForWhiteWomen, #SayHerName, and #BlackGirlMagic are all Twitter hashtags that have grown into larger movements. #FeminismIsForWhiteWomen helped start a conversation critiquing the underlying white supremacy and misogynoir in a lot of modern day mainstream white feminist movements. The result was a move towards calling out and educating white feminists, establishing difference, and working towards intersectionality across all feminist platforms. #SayHerName came about after the unjustified death of Sandra Bland while being held in a jail cell over a traffic violation. The hashtag works to bring visibility to women who are victims of police brutality, domestic violence, and violence against black trans women. On a lighter note, #BlackGirlMagic, created by twitter user Auntie Peebz, highlights all the cool and fantastic things black girls are doing. From accomplishments in a variety of fields like sports, medicine, politics, to showing off the beauty of the black woman, the hashtag serves as an empowerment tool for all black women and has developed into #BlackBoyMagic as well.

Black Twitter is a major force to be reckoned with. Black Twitter will call non-members (and even its own members) out on bullshit so if you come for Black Twitter you must come correct. White publications and journalist need to stop being lazy and looking at Black Twitter as a source for content. White publications need to start hiring black writers and journalists. If Black Twitter collectively decided to make all of their accounts private, America would essentially be left with no viral jokes, memes, or content. White publications viral and entertainment sections would cease to exist. Black Twitter deserves credit for the hundreds of trends, jokes, and social movements it has created. We still have a long way to go in the fight towards social equality for black people in the US. Recognizing Black Twitter for what it is, a major source of culture and content, and giving recognition to Black Twitter and it’s users is a small step in the right direction.Screen Shot 2016-12-16 at 1.09.41 PM.png

The War on Blackness Part 3: The Hipocrasy of Whiteness

This article is part of a series highlighting the injustices brought upon black and brown bodies because of the War on Drugs. Click here to read part 1 & part 2

A Public Service Announcement

This is not an attack on white people, it is a critique of whiteness as a social institution. If there are questions please refer to my previous blog post explaining how Pro-Black does not mean “Anti-White.” On that note…

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F*cking Hipocrites

White people are literal cry babies. So willing to subject people of color to the most horrible conditions imaginable but once they get a taste their whole outlook changes…let’s take a look at the hypocrisy of attitudes toward drugs now that white people admit to using them.

In the 1960’s those damn hippies made marijuana and LSD cool and trendy. One of the reasons for the War on Drugs was to lock those hippies up for drug use because it was thought to be Anti-American. Those damn hippies grew up into my parents generation, the same generation that eventually gave into consumerism, capitalism, and all the other isms they once condemned. They grew up and became hypocrites. They started listening to government propaganda. Believing blacks were drug users and criminals, until their own kids started using drugs…

*screams*

Now that white families are starting to be affected by the War on Drugs they seek “gentler” aka different aka preferential treatment. Please treat us like the delicate lily white flowers we are and not like those violent thugs. 

And the response? Society is becoming more compassionate for white drug users than they every were for black drug users.

Across the nation, task forces are assembling to provide creative, non-criminal, solution-based approaches to opioid addiction. First responders are being supplied Narcan to revive folks on the brink of death from overdose. Cities like Ithaca, N.Y. are shopping the idea of supervised drug use sites to provide safer space and medical assistance to drug users.

*SCREAMS LOUDER*

This new way of dealing with the “heroin and opioid” epidemics ripping across white America is a slap in the face for black Americans. For decades the War on Drugs ravaged black communities, ripping families apart and contributing to the enslavement and disenfranchisement of millions of black Americans. But…we are asked to be more compassionate and understanding for white drug users…?

The Gentrification of The Hustle 

Yet another slap in the face for black people in the long list of slaps in the faces we have endured is this new drug culture we see on the rise.

For years and years black people turned to selling drugs because of disenfranchisement, because they were denied jobs, because they had no other way to provide for their families. Selling drugs was a struggle, a last resort, but it built character, it put food on the table. It was a means to an end. Despite the risk of being incarcerated in droves, black people took that risk in order to survive. Unfortunately many did not make it due to being imprisoned, or killed because of selling drugs.

But now we see this resurgence in the glamorization of selling drugs one that has always kind of been around (Scarface, The Godfather) but has always been reserved for white drug kingpins and not for the everyday local black kid selling dime bags on the block. This glamorization is gendered, class based, and whitewashed.

Ladies is Pimps Too…

Let’s take a critical look at these headlines and other forms of media glamorizing drug use when white women do it.

 

Here we have two women, first, Nancy Botwin the main character of the hit TV show Weeds, about a white suburban mom turned drug lord, posing seductively in Mary Jane Green. Next we have the glamorous “Cannabis Queen of Beverly Hills,” but let’s not forget black women at the height of the crack “epidemic” were referred to as “crack whores.” Far from glamorous. There’s a gendered and racialized double standard there.

Then take a look at the young white hands wearing Zara frocks in “Marijuana Rebranded.” Rebranded into…what? A trendy hipster drug now that young millennial white women gentrifying Brooklyn are doing it? Weed is in Vogue now. *sigh*

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Next we have, “Main Line Woman, 62, heroin addict, and not unique” the accompanying article details Lynne C. Twaddle, a “self-employed yoga teacher’s” descent into opioid and heroin abuse after two hip surgeries. Her age, race, and zip-code are meant to shock us. The uppercrust does drugs? My, oh, my! Duh…It’s completely unsurprising that white women of the 1% do drugs, they have to deal with white men of the 1% on a daily basis. Not to mention statistics have proven time and time again that white people use drugs and sell drugs at a higher rate than black people do.

The elderly Main Line woman certainly is not unique. Older white women get a pass for doing and selling drugs because they’re cute grandma types. Let’s not forget a video of “Grandmas smoking weed for the first time” went viral, was shared thousands of times, and viewed over 25 million times.

Meanwhile, black grannies aren’t getting the same type of treatment in the media…

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See how she was doing it to put her grandkids through college and give them a better chance at life, versus *other* (white) grannies who were actual drug abusers or doing it for likes and retweets? Still, she was criminalized while the white grandmothers were not.

Who Getting That Paper Though?

Not black people. Remember, black people are thugs for selling drugs. White people are entrepreneurs for selling drugs.

Despite the street smarts, the business savvy techniques, the math skills utilized, black people selling drugs are still labeled thugs and criminalized in states that have and haven’t legalized marijuana use.

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In those same states, young white male college grad entrepreneurs, are making serious coin off the sale of marijuana.

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Not only has the sale of marijuana been gentrified but the language has been as well. All of a sudden we are seeing words like “budtender,” “Kushcations” it’s truly mindboggling.

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Why can’t black and brown people have the luxury of holding such titles? Why is it only ok and cool and trendy when white people discover it and start doing it? Think of all the stereotypes you know of black marijuana users. The thug on the street corner, the dirty rastafarian, the kid who cuts class to get high. I want you to take a look at how black and brown people are depicted as drug users or sellers in popular media and just reflect on how it differs from the way white people are represented.

As this blog post comes to a close, I encourage (beg) you as a reader to open your eyes to the disparities and hypocrisies of how the black people and white people are portrayed in relation to the sale and use of drugs and drug culture. How does white drug culture differ from black drug culture? Think critically about it. Critique it. Question it. Recognize that these unfair depictions and disparities directly relate to the oppression of black people.

If we are ever to be a truly free, just, and equal society for everyone, we must start now to dismantle these ideologies and practices that unfairly target and criminalize black and brown bodies. Next time your racist ass grandma calls those black kids selling drugs on the corner “damn thugs” but admits to trying pot once or twice in college, call her out on her racist bullshit! Also, call yourself out. When you find yourself using a delivery app to get that OG kush sent straight to your Upper East Side address after a long day of work at your startup company, but flip on the news and see four more black and brown Bronx youth have been arrested for the sale of marijuana, CHECK YOUR PRIVILEGE. The smallest steps help and can make an impact on the beginning to an end on this war on black and brown people.

The War on Blackness Part 2: The Criminalization of Black Bodies

This article is part of a series highlighting the injustices brought upon black and brown bodies because of the War on Drugs. Click here to read part 1

 

Methodology 

In part 1 we learned that white people needed a colorblind system to continue the oppression of black and brown people. How could the government go after black people while remaining colorblind?

Step 1: Introduce Crack to Black Communities 

This may seem far fetched and you may start to question if I’m a conspiracy theorists or not, but just like how the government introduced aids to gay communities, they introduced drugs to black communities.

You may be thinking, HOW SWAY? Hear me out…

Without going too deep into disparities between black and white communities, I’ll highlight just a few (out of many)  major things that make them different. Let’s start with 40 acres and a mule

After slavery black people were promised by the U.S. government 40 acres and a mule to kickstart their new lives as freed people and as a weak ass apology for the horrors of slavery. Clearly 40 acres and a mule is better than nothing, but the government could have done better BECAUSE, guess what? That land was to be taken away from former slave and plantation owners and given to slaves. You think such a thing would ever be enforced? If you answered no..DING DING DING. You are correct. Andrew Johnson later overturned this rule and gave the land back to former slave owners.

The next time white people could have done something decent to make up for slavery and fucked up instead was during the Federal Housing Administration Act. After World War II GI’s were awarded grants making them eligible for home ownership. Along with this grant and the new concept of mortgages and loans, white GI’s started moving to newly built suburbs and enjoying modern conveniences like washing machines. It just so happened though, that black GI’s weren’t given these grants and the new suburbs weren’t accepting black residents so once again black people were tossed aside and ushered to inner-city tenements.

Now, let’s discuss life in inner-city neighborhoods. It sucks. Period. People were crammed into tiny apartments with little to no modern utilities. Jobs for black people were scarce. Black people weren’t afforded the same opportunities as white people. What happens when people are forced into close proximity with others? When public works like sanitation don’t extend to “ghettos?” When parents cannot provide for their children? When people are beaten down day in and day out by police meant to protect them, by the government meant to protect them?

People become desperate. They do what they can to survive. They turn to vices to bring some type of relief to the pain they feel in their everyday lives.

This is when the government introduced crack into urban communities.

Step 2: Criminalize Crack

Crack is a sort of raw form of cocaine that can be smoked instead of snorted. Crack doesn’t have to go through the same processes as cocaine making it easier and cheaper to manufacture. This became the drug of “urban” communities. It also became, arguably, the most demonized drug and still is in relation to its “purer” form cocaine.

Cocaine is widely thought of, again due to media depictions, as a high class luxury drug. Fancy white people do cocaine, black ghetto trash use crack. When asked if she smoked crack, the glamorous Whitney Houston famously said, “crack is whack, crack is cheap” outright admitting that crack was too poor for her taste.

More recently in the media a young white upper class woman was found dead of a cocaine overdose in an upper west side penthouse. While her drug den was painted as a “high society cocaine apartment” it is well known that the “urban” drug dens are referred to as “crack houses” which paint an entirely different picture.

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The disparities between coke and crack don’t end there. They even carry different

sentencing laws, which unfairly criminalize crack users versus cocaine users. As we know, people arrested, sentenced, and incarcerated for the sale and abuse of crack are overwhelmingly black while those charged with the less life altering cocaine related offenses are typically white. Originally, possessing just 1 gram of crack resulted in the same sentencing as those found in possession of 100 gams of cocaine. The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 later reduced the amount of cocaine to 18 grams, still the disparity exists to unfairly target poor people and black people.

Step 3: Equate Drug Use With Black People & Criminalize Blackness 

After crack and other illegal drugs like heroin were found to be used in black communities, the next step was to make sure White America knew these drugs were being used in black communities. This was done so White Americans assumptions and ideologies that black people were criminals could be “proven” to be true. Images of black people being arrested for drug related offenses were blasted across T.V. screens across America.

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Not surprisingly, people of color have been the target of racialized drug prevention efforts as early as the 1910’s. A 1914 New York Times article by Dr. Edward H. Williams claimed, “Murder and Insanity Increasing Among Lower Class Blacks Because They Have Taken to ‘Sniffing’ Since Deprived by Whisky Prohibition.” Within the article he went on to say;

“Most of the negroes are poor, illiterate and shiftless…once the negro has formed the habit he is irreclaimable. The only method to keep him away from taking the drug is by imprisoning him…Cocaine produces several other conditions that
make the fiend a peculiarly dangerous criminal. One of these conditions is a temporary

immunity to shock-a resistance known to “knock down,” effects of fatal
wounds. Bullets fired into vital parts that would drop a sane man in his tracks, fail to check the “fiend”

This type of rhetoric dehumanizes the subject. In this case the author uses his credibility as a “doctor” to speak on this issue as an “expert.” He introduces the black subject as poor, which, naturally, comes with being illiterate and idle. What do idle hands do? They dabble in cocaine. Cocaine is demonized as making the user into a “dangerous criminal.” The only way to stop this criminal? Lock him up. Otherwise he poses a threat. The most troubling part of this rhetoric is when Williams describes the drug as creating a “temporary immunity to shock.” This rhetoric is still used today to paint black people, especially black men, as superhuman and as stronger and bigger than they actually are. Black men killed by police in 2015 and 2016 have been described as possessing “superhuman strength” and having a “demon-like look” before being shot. Creating this image of the black man as a demonic looking monster possessing superhuman strength provides an excuse to execute them.

The image of the black man as a monster is not new nor was it invented during the War on Drugs. Age old stereotypes of the black man were recycled, revamped, and re-introduced to white America. Throughout history stereotypes of black men being overly violent, sexually deviant, lazy, and “brutish” have remained dominant in American society. Angela Davis details this in her book Women, Race, and Class which I encourage my readers to explore.

These racialized stereotypes are not only wrong, but extremely damaging. The height of the War on Drugs was framed by multiple events that painted black men in a negative light. There were the Watts Riots of 1965, War on Rap music, The Central Park Five, The O.J. Simpson trial, as well as many other historical Civil Rights era moments that at the time demonized black men. Similar to how black protesters are viewed today, Conservative media presented them as violent trouble makers.

Black men weren’t the only ones targeted. Black women were depicted in a way that intersected their race, sex, and class. Black women were depicted as “crack whores.” Women willing to do anything, including prostitution to get their fix. They would even go so far to sacrifice their children for crack. “Crack babies” became a term used to vilify black women and paint them as bad mothers because they were depicted as willing to sacrifice their children’s health for a fix. screen-shot-2016-12-12-at-11-02-28-pm

Sadly, these types of depictions didn’t only work to make white people afraid of black people, but were also responsible for making black people afraid of other black people. The result was an extremely hurtful and damaging dynamic that still exists today. Many black people distance themselves from their blackness or criticize other black people for how they express their blackness because of self hate and an aspiration to assimilate into white America.

Step 4: Mass Incarceration 
My idol Michelle Alexander’s work The New Jim Crow  highlights the transformation of slavery into mass incarceration, the modern day slavery. Remember how I talked about white people needing a new way to enslave black people? Yeah? This is it.
America makes up just 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s incarcerated population. Read. That. Again. America makes up just 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of the world’s incarcerated population.
Please, I beg of thee. Read this amazing piece by Angela Davis that explains the prison industrial complex because she explains it better than I ever could. Basically it is a complex system where capitalist corporate greed meets government interest.
Under that appalling clause that states people can be held as slaves if convicted of a crime millions of black and brown people have been enslaved in America. Thousands if not, millions have been incarcerated as a direct result of the War on Drugs. Because crack was unfairly criminalized compared to coke, black people were thought to be crack users, and crack was given harsher sentencing laws, black people make up a disportionately larger population of prisoners than white people do.
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But it’s not just crack related offenses…black people are more likely to be imprisoned for marijuana related offenses as well as other non-drug related offenses.
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Why does this happen? Under the Clinton Administration, legislation was put into place to militarize police forces across America. The result was a new police force that worked as a small army (police need tanks? military grade weapons?), locking up as many citizens as possible in order to make the prison industrial complex work. The results have been devastating on black communities. People are left dead by police brutality, locked up for minor offenses, mental illness is criminalized, children are left without parents. Absolute disaster.

The War on Blackness Part 1: A Quick History Lesson

 

This article is part of a series highlighting the injustices brought upon black and brown bodies because of the War on Drugs. 

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The Lite Version of American History 

If you know anything about American History, (which you may not, no shame, because our education system doesn’t properly teach the whole history of this country) you may have heard of the War on Drugs. If you grew up in the 1980’s and 1990’s you’ve definitely experienced D.A.R.E., an attempt at educating youngsters about the dangers of drugs, a program directly spawned from the War on Drugs. If you’ve never heard of the War on Drugs I will attempt to educate you about it…I guess (google exists as does an amazing documentary on Netflix by Ava DuVernay titled, 13th).

The War on Drugs was a term coined and popularized by President Richard Nixon in 1971, just a few years before he was exposed by Woodward & Bernstein thanks to their confidant Deepthroat. Have any of our presidencies been legit or is life just one big joke? Seriously. I can’t even make this stuff up. Anyways, he popularized the term after declaring drugs Public Enemy #1.

Fast forward a couple of awful presidencies later, and Hollywood Film Star Ronald Reagan is somehow our president. This is when the War on Drugs really starts to gain its footing. On October 14, 1982, Reagan formally declared a War on Drugs. Setting into motion, arguably, the most damaging chain of events directed towards the oppression of black people in America since slavery.

You see, the War on Drugs was not really a fight against the sale and abuse of illicit drugs, rather, it was a war against poor black and brown people. Why declare an unofficial war against fellow Americans? First let’s be real… Who is defined as an American? Certainly not black and brown people who have been treated as second class citizens since they were legally declared second class citizens. Second, what is the basis of any war? Control, power, and domination. In order to maintain white supremacy the white men who control our county had to devise a master plan to maintain the racist orders of society.

At the time the War on Drugs was declared it had been established that everyone, regardless of skin color, religion, sex, creed, etc. was granted equal protection under the law (yeah right…). It has also been well established through studies, lived experiences, and general common sense that this declaration has never been practiced in American History. However, because the law does exist, the Grand Wizards of AmeriKKKa had to find a “colorblind” way to go about continuing the oppression of those Uppity Blacks.

Critical Race Scholars Michael Omi and Howard Winant created this theory called Racial Formation. They define it as, “the sociohistorical process by which racial categories are created, inhabited, transformed and destroyed.” Perhaps the biggest scam, I mean racial project, in American history was slavery. The institution of slavery was founded on an inherent ideology that black people were not people, but subhuman. Because of their “Otherness” black people were deemed inferior. Thus created the binary that is black and white where white is good and black is bad. Following this fucked up reasoning black people could be treated inhumanely because they weren’t considered human. Slavery was adopted and practiced, then transformed into something thought to be so evil that Northern white saviors with their own agendas came into abolish it. Destroying slavery. A perfect example of the process of racial formation.

Fortunately for black people, the 13th amendment to the United States Constitution states that no person shall be held as a slave. Without it, I’m sure under the reign of Trump we’d all be back in the cotton fields. Unfortunately, there is a very specific clause that creates an exception to the rule in cases where people have committed a crime. Essentially, if you have committed a crime you can legally be held as a slave. Just let that sink in…

So, because the Klansmen running this joint were looking for a colorblind way to put blacks back in their place they adopted this colorblind “War on Drugs.” But duh, obviously it wasn’t so colorblind.

Ok Bih, Where Are You Going With All of This…?

Bear with me! I swear I’m getting to it!

White people basically said, “ok…we will give y’all some little superficial protection laws or whatever to shut you up…we ain’t gon’ follow them tho…HA.” And so we have the “colorblind” war on drugs. White people, “don’t see color” but sure do see black people as criminals and white people as saints (even though, let’s be real, historically wypipo are legit the biggest criminals in WORLD history.)

Anyway, Reagan and his crew sat around and thought, “ugh what are we gonna do with these colored people? Always demanding more and more from us. We gave them their freedom and HUD housing what more do they want? How can we get rid of them?” Literally, that’s what happened. They probably sat around a conference table in the White House debating this. In fact, one of Nixon’s top aides, Ehrlichman, admitted that Nixon’s reasoning for coming up with the war on drugs was because,

       “We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin. And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities…We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

Ugh. Is it just me or do those words hurt, like deeply. Anyway, clearly the War on Drugs as created by Nixon was adopted and really put into action by Reagan so we can see how the same ideologies (i.e. blacks suck, let’s get rid of them) were also adopted by the Reagan administration. The result was, as Ehrlichman said, an intense campaign that went after black people, painted them as villains, and made them into Public Enemy #1

Ayesha Curry Cooks Up Drama

Ayesha Curry is Steph “cooking with the pot” Curry of the Golden State Warriors wife and mother to his two adorable kids. About a week ago she said something that caused enough controversy to actually overshadow the birth of America’s first royal son, Saint Kardashian-West. Yes, her tweet actually trended on twitter over the birth of Kim Kardashian’s son. What could she have possibly said that caused this much controversy?

Screenshot of two tweets by Ayesha Curry. The first one reads, "Everyone's into barely wearing clothes these days huh? Not my style. I like to keep the good stuff covered up for the one who matters." The second tweet reads, "Just looking at the latest fashion trends. I'll take classy over trendy any day of the week. #saturdaynightinsight"

Via Ayesha Curry’s Twitter

*rolls eyes*

Choosing to wear clothes that are more on the modest side and covering up more of your body is perfectly fine. Ayesha walked a very thin line with this one. She uplifts herself while slyly shaming women who choose to do the opposite. That is not fine.

Feminism is about choice. Sometimes other women will choose to live in a way that you don’t agree with, but it is important to respect their choices. Ayesha’s comments were not respectful of other women’s choice to expose their body. Saying someone who chooses to dress “trendy” is not “classy” is essentially slut shaming them. Self respect has nothing to do with outward appearance and everything to do with inward acceptance of oneself. And, self respect has to do with SELF, not everyone around you deeming whether or not you have self respect. If a woman chooses to wear a bra and thong underwear and post a picture she can have as much self respect as a nun.

Ayesha’s comments perpetuate rape culture, the idea that a woman is “asking for it” if she is dressed or acts a certain way. Her comments actually unleashed a floodgate where other twitter users tweeted awful abuse at people who disagreed with Ayesha’s comments. Some users went as far as calling women who do not agree with Ayesha “hoes” with no morals. Women should not feel attacked for wearing what they feel comfortable in or for expressing themselves in any way they feel comfortable. If Ayesha feels more comfortable covered up, as many women do, that is perfectly acceptable. It is not acceptable for her to use her platform as a celebrity to shame other women for their choices. It also sucks that we live in a world full of men trying to tell us what we can and cannot wear, and we have other women trying to do the same instead of uplifting one another.

What’s In A Name?

Quvenzhané Wallis is a smart, talented 12 year old black girl. She starred in Beasts of the Southern Wild and the 2014 remake of Annie. When she was nine years old she became the youngest Academy Award nominee EVER for best actress for her role of Hushpuppy in Beasts. It was also at this age that her childhood was taken from her by a writer at The Onion.

Black children do not have the luxury of being seen as children. Delicate, fragile, emotion filled children. There are tons of studies that prove this. These notions that black kids are tougher, and less childlike than their white peers comes from, in my opinion, media portrayals of black kids. Black kids are almost always shown negatively on tv, movies, and in the news. Black kids are portrayed as bad, thugs, tough kids that get in fights, do drugs, and get pregnant at young ages. This is why when Trayvon Martin was murdered the media tried to paint him as a thug, because this is the only narrative they have of black kids. They forgot to mention that he did well in school, loved his parents, and went to space camp.

I think this is why when she was only nine years old The Onion decided to call Quevenzhané Wallis a cunt.

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The tweet came after a reporter failed to pronounce Quevenzhané’s name and instead elected to call her “Annie.” Quevenzhane corrected her and that’s when sh*t started to pop off. Imagine a reporter failing to correctly pronounce Benedict Cumberbatch’s name. It would be completely unacceptable and unprofessional for a reporter to mispronounce the name of anyone they are interviewing, and instead try to call them a completely different name. So why is it ok to do so to young Quevenzhane. She was nominated for a freaking Academy Award, she deserves respect. The fact that The Onion then decided it was completely ok to call her a cunt for correcting someone for mispronouncing her name, is very telling about the disrespect society has for black girls, and people in general.

It is no secret that black people often times have names that are not Eurocentric, and are therefore outside the norm. Sometimes these names might be difficult to pronounce, but seriously how hard is it to learn? Society conditions us to think some names are wrong or ghetto and others are perfectly acceptable. Think about how difficult it is to pronounce Tchaikovsky, Saoirse Ronan, Joaquin Phoenix, Zach Galifianakis, but somehow society manages not to fuck those names up. Those names arent considered weird or ghetto, and the people who claim those names aren’t called cunts for correcting reporters who mispronounce their names. So let’s give the same respect to black people who have hard to pronounce names as we do towards white people with hard to pronounce names.

 

 

 

 

#TheAngryMixedGirl

#TheAngryMixedGirl is a play on the “angry black girl” stereotype. People of color have emotions, anger being one of them and we should not be shamed for having those emotions. The “angry black girl” does not just apply to the black woman though. Any woman fighting for something she believes in, who is constantly being silenced by society can be an “angry black girl.” I’m proud to be an “angry black girl” or in my case an “angry mixed girl.” It simply means that I am passionate, I seek justice, I will not be silenced. I hope my blog and my brand will expand into a space where anyone who society actively tries to silence, can speak upon their issue and let their voice be heard.